Pieces of Our Past
November 28, 2014
Artifact: “Trinity Church” New York Sketch
Significance: The oldest congregation in the LCMS, Saint Matthew, Manhattan, New York, is celebrating its 350th anniversary this year. The sketch is of the congregation’s third place of worship, which the congregation called “Trinity Church.” It was built in 1729 on the southwest corner of Broadway and Rector Street. It was used until September 21, 1776, when it succumbed to flames during the fire that destroyed a significant portion of the city.
About Saint Matthew: The congregation predates the formation of the LCMS by over 180 years. Saint Matthew was formed officially in 1664 when the new English Governor Richard Nicolls gave permission to the Lutherans in New York to worship according to their faith and request a pastor. For the sixteen years prior, the Lutherans had tried to gain a pastor to lead them, but the government of New Amsterdam would only allow the Dutch Reformed faith to be practiced. Thus it was not until the English took possession of the town, renaming it New York, that they received the freedom to worship. The congregation received its historic charter in an order by Governor Nicolls on December 6, 1664. A translation reads:
[Whereas] several persons under my government, who are adherents of the Lutheran faith, [and who] have taken the oath of fidelity to his Majesty and his Royal Highness, and to such governor or other officer as is or shall be appointed there, have by petition requested that they might have liberty to send for one or more pastors of the aforesaid religion and that they might freely and publicly exercise their religion according to their conscience, I have given my consent thereto, on condition that they shall molest no one of other [faith] and that they shall be obedient to the present authorities.
Whereunto I have set my hand and seal at Fort James in New York, on the island of Manatans, the 6th day of December Ao. 1664.
[Was signed:] RITZAERT NICOLAES1
Throughout the 350 years that have followed, the congregation has seen many ups and downs but has remained steadfast in the Lutheran Confessions. This strong confessional stance eventually led the congregation to join the Missouri Synod in 1885.
1Arnold J. H. vanLaer, trans., The Lutheran Church in New York 1649–1772: Records in the Lutheran Church Archives at Amsterdam, Holland (New York: New York Public Library, 1946), 49.