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, Bloor St West, near Keele St (Iat ndian 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. 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 projects.
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.
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 2000-2017 (7 years)
Alexander Mielke, served from 2017-2013 (6 years)
Dr. Christian Ceconi, currently serving from 2013-present
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,
Interns: Luisa Lenz (Sep -Dec 2016), Hilke Troff, Ann-Christin Hohaus, Nils Timm, Rahel Roemer,
A look back … (more photos to come)
June 1, 1957: From the confined space at the United Church Bathurst Street, the congregation moved to the Redeemer Lutheran Church, Bloor Street West at Keele Street (corner of Indian Road).
In January 1959: Pastor Karl Wulf resigned as pastor and followed the call of the First Lutheran Church, Toronto, Bond Street
In February 1959: Pastor Otto Winter took over the office of pastor. Under his guidance, the growing congregation managed to find its own place of worship at 2369 Lakeshore Blvd West
On April 15, 1962, after major and thorough alterations, the congregation took over its own church
In the autumn of 1962, the newly acquired organ was inaugurated
April 1, 1964: Pastor Otto Winter resigned as pastor to follow the call of the sailor mission in New York
June 7, 1964: Pastor Eberhard W. Schwantes was appointed by the former President of the Synod, Dr. Ing. J. Reble, and introduced into his office.
In the fall of 1965, a freestanding wood cross was erected at the main entrance of the church to commemorate the deceased.
1969: The building, 5 Superior Ave. which today houses the kindergarten, was acquired as church property.
1977: The church building became mortgage-free
In Advent in 1980, the 25-year-old congregation’s anniversary was festively celebrated.
June 26, 1982: The two-story annexed with parish office and meeting rooms was inaugurated.
In May 1989, the congregation celebrated the 25th anniversary of Pastor Eberhard W. Schwantes as pastor of the congregation.
October 18, 1992: The new main entrance to the church was opened in the presence of Bishop Dr. W. Huras in a festive service.
December 3, 1995: The Martin Luther congregation celebrated its 40 years looking back with praise and thanksgiving for forty years under God’s guidance and assistance in true humility.
December 2000: Retirement of Pastor Eberhardt W. Schwantes and introduction of Pastor Stefan Wolf, commissioned by EKD/ Germany
August 2007: Installation of Pastor Alexander Mielke, commissioned by EKD/Germany
August 2013: Installation of Pastor Christian Ceconi, commissioned by EKD/ Germany
October 2013 Fire at the Daycare building