History & Highlights
The official birth date of Pilgrim Lutheran Church is May 14, 1914, but the seed was planted much earlier. As far back as 1909 there was a desire to have a permanent Lutheran Church established in Santa Monica. In 1912, the Los Angeles Pastoral Conference enlisted the aid of Rev. Theodore Haeuser of Whittier who held services in the area twice per month.
In 1913, the 80 members of the graduating class of Concordia Seminary received a variety of calls which sent them all over the world. One young man, Walter Troeger, was sent to the then remote little sea side town of Santa Monica. Rev. Troeger gave his first sermon on October 5, 1913 and on May 14, 1914, twenty-two families pledged support for the organization of the church. In those early days, Rev. Troeger noted that “Our total assets were a Bible, a couple dozen hymnals, and a communion set”. In 1919, the first permanent church (which still stands on the corner of 14th street and Arizona Avenue) was completed.
As the church grew, the need for a new building became inevitable. In 1945 and 1951, a total of 5 building lots were purchased on the corner of 18th and Wilshire. Ground was broken in June 1952 and the new church was dedicated on June 14, 1953.
Rev. Troeger retired in 1960, after more than 46 years of faithful service to Pilgrim. His exemplary efforts to establish and nurture our church are an example to all of us.
Rev. I.F. Hodde then served as interim pastor until Rev. Victor Neemeyer was called. Rev. Neemeyer served Pilgrim until his death in 1981. During his tenure at Pilgrim, Neemeyer served as a Circuit Counselor and was a frequent guest speaker on “The Lutheran Hour”.
In 1982, Rev. Kenneth Molnar was installed. Rev. Molnar served as a member of the District Mission Board and as a Circuit Counselor. In 1987 Rev. Molnar was called to a mission in the explosively developing area of Rancho California. Although officially retired in 1985, Rev. Harry Miller agreed to act as interim pastor.
On September 21, 1988, exactly 75 years after Rev. Troeger was installed as Pilgrim’s first pastor, Dr. Albrecht was installed as our fourth pastor. Dr. Albrecht came to Pilgrim from Lutheran Television where he had served as executive producer for 17 years. Under his leadership, Lutheran Television garnered Emmys and many other awards for excellence in programming for the dramatic series “This is the Life” and numerous specials.
In January 1994, a major earthquake caused extensive damage to the sanctuary. For over a year and a half, services were held in the gymnasium while the church was being repaired. In November 1995, we rededicated a newly restored and much strengthened church. The altar is made of Sicilian marble and mahogany. The furniture and pews are also of mahogany.
In June 2001 we called our newest pastor, Rev. Nathan Kilian, to replace the retiring pastor, Dr. Ardon Albrecht.
Our church has influence in the community. It is a source of inspiration and a place of worship and renewal for all who will join us in our love of the Lord.
Pilgrim is your home church!