The Martin Luther Church in Toronto was founded in 1954 by German immigrants and is now part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC). Today the Martin Luther Church provides programs in German and English. The Martin Luther Church is partnered with the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).
Background of the church
The Second World War and the great destruction of Germany resulted in a huge wave of emigration. Many Germans who had lost their homes sought a new beginning and a secure life in Canada.
As in many other cities, the believing Lutherans in Toronto joined together because they wanted to remain true to the faith of their fathers and their mother tongue. As early as the early fifties, Toronto’s German-speaking church services were held in various churches. Active groups emerged, which grew relatively quickly to independent communities recognized by the local church authorities.
The Martin Luther Congregation was one of those groups that has grown to become a strong and faithful congregation within the then Lutheran Churches Association in North America ( now the ELCIC) by adhering to the faith and actively cooperating with each other’s members.
Already in 1955, the first step to self-governance was undertaken with a German pastor. Pastor Karl Wulf, the first pastor of the young Martin Luther congregation. Under his successor, Pastor Otto Winter, the desire of the community to own a house of worship came true. In 1962, our present church was solemnly inaugurated under the participation of the President of the Synod and other representatives of the Lutheran Church in North America and entrusted to the community as a permanent home. Over the years, the church building has been embellished and enlarged by two extensions, consisting of a large entrance hall, office and meeting rooms.
There was very limited space in the United Church Bathurst Street, where the congregation started, so on June 1, 1957, the congregation moved to rent space at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 1691 Bloor St West, near Keele Street (at Indian Road). In January 1959, Pastor Karl Wulf, MLC’s first pastor, followed the call to the First Lutheran Church, on Bond St.
In February 1959, Pastor Otto Winter started in the MLC. With him, the congregation succeeded in purchasing its own building in Mimico (South Etobicoke), 2379 Lake Shore Boulevard West. On the 15th of April, 1962, MLC celebrated a first festive service in its church, after having done extensive renovation works. In autumn 1962, the new organ was consecrated.
In April 1964, Pastor Winter followed the call to serve in the German Seamen’s in New York.
On June 7, 1964, Pastor E. W. Schwantes was installed by the synodical President, Rev. Dr. John H. Reble.
The building in 5 Superior Avenue which was to serve as the day care building was purchased in 1969.
In 1970, a day care centre was been established on the initiative of Pastor Eberhard W. Schwantes in the adjacent building 5 Superior for 21 children. This was, from the very start, intended to be a social institution for the district of South Etobicoke, as in the surrounding area of the church there lived numerous families in need and single parents. The congregational members of the Martin Luther Church put forth much effort, time and again, with love and dedication. Meals for the children were cooked by the ladies of the church. Craftsmen’s skills were needed for building alterations and extensions. Over the years considerable extensions of the program took place.
The two-storey-extension with pastor’s office and meeting rooms was consecrated in June 1982. On October 18, 1992, the new, largely expanded main entrance was celebrated in a service, presided by Bishop Dr. W. Huras.
Pastor Eberhard W. Schwantes, who served the MLC for 35 years, expressed what the church meant to many: “For me, the congregation meant always also family, and therefore, a lasting bond and responsibility. The family that is under God’s word, grants protection against the outside world, it is a refuge where one is safe, where one finds community and comfort.”
In December 2000, Pastor Stefan Wolf was installed, following a contract between MLC, Eastern Synod and EKD/Germany which had commissioned him. For the 50th anniversary in 2005, beautiful stained glass windows were installed, thanks to generous donations of many members. In August 2007, Pastor Alexander Mielke started to serve as pastor, commissioned by EKD as well.
Today, MLC has more than 300 members. For more than sixty years, they have been a bilingual Lutheran congregation, nowadays with church services in English at 9:45 a.m. and in German at 11:00 a.m. Once a month they conduct a bilingual German-English Service for celebrating the fellowship of both parts of our congregation.
We have a radio devotion every Sunday in German on the multicultural radio station AM 530. We have continually supported the food bank of the Wesley Mimico United Church, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank among other missional projects.
Karl Wulf, served from 1957-1959 (2 years)
Otto Winter, served from 1959-1964 (5 years)
Eberhard W. Schwantes, served from 1964-1999 (35 years)
Stefan Wolf, served from 2000-2007 (7 years)
Alexander Mielke, served from 2007-2013 (6 years)
Dr. Christian Ceconi, served from 2013 – 2020 (7 years)
Our Vicars and Interns:
We have had the following vicars and interns serve with us over years. Vicars: Susanne Hoffman, Katharina Prozniak, Moritz Menacher, Catharina Klein, Mirjam Steinebach, Silke Fahl, Adam McComb, Jordan Smith, Caroline Raddatz. Interns: Luisa Lenz, Alena Mathis, Hilke Troff, Ann-Christin Hohaus, Nils Timm, Anne-Marie Prueser, Rahel Roemer.
