Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church - The Bronx, New York.  A Parish of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod where “God’s People Pray.”

Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church

A Brief History of Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church

By the mercy of Almighty God, Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Bronx, New York, was founded in 1928.

 

Members of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Yonkers who lived in the Wakefield section of the Bronx in New York City believed that they could, by God’s grace, start a mission east of the Woodlawn Cemetery instead of traveling south and then west over the 233rd Street Bridge to get to St. Mark’s for worship services. The first worship service for Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church was conducted in the afternoon on Sunday, April 15, 1928 in a rented storefront at 686 237th Street, just west of White Plains Road in The Bronx, New York City. The Rev. Adolf Meyer, the Pastor of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Yonkers, conducted worship services and served as the founding pastor. The small congregation grew and raised funds to purchase property and an adjacent building at the corner of Barnes and Boyd Avenues, not far from the storefront on 237th Street. A portable church building was assembled in 1929 on the purchased property, and The Rev. William Bruening was installed as the first pastor.

 

The original church building had no pews and no undercroft. Folding chairs were used, and the church building served the dual purpose of providing space for worship services as well as for social gatherings. Pastor Bruening and his family lived on the second and third floors of the adjacent building that was purchased and expanded by the congregation. The first floor of that building was enlarged and converted into a parish hall and used for Sunday School classes, confirmation classes and a Boy Scout troop. Today, that building is called, “The Parish House.”

 

In 1944, Pastor Bruening accepted a Divine Call to Washington, D.C., and the Rev. Robert Haupt was installed as Redeemer’s second pastor on January 7, 1945. The congregation continued growing, not only gathering for worship services but also having a thriving Sunday School, Senior Choir, Junior Choir, Walther League (youth group), Married Couples’ Club, Women’s Guild, Men’s Group, and much more.

 

In the 1940s, money was raised to build the present beautiful edifice where worship services and ministries are currently conducted. The cornerstone was laid in 1950 for the main building. Worship services were held at the Wakefield Theater, a local movie house, until the new church edifice was completed. Interestingly, the old portable church building was disassembled, transported and re-erected in Putnam Valley, New York, where St. Luke’s Lutheran Church worships to this day. An addition to Redeemer’s new building was added in 1964 that includes the current parish office, pastor’s study and upstairs classroom.

During Pastor Haupt’s pastorate, a parsonage was purchased in Mount Vernon, New York. Pastor Haupt accepted a Divine Call to Smithtown, Long Island in 1963. The Rev. Donald Heitner accepted the Divine Call to serve as Redeemer’s pastor from 1964 to June, 1967. Redeemer then decided to sell the Mount Vernon parsonage. In 1969, the Rev. Theodore Wittrock accepted the Divine Call to be Redeemer’s fourth pastor.

 

During the late 1960’s and 1970's, Redeemer's neighborhood in the Wakefield section of the Bronx experienced a significant socio-cultural and economic transition. Many of Redeemer's ethnic European members moved from the Wakefield community to the suburbs of New York City and elsewhere. New people from diverse cultural backgrounds replaced those who relocated. Many urban parishes did not adjust well to similar changes, but, by God’s grace, Redeemer did. This was in great part due to the Spirit-inspired love and devotion of Pastor Wittrock, his family and the many laypeople of Redeemer who welcomed newcomers of every race, ethnicity and culture. In the 1980s and 1990s, Redeemer remained a beacon of hope in the north Bronx, hosting square dances, potluck suppers, congregational dinners, talent shows, “Festa Italiana” dinners, “Broadway in the Bronx,” and other events, in addition to the many baptisms, confirmations, weddings and funerals with music from the Senior Choir, Junior Choir and Guitar Choir. In addition to these, the Sunday School remained a strong focus for the parish, welcoming new young people and their families to the congregation. Redeemer’s work with the Wakefield Taxpayers and Civic League, the Wakefield Patrol, Al Anon, Overeaters Anonymous, AARP, the 47th Precinct Community Council and other groups has demonstrated our ongoing Christian witness in the Bronx.

