Detroit Laestadian Lutheran Church History

The Detroit Laestadian Lutheran Church is a member of the Laestadian Lutheran Church which has its headquarters in Loretto, Minnesota. The church is named after the reformer Martin Luther and Lars Levi Laestadius, a Lutheran pastor who served in northern Sweden from 1825-1861. In 1844, Laestadius was awakened into living faith and a movement which bears his name began and spread far beyond Swedish Lapland.

The Laestadian movement reached North America with congregations forming in the 1870’s in Cokato, Minnesota and Calumet, Michigan. Among the immigrants seeking employment in the rapidly growing automotive industry at the turn of the century in Detroit were Laestadians. As early as 1915, city directories list their names and occupations such as machinist, tire worker, riveter and auto worker.

Laestadians in Detroit held their first recorded meeting at the boarding house of Oscar Karinen at 187 Forsyth Street on February 14, 1917. The Apostolic Lutheran Congregation of Detroit became incorporated later that year. The charter members of the congregation were Oscar Karinen, John Narhi, Isacc W. Lakso, Peter Wissi, Arthur Olson, Matt Kangas, Charles Person Pyyny, Rudolph Bekkala, and August Niemi.

Services were held in homes and rented buildings until the Grace Presbyterian Church on 13245 Thompson Avenue (at Waverly Avenue) in Highland Park was purchased on November 16, 1921. In 1925, the church was razed and a basement for a new church was built on the same site. In 1940, the sanctuary was built on top of the basement. Following the move of many of its members to the western suburbs of Detroit, construction began at a new site at 26325 Halsted Road in Farmington in 1963. The first services were held at the new church on January 26, 1964.

Following a schism in 1973 which separated many Laestadian congregations in North America, the Detroit Laestadian Congregation was formed and incoporated on December 7, 1973. Meetings and services were once again held in homes and rented facilities until a church building was purchased at 290 Fairground in Plymouth, Michigan in May of 1982. The name of the congregation was later changed to Detroit Laestadian Lutheran Church to better convey the spiritual heritage and organization.

Today the sermon of Jesus’ suffering, death, and victorious resurrection remains centermost of the teachings of the Laestadian Lutheran Church. Laestadians teach that the work of Jesus Christ continues in this world as the work of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s congregation. We teach of God’s kingdom, and preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins. We hold, in accord with the Lutheran Confessions, that the Bible is the highest guide and authority for Christian faith, doctrine, and life.