It was the longstanding wish of the congregation to replace the pink-blue-yellow windows in the nave with stained glass windows. It was time the old windows were replaced because they were leaky and not energy efficient by current standards – allowing in heat in the summer, cold in the winter.
In 2002 work was begun. A committee was formed by our church council (Sieghard Schmidt, Olaf Weigelin, Heinz Gutsch, Edmund Scholz, Horst Zimmer, and Hans-Joachim Arndt) and a design studio and manufacturer and installers were chosen.
After many conversations and discussions, a small group conveyed the wishes of our congregational members to the artists in a meeting in August e.g. use of biblical stories from the Old and the New Testament, use of symbols, no portrayal of figures, each window is represented by two symbols. The committee attempted to accommodate all ideas and wishes of the congregation.
Red Dala Glassworks, from Alliston, Ontario – the artists Lea and Ken Redmayne – put the windows in production.
Repla Windows and Doors, from Oakville, Ontario – Walter Peterson, Klaus Buchholz and Barry Ayers – installed them. To protect the artists’ stained-glass windows from breakage they were mounted and installed between two panes of clear break-proof glass.
Pastor Stefan Wolf said “Even though it is impossible to satisfy the tastes of all, I think that we will enjoy the illustrated Bible stories that our windows will make, in a statement to our visitors.”
Each window is represented by two symbols, respectively. All twenty of the windows (ten on the right side and ten on the left side) are connected by a white ribbon. On the right side of the church nave west side, these ten windows depict our church liturgical year: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Free Time, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost, and, Trinity. They were inaugurated on October 5, 2003 in the Thanksgiving Day Service led by Pastor Stefan Wolf.
The second set of windows on the left side of the church nave east side, were inaugurated on April 25, 2004, in a special service led by Pastor Stefan Wolf. These ten windows depict our important symbols of faith: God / Father, Word of God, Christ, The Holy Sacraments, and, The Congregation.
Pastor Stefan Wolf summed this project up, “We, as Christians, are living stones and form the house of God. So as God’s building, we are living signs of his kindness. The congregation can truly be proud to have such beautiful windows.”
Special thanks to those who donated the cost of the windows, the families and friends of congregational members. The costs per window amounted to approximately $3,000 to $3,500 each. Several persons donated, for instance in remembrance for family members who have passed away.
The Windows in the Front Entrance
The same artists who designed and manufactured the stained-glass windows in the church nave also produced the cross at the entrance to the church which was completed in 2006. The inauguration service was held a few years later on September 11, 2009 led by Pastor Alexander Mielke together with the dedication of the donation plaque.
A commemorative plaque was made in thankful recognition of the many donations for the colourful glass windows It is displayed in the church entranceway. The inscription reads: In thankful recognition of the many donations for the colourful stained-glass windows in the church nave and entrance. In the memory all deceased congregational members. “My eyes have seen your salvation.” Luke 2:30.
Hans-Joachim Arndt, Christa Arndt, Walter Berg, Lydia Berg, Henriette Borau, Rose Czernecki, (Rudolf Czernecki), Erich Feyerabend, (Rosemarie Feyerabend), (Konrad Frischkorn), Gertrude Ganter, Henry Ganter, Ursula Grammenz, geb. Haasengier, Dieter Grammenz, Leanne Grammenz, Stefan Grammenz, Reinhard Gutsch, Bruno Gutsch, Heinz Gutsch, Irma Gutsch, Hilde Haasengier, (Ferdinand Haasengier), Maria Hack, Hugo Hack, Ellie Jonuschies, (Hans Jonuschies), Stella Kakoschke, geb. Goltz, (Celestin Eugen Kakoschke, Daniel und Else Goltz, geb. Neumann), Otto Karthaus, Lieselotte Karthaus, Karl-Ernst Kriese, Erna Kriese, Karl-Ernst-Kriese, jun., Wanda Lischewski, (Edward Lischewski), Erich Malcharek, Ella Malcharek, son Rainer Malcharek, Erika Mandau, Wilhelm Mandau, Aurelia Mayer, (Ludwig Mayer), Ira Mazaleski, Emil Mazalewski, Erwin Milewski, Robert Peter, (Edith Peter, geb. Gross), Gerhard Gross, Violet Gross, Christel Preukschat, (Horst Preukschat), Karen Hiscott, geb. Preukschat, Robert Hiscott, Elli Rinas, Eduard Rinas, Emma Rinas, Ewald Rinas, Ingrid Sanchez, geb. Ottner, (Otto Ottner, Anneliese Ottner), Charlotte Scheibelt, (Willi Scheibelt), Anna Schmidt, John Schmidt, Helen Schmidt, Monika Schmidt, Richard …, Magdalena Schaeffer, Sieghard Schmidt, Erika Schmitt, Peter Schmitt, Marta Reinhardt, Gustav Reinhardt, Ursula Scholz, Edmund Scholz, (Olga Frey), Charlotte Schulz, (Marion Schwantes, Eberhard W. Schwantes), Karl Seelke, Lieselotte Seelke, Dan Sommerfeld, Marlene Sommerfeld, Jocelyn Sommerfeld, Else Weigelin, Olaf Weigelin, Horst Wiegers, Rose Wiegers, Daina Wienecke, geb. Heinrichsons-Indriksons, Ernst-August Wienecke, (Hanna Wienecke, Ernst Wienecke), Agnes Zabel, Melvin Zabel, Else Schafrick, Wilhelm Schafrick, Annelie Zimmer, Horst Zimmer …