 

To celebrate the parish’s 70th anniversary, Redeemer made many building repairs and renovations, including the conversion of the former “Green Room” to “The Wittrock Room” in honor of The Rev. Theodore and Lenore Wittrock. Pastor Wittrock retired in January, 2000 on his eightieth birthday and was named “Pastor emeritus.” In 2004, as a part of the 75th anniversary celebration that was themed, “Jesus Christ Is the Same Yesterday, Today and Forever,” Boyd Avenue was renamed, “Rev. Theodore Wittrock Crossing,” in honor of the then late Pastor Wittrock. The street was dedicated by the President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the Rev. Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick.

 

The Rev. Dien Ashley Taylor accepted the Divine Call to be Redeemer's fifth pastor and was installed on Good Shepherd Sunday in 2001. He continues to serve as our pastor to this day. Pastor Taylor brought new energy to Redeemer with worship attendance doubling in fewer than two years. Our Lord guided many people to Redeemer during Vacation Bible School in August of 2001. He also led many people to our parish after the horrific events of 9/11; our Sunday School theme for that year, “God’s People Pray,” became a parish motto and helped us to appreciate and treasure this unique contribution that the Body of Christ offers a sinful world. Much of the growth at Redeemer has included young people seeking the Lord’s love in His Word and Sacraments who desire to be part of the Body of Christ. Moreover, many are also participating in various Redeemer youth activities. At the invitation of The Rev. Dr. David H. Benke, the President of the Atlantic District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Redeemer’s Youth Choir both opened the Atlantic District Convention to a standing ovation in July, 2003 and sang at the 100th Anniversary Banquet of the Atlantic District in June, 2006. To celebrate our 75th anniversary, Redeemer began Homework Help, an after school tutorial program, in the same spirit of outreach that characterized Redeemer’s founding.

 

During our 75th anniversary celebration, we were delighted to welcome The Rev. William Meyer, the son of our founding pastor, to preach during festival Liturgies. We were also thrilled to have The Rev. Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, the President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, preach at other festival liturgies during our 75th anniversary celebration.

 

Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church continues to grow by God’s grace. In 2001, there was one Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist that was conducted on Sundays at 11AM. As the congregation has grown, there are four weekly Liturgies: Saturdays at 7PM; Sundays at 8AM; Sundays at 11AM; and Wednesdays at 7:30PM. As our neighborhood has experienced an influx of speakers of Spanish, our congregation incorporates the Spanish language in hymnody and liturgical rites. Baptisms, weddings, confirmations and funerals have been conducted in Spanish as well as in English as the Gospel of Jesus Christ is shared with many people. As the congregation has continued to grow, a young adults group, “HEARTS,” (Here, Eager And Ready To Serve) was formed that complements the EYES—Energetic Youth Engaged in Service (Youth Group), WRISTS (formerly the Women’s Guild which was formerly the Dorcas Society), LIPS (Ladies In Prayer and Service), LEGS (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in Service) and other entities of the parish as all are using their gifts to tell the Good News about Jesus.

 

Christ continues to be confessed at Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church. With conservative Biblical preaching, orthodox Lutheran catechesis and liturgical sacramental worship, this congregation is a confessional, evangelical catholic communion in the Lutheran tradition. With a strong emphasis on worship, the congregation continues to grow in Christ’s mission. In addition to organ and piano music, we are blessed with choirs, liturgical dance troupes, many soloists, an instrumental ensemble and a percussionist. Music from all over the world enhances our gathering as we celebrate the rich diversity of the Body of Christ in our midst. Over the years, Redeemer has been blessed with many musicians who have served God’s people, including The Rev. Dr. Oswald Hoffman, Dr. M. Alfred Bischel, Dr. Maura Mitrushina, Timothy Fink, Martin Ganshau, Donna Dixon, Richard Duncan, Joan Harkness, Mary Merle Faulkner, Arlene Oplinger, Ruth Cunningham, David Greatrix, James Taglauer, Edgar Aufdemberg, Christopher Losee, Allyyssa Kirnon, Dr. Daniel Leguizamon and The Rev. Dr. Dien Ashley Taylor. Currently, Dr. Jean Boehler serves as Redeemer’s Cantor as Redeemer’s many musicians serve the Body of Christ in LUNGS—Lifting Up the Name of God in Song (formerly Senior Choir and Adult Gospel Choir), EYES—Energetic Youth Engaged in Service (formerly Youth Choir) and EARS—Enthusiastically Adoring our Redeemer in Song (instrumental ensemble).

