175 YEARS OF MINISTRY AT Trinity Lower East Side

On Sunday, May 27th 2018, our congregation gathered with elected officials, and community leaders for worship with Bishop Don McCoid of the Metropolitan New York Synod presiding and a former Pastor of Trinity, Robert Wollenburg preaching.  Broadway musicians and the TLES choir provided special music.

After the worship, we held a toast, presentations by community leaders, a catered reception, and live music in our garden on the corner of 9th Street and Avenue B.

It was a wonderful day to look back at our past, and to look forward to the future. Our journey continues!

You can view and download photos from the event here.

A BRIEF HISTORY of Trinity (and the) Lower East Side

Trinity Lower 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 German.

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.

Our Journey Continues

We're not done growing and changing.

We need your help to continue serving the neighborhood of the Lower East Side and beyond.

We are very close to reaching our goal of $200,000 for much needed capital repairs in our building. All contributions in honor of the Anniversary will support our building fund to help us continue our 175 year service to the community, and our place in progressive dialogues that address the needs of an ever-changing world.