East Side Lutheran Parish (TLES) was officially founded in 1843 with Rev.
Theodore Brohm as the first pastor, though the congregation had been meeting in
various forms since 1839. A number of spaces were used in the beginning, but
the congregation eventually settled on Avenue C and 9th Street and built a
church and school. As more German Lutherans poured into the community, the
congregation outgrew these buildings. In 1863 they purchased the Greek Revival
church building of the recently-closed Dry Dock Methodist Parish on Avenue B
and 9th Street.
By 1904, there
were almost 1,600 members of Trinity LES. In June 1904, tragedy struck. Over
1,000 members of the larger LES Lutheran community, mostly women and children,
were killed on the East River aboard the steamboat General Slocum when it
caught fire and sank while on the way to a picnic.
The disaster devastated the
community, German Lutherans moved to Brooklyn and uptown Manhattan, and by 1940
Trinity’s membership had shrunk to 50 people. By that time, the neighborhood
was comprised mostly of families from Puerto Rico and Latin-American immigrants.
The national church sent a young pastor, Dr. Milton Rudnic, to do community
outreach and offer worship services in both English and Spanish instead of
In 1961, Rev. Art Simon (pictured in the photo to the left) began an outreach mission to the hungry and
poor that would inspire his founding of an international advocacy organization,
Bread for the World. In 1986 Pastor Wollenburg established a regular soup
kitchen, as Trinity’s Services and Food for the Homeless (SAFH). SAFH provides
free bags of wholesome groceries to the community and serves over 1,000
home-cooked meals per week, thus to date a total of well over 1 million meals.
From 2000 to 2017, Pastor Phil Trzynka tirelessly continued the work of SAFH,
supported the successful struggle for marriage equality in NY State, and helped
to unite a changing LES community with his leadership and advocacy. Interim Pastor Ann Tiemeyer and the people of
TLES continue the legacy of socially-engaged work as they address issues of
gender justice and immigration.
So far, in 175
years, it is estimated that TLES has met for Sunday worship over 9,100 times,
performed over 5,000 baptisms, communed over quarter of a million people, and
laid to rest over 3,200 souls. Today, TLES and SAFH are committed to continue
serving the community of the LES and the world.