 

Our ushers (now named “HANDS—Helping All to be Neighbors in the Divine Service”) continue to welcome ne people into the Liturgies. The one-year adult catechumenate and two-year youth catechumenate continue to be ways by which new people are welcomed into this praying community of service. Rosa Cruz Molina served over nine years as Redeemer’s Catechist, working with Pastor Taylor, as adults were catechized, baptized and confirmed. Private confession with Holy Absolution is offered and embraced at Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church as people grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Weekly fellowship hours after the Liturgies, congregational dinners (many times in different locations because we have outgrown our undercroft), talent shows, trips to religious productions, retreats to Camp Koinonia, worship services on the beach, servant events and other fellowship activities have all been part of Redeemer parish’s life. Bible studies and doctrinal studies on The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church attract many people who desire to grow in their knowledge of Christ and His Holy Church. Redeemer has also been a classroom for seminarians from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis as Pastor Taylor has taught a course and led a cross-cultural module for seminarians to help them prepare for church work in urban contexts. Seminarians and professors from the seminary have spent time at Redeemer to learn ways in which they can serve Christ and His people in our nation’s ever-growing cities.

 

Our 80th Anniversary theme, “Witnessing the Living Christ,” gives us an opportunity to reimagine our life as the Body of Christ as we continue to be a parish of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod where "God's People Pray." Redeemer congregation is blessed with gifted members who, by God’s grace, dedicate themselves to the mission of Christ Jesus. Our 80th anniversary celebration has included an anniversary banquet and reunion in April, 2008; former members of Redeemer attended this event and they were joined by friends of Redeemer, current members of Redeemer, President Gerald B. Kieschnick and President David H. Benke. During the summer of 2008, Redeemer’s sanctuary was renovated, complementing the air conditioning of the sanctuary that was completed a few years earlier.

 

As part of our 80th anniversary celebration, Redeemer is also intentionally assisting other congregations and organizations in our area. Redeemer is specifically working with Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx to help them as they receive and share God’s gifts. As this began, Redeemer was blessed with two interns who worked at Redeemer with Pastor Taylor and other Redeemer members from 2009-2010. Matthew R. Gonzalez from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis served as a Vicar at both Redeemer and Trinity. Raquel A. Rojas from Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne served as a Deaconess Intern at both parishes. As her internship year concluded and she became eligible for full time service in the Church, Redeemer extended a Divine Call to Raquel A. Rojas to be our Deaconess. Deaconess Rojas was commissioned and installed on September 19, 2010 by Atlantic District President David H. Benke in the presence of many other pastors, commissioned ministers and laypeople of the Church. Deaconess Rojas continues to serve with Pastor Taylor in a full-time capacity as Redeemer endeavors to continue the work our Lord has given us to do.

 

As the parish has celebrated ten years with Pastor Taylor, the theme was “The Good Shepherd Celebration.” The initiative included Liturgies, concerts and other events in addition to a fundraiser with three goals: supporting a mission a far away, supporting a local mission and supporting the renovation of The Parish House. By the end of the Good Shepherd Celebration year, $10,000 gift was sent to Concordia College Alabama, a $5,000 grant was given to Trinity Lutheran Church in Schenectady, New York and Redeemer’s Parish House has been renovated.

We are humbled that our Lord has moved us to love, serve and lead countless people in the New York metropolitan area and beyond. As “God’s People Pray,” Redeemer is “Witnessing the Living Christ,”

A Brief History

By the mercy of Almighty God, Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Bronx, New York, was founded in 1928.

 

Members of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Yonkers who lived in the Wakefield section of the Bronx in...

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Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church

4360 Rev. Theodore Wittrock Crossing

(Boyd and Barnes Avenues)

The Bronx, NY 10466-1804

Phone: 718.324.1288  -  Fax: 718.324.2056

 

Email: office@redeemerlutheranbronx.org

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