They came by the thousands, those people seeking a better life and greater opportunities for themselves and their families in America. In the twenty years prior to the Civil War, over four million newcomers arrived at our shores, most of them from Northern Europe. Generally they settled in ethnic enclaves, much as do today's immigrants, for there they could feel comfortable with their language and customs in a foreign land. . . .
A cluster of Danes found refuge in the town of Perth Amboy . . . and there they began their new lives. However, one vital aspect of life was missing; there was no Lutheran Church where they could worship as they were accustomed. . . .
Thus begins the story of Our Savior's Lutheran Church, founded in 1868. Within two years, this faith community of Danes had its own building in which to worship.
A lot has happened over 150 years. Our Savior's and the story is recounted in the booklet A History of Our Savior's Lutheran Church: 1868-1993; 125th Edition, and other brochures and pamphlets.
Some of the highlights through the years are:
The opening of the parochial school in 1880 which, for the next 31 years, taught Danish and religion along with the regular school subjects; Pastor Villads B. Skov's 37-year pastorate from 1889-1925 when the congregation outgrew its facilities; Building a new church building in 1889 and, eight years later, a new parsonage Establishment of the Sunday School in 1898; in the next 14 years, four additional satellite Sunday Schools were started in Perth Amboy, Woodbridge, Staten Island, and Fords. (The Fords Sunday School grew to become an independent congregation: Our Redeemer Lutheran).
A change from worshiping in Danish to English in 1925 and changing the name of the congregation from Our Savior's Danish Lutheran Church of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession to Our Savior's Evangelical Lutheran Church; Through the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II, the congregation began an adult Bible class, a Luther League (youth group), and a choir; Sponsoring World War II refugees; In the 50's Our Savior's joined the American Lutheran Church and hired the first of four parish workers; Making the hard decision to leave a changing neighborhood and follow the membership to the suburbs: Double worship services were held in Perth Amboy and School #18 in Iselin; In 1963 the Perth Amboy property was sold and the congregation purchased land on Calvert Avenue East, worshiping in the Menlo Park School while the building was constructed; Despite the turbulence of the '60's, many new programs were introduced successfully; Once again, a refugee family-this time from Vietnam-was sponsored in the late 70"s; Quilters made 1,600 quilts for Lutheran World Relief in the 80's; Supervising and mentoring of seminarians (student pastors) through the 80's; Active in the Soldier's Home ministry, a full-time chaplain called in 1985; In partnership with the Metuchen YMCA, Our Savior's Child Care Center was opened in 1992; No longer exclusively Danish, the congregation has grown to be highly diverse, reflecting ethnicities from around the world.
Over 150 years, Our Savior's has been served by over two dozen pastors, including Assistant Pastors and Interim Pastors. But these faithful people did not do the work alone. As A History of Our Savior's concludes:
The members, from the original group of Danes to our congregation of many nationalities today, have worshipped, prayed, cooperated, worked hard, and given their money so that God's Word could be preached and spread, first in Perth Amboy and later in Iselin and Edison. It is only through the united efforts of so many that this is possible.