Lutherans are not foreigners in New York. Most of us it is true are new comers. But with a single exception, that of the Dutch Reformed Church, Lutherans were the first to plant the standard of the cross on Manhattan Island.
The story of our church runs parallel with that of the city. Our problems are bound up with those of New York. Our neighbors ought to be better acquainted with us. We ought to be better acquainted with them. We have common tasks, and it would be well if we knew more of each other’s ways and aims.
New York is a cosmopolitan city. It is the gateway through which the nations are sending their children into the new world.
Lutherans are a cosmopolitan church. Our pastors minister to their flocks in fifteen languages. No church has a greater obligation to “seek the peace of the city” than the Lutherans of New York. No church has a deeper interest in the problems that come to us with the growth and ever changing conditions of the metropolis.
In their earlier history our churches had a checkered career. In recent years they have made remarkable progress. In Greater New York we enroll this year 160 churches. The Metropolitan District numbers 260 congregations holding the Lutheran confession. But the extraordinary conditions of a rapidly expanding metropolis, with its nomadic population, together with our special drawback of congregations divided among various races and languages as well as conflicting schools of theological definition, make our tasks heavy and confront us with problems of grave difficulty.
On the background of a historical sketch a study of some of these problems is attempted by the author. After spending what seemed but a span of years in the pastorate on the East Side, he awoke one day to find that half a century had been charged to his account. While it is a distinction, there is no special merit in being the senior pastor of New York. As Edward Judson once said to him: “All that you have had to do was to outlive your contemporaries.”
These fifty years have been eventful ones in the history of our church in New York. All of this period the author “has seen and part of it he was.” But having also known, with four exceptions all the Lutheran pastors of the preceding fifty years, he has come into an almost personal touch with the events of a century of Lutheran history on this island. He has breathed its spirit and sympathized with its aspirations.
This unique experience served as a pretext for putting into print some reflections that seemed fitting at a time when our churches were celebrating the quadricentennial of the Reformation and were inquiring as to the place which they might take in the new century upon which they were entering. The manuscript was begun during the celebration, but parochial duties intervened and frequent interruptions delayed the completion of the book.