A friendly household of faith, we are America’s oldest Lutheran Church (congregation), now in its 352nd year of faithful witness to the Lord Jesus Christ since receiving its historic Charter on December 6, 1664.
Many congregations are blessed to reach their 50th anniversary in service to the Lord and His people. Some are privileged to reach their 75th or even their centennial. In 1997 the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod marked its 150th anniversary. We think of our nation celebrating its bicentennial back in 1976, and in two more years our nation will be 240 years old. But how many here in the United States can imagine being a part of any chartered organization in continual existence for 350 years?
There is a special group of people who can lay claim to this honor in all of the Americas. Under his “hand and seal,” the first British Governor of New York, Richard Nicolls gave to our forebears in the faith, the early Lutheran settlers and founders of the Congregation of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession of Faith on the island of Manhattan, the right to “freely and publicly exercise divine worship according to their consciences.”
This notable event, almost 150 years after the birth of the Lutheran Reformation on October 31, 1517, testifies to the truth of the enduring Word of scripture in the closing verses of Psalm 90:
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!
The members of St. Matthew are the spiritual descendants of those first Lutherans and of each succeeding generation. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Matthew is the oldest chartered Lutheran congregation in America, not including her 16 years of existence in withstanding the harsh laws in the then Dutch colony that criminalized pubic worship as adherents of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession.
The Charter reads as follows:
“Whereas severall Persons under my Government who professe the Lutheran Religion have taken the Oath of obedience to his Matie his Royall Highnesse, and such Governor or other Officers, as shall by their Authority be sett over them, and they having requested me for Liberty to send for one Minister or more of their Religion and that they may freely and publiquly Exercise Divine worship according to their Consiences; I do hereby give my Consent thereunto, provided they shall not abuse this Liberty to the disturbance of others and submitting to, and obeying such Lawes and Ordinances, as shall be Imposed upon them, by the Authority aforesaid, Given under my hand and Seale at James Fort in new Yorke on the Island of Manhatans, this 6th day of December Anno. 1664.” Richard Nicolls.
(This historic charter is in the custody of the New York Public Library, Schwarzman Building, Fifth Ave, New York. Click HERE to see an image of the Charter)
|We confess the truth of our testimony in the statement of FAITH which is expressed concisely in the Creeds|