Thursday, January 18, 2018

Mission & History


“Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” – Ephesians 2:20

It is our purpose at the Lutheran Church and School of Saint Luke to build on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ through word and sacrament to connect people to Christ and equip them to share the Gospel.


Lutheranism came to the Itasca area before the place was named and before the townsite was settled.  The German Protestant church, on Church Road in Bensenville, has antecedents reaching back to 1838, five years before Dr. Elijah Smith became the first white settler in Itasca.  Eventually the pioneer church became known as Zion Lutheran Church and during the 1850’s it started district Lutheran schools in the area, at the same time that public school districts were being organized in Illinois.

When Dr. Smith persuaded the railroad to cross his farm in 1873, he paid for a station and platted the village.  His Lutheran neighbors then requested their parish to start a district school in Itasca, but they had to wait over a decade before the Itasca Lutheran School was erected on Irving Park Road at the foot of what became known as Seminary Street (today’s Catalpa Avenue).

The school grew steadily as the village expanded, the latter becoming incorporated in 1890 and reaching a population of 333 in 1910.  The school served as a center for Lutheran gatherings which led, in 1907, to the founding of the Lutheran Church of Saint Luke.

After the parish was formally organized on July 14, 1907, the charter members provided funds to purchase land at the top of the hill on Walnut Street, erect the historic steeple church, and call a pastor.  Everything was in working order so that the dedication of the building could take place on the Sunday before Christmas, less than six months after the formal founding of the congregation.

Pastor Frederick Zersen arrived in time to order the church’s bell in September, 1907 as well as to become the teacher in the school.  He served the rural parish for 38 years, guiding the German-speaking congregation through prosperous years and then the Great Depression, bracketed by two world wars.  In 1945 Pastor Kurt Grotheer started in a 23-year ministry during which St. Luke was transformed into a suburban parish with a new school (1961) and church (1962) complex at Washington and Rush Streets.  Continued growth led to the expansion of the educational complex in 1975 and 2001.  St. Luke also served the church at large when a series of pastors entered leadership positions in the Missouri Synod and its universities.

As it entered the new century the church in Itasca was adopting million-dollar budgets to sustain a variety of ministries.  Membership growth moderated as Itasca reached maturity and the congregation became more of a metropolitan parish, reaching out to an expanding geographical area especially with its early childhood education and day care programs.

For a more detailed historical account, see The Lutheran Church of St. Luke:  A Centennial History, a 102-page illustrated account published in 2007, available through the church office.