Explanations of the Symbols
Awaiting the birth of the Saviour
Symbol: Scroll with Old Testament prophecy regarding foretelling the birth of Jesus (Text: Isaiah 9,1)
Flower: Crocus = Joy and love (Text: 1. Corithians 13)
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
The Birth of Jesus
Flower: Christ-rose = Hope
And the angel said to them, Be not afraid: for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people: for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savoir, who is Christ the Lord.
God appears in person
Flower: Carnations = Symbol of pure love
“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.”
4. Free Time
Period between major festivals during the church year
Symbol: Shepherd’s rod (Jesus the good shepherd)
Flower: Violet = Humility
I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me.
5. Palm Sunday
Jesus enters Jerusalem as King
Flower: Daffodils = Triumph of love over sin
Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and other cut branches from the tree and spread them out on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
6. Maundy Thursday
Night of Jesus’ imprisonment
Symbol: Cross with crown of thorns
Flower: Dandelion = Triumph, Greens were decorated on Maundy Thursday
So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple rob. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”
7. Good Friday
Day of the Jesus‘ Death
Symbol: Cross with Inscription INRI which stems from the Latin phrase ‘Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum’ meaning ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’.
Flower: Rose = Triumph, Love, Markings of the wounds of Christ
1. Corinthians 1:23-24
But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and wisdom of God.
Resurrection of Christ
Symbol: Lamb of God
Flower: Daisy = Innocence
Saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom
and might and honor and glory blessing!”
God gives his Holy Spirit
Flower: Columbine (Akelei) = Symbolic Flower for the Holy Spirit
Acts 2: 3 & 4
And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak.
One God and the three persons of the divinity, Father Son, and Holy Spirit
Symbol: Symbol of Trinity, interwoven lines with no endings
Flower: Lilly = Purity, Symbolic flower for the Trinity as such
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
11. Noah’s Ark
God the Father
Topic: Repentance / God saves;
Corner: Olive branch – sign of hope
The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria, and built Nin’eveh, Reho’both-Ir, Calah.
12. Hand of God
God the Father
Topic: God’s Hand = Creation
Corner: Tree = paradise and disobedience of mankind
And out of ground the Lord made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the
tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Topic: Mission; Shell as symbol for spreading the word of God;
Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world: he who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.”
14. Alpha and Omega
Topic: The Holy Bible and the Christ Monogram;
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty
Alpha and omega which are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet refers to “I am the alpha and the omega”, in the Book of Revelation “the beginning and the end” (Revelation 21:6, 22:13) to mean that Jesus has existed for all eternity or that God is eternal.
15. Palm Branches
Christ – Son of God
Topic: Christ’s victory; Jesus enters Jerusalem;
Corner: Palm branch OR Crown?
So they took branches and palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, “Hosanna Blessed is who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”
16. Christ Symbol/Chi-Ro
Christ – Son of God
Topic: Christ the vine – we, the branches; Christ’s Monogram; This Chi Rho symbol is derived from the first two letters of the word “Christos” (ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ) in the Greek alphabet
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
17. Water and Dove
The Holy Sacraments
Corner Axe – according to the preaching of John the Baptist the symbol of judgement and decision
Even now the axe is laid to root of the trees: every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
18. Chalice and Bread
The Holy Sacraments
Topic: Holy Communion;
Corner: ear of corn, the many grains, but one body in Christ
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life: who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall not thirst.
19. Sail Boat
The Church – Community of Believers
Topic: The ‘ship’ congregation;
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
20. Praying Hands
The Church – Community of Believers
Corner: Serpent, symbol of temptation
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up.
Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; FOR THIS IS THE WILL OF God in Christ Jesus for you.