Luther Place Memorial Church, Washington DC

Formally known as Memorial Evangelical Lutheran Church, Luther Place was founded in 1873 as a memorial to peace and reconciliation following the Civil War. Two of the original pews were dedicated to Generals Grant and Lee. The building is in the shape of a ship, symbolizing a vessel for God’s work, with the rafters in the shape of a keel. The statue of Martin Luther on our grounds was dedicated in 1884 on the 400th anniversary of Martin Luther’s birth and over 10,000 attended the dedication ceremony.

The Rev. John Butler, first pastor of Luther Place, was an abolitionist who advocated for African American pastors in the Lutheran Church. In 1886 Daniel Wiseman founded Our Redeemer, which was DC’s first African American congregation. Rev. Wiseman was ordained at Luther Place in 1886.

A fire ravaged much of the nave in 1904 but allowed for renovations including the 12 reformers depicted in the windows and dedicated to unity under God. President Theodore Roosevelt spoke at the restoration celebration a year later saying that, “the Lutheran Church is destined to become one of the two or three greatest churches, most distinctly American.”

In the 1930s the congregation became aware of thousands of unchurched persons living in the city and began a life marked by evangelism. Pre- and post-World War II the city was teeming with young adults. Many were attracted to Luther Place by recreational and service activities. Church attendance was at a record peak.

The congregation has long valued community partnerships. During the 1968 riots after the murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the church was kept open and sheltered, fed and clothed more than 10,000 people. Through interfaith friendships, the Black Muslim community physically protected the church and volunteers from a burning crew.

In the 1970’s the church founded N Street Village, a continuum of care including short and long term shelter, case management, substance abuse treatment, employment services and affordable housing, especially for women experiencing homelessness. A memorial burial plot at the apex of the Luther Place triangle is the final resting place of homeless activist Mitch Snyder, who inspires the work of the Community for Creative Non-violence.

In the late 70’s the Lutheran Volunteer Corps was created in order to help staff N Street Village programs; it has now grown into an organization that sends around 100 volunteers yearly to various cities across the country. LVC’s core values are social justice, community, simplicity, and simplicity. LVC volunteers build community, work for peace with justice, and live simply and sustainably.

In the 80’s while actively growing its ministries, the congregation also advocated globally for Soviet Jewry and against apartheid in South Africa.

In the 1990’s, the church was integral in advocacy with gay lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights and inclusion, becoming a Reconciling in Christ congregation.

In 2007, the interior of the sanctuary was extensively restored and new front windows were created portraying Martin Luther, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Harriet Tubman, reformers of society and the church. In 2009, we adorned the outside of our building with paintings of Saints on our doors — St. Dorothy Day of New York, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Martin of Birmingham — deepening our commitment to connect with God in our community.
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Luther Place Memorial Church Reviews
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  • This beautiful church (Luther Place Memorial Church) was built in 1873 with the red sandstone extracted from a career near Seneca Creek in Maryland, the same stone that was used in the construction of the Smithsonian Castle. These are architects Judson York, J.C. Harkness and Henry Davis, who drew in the style neogothiqe plans. Located in the northern section of Thomas Circle, she next another beautiful old church, the Holy Trinity Catholic Church (Northwest section). The Luther Place Memorial Church was a memorial for peace and reconciliation in the aftermath of the civil war. Opposite the Church, there is a bronze statue of Martin Luther (1483-1546), priest German theologian at the base of the protestant reform movement, by German artist Ernst Friedrich August Rietschel. With his equestrian statue dedicated to Major General George Henry Thomas, hero of the war of Secession, the intersection roundabout Thomas Circle deserves greatly a step in your tour of Washington DC.
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  • The city is full of monuments and in the path of one of them will surely pass by here. For me it's really close to where I'm staying.
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  • This church is unlike any I've ever been to before. I felt welcomed despite my sexual orientation or lack thereof, rather. I felt moved by Pastor Karen's ability to correlate religion to current events; her ability to summon the church to humanity in such trying times. Parking is a little rough if you're driving but you'll figure it out.
  • What a kind and hospitable place! We stayed in the Steinbruck Center, and it was a wonderful experience. Seems like the church is heavily used throughout the week for various activities, meetings, and services, which is fantastic!
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