University Lutheran Church, formally known as the University Lutheran Association of Greater Boston, has been in Harvard Square since 1928. From its beginnings, it has been a place where both students and members of the surrounding communities could worship, learn, break bread together, serve the community, and advocate for justice side by side.

For a delightful montage of UniLu’s first 75 years, please read UniLu Voices: An Abbreviated History for the Church’s 75th Anniversary (PDF), written by UniLu member Katherine Reisz-Hanson in 2003.

UniLu History: A Brief Timeline

Pastor Norman Goehring arrives to serve Lutheran students in Boston and Cambridge.
The University Lutheran Association of Greater Boston is organized, worshipping in rented Brattle Hall (later Brattle Theatre).
The congregation moves to a temporary chapel and parish house at 66 Winthrop Street.
The current building is erected at 66 Winthrop Street. The following year, the building and its architect, Arland A. Dirlam, received the Harleston Parker Medal, which recognizes “the single most beautiful building or other structure” built in the metropolitan Boston area in the past 10 years.
Student ministry is expanded to include work on the MIT campus.
An “associate in college work” position is added to the staff.
A full-time parish secretary is added to the staff.
University Lutheran calls an associate pastor and becomes a “two-pastor congregation.”
The position of “associate in college work” is phased out, and the first graduate students from local divinity schools are hired as “vicars for students,” a practice that continues today.
University Lutheran votes to call an additional full-time pastor specifically to work at MIT.
The Lutheran Ministry at MIT is “spun off” from University Lutheran and begins to operate under a separate Directing Committee.
A new Noack organ is installed.
Rev. Constance Parvey becomes the first woman ordained in the New England Synod, and joins the staff of University Lutheran as associate pastor and Lutheran chaplain at MIT.
The congregation establishes the Campus Ministry Trust from the proceeds of the sale of the parsonage.
With the congregation’s support, Harvard students establish a “temporary” winter shelter for the homeless in the church basement. The shelter continues today.
The congregation approves participation in the Reconciled in Christ Program of Lutherans Concerned/North America, seeking greater inclusivity in our church for people of all sexual orientations.
The congregation “affirm[s] that the student-run Harvard Square Homeless Shelter remains a key component of our ministry and witness” and extends its commitment to host it through at least 2004. This commitment continues to be renewed.
University Lutheran votes to become a founding member of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, whose purpose is “to coalesce, train, and organize the faith communities of Greater Boston across all religious, racial, ethnic, class, and neighborhood lines for the public good.”
After several years of fundraising, a $2.5 million renovation of the 66 Winthrop Street shelter/dormitory, office, and Christian Education space begins. Work is substantially completed in 2001.
Phyllis Louise Edwards, a 1947 UniLu alumna, bequeaths $450,000 to UniLu to be used for renovations. The funds are used to renovate the Alumni/ae Room and sanctuary.
The Catherine and Henry Horn Fund for Campus Ministry is established on the occasion of Pastor Horn’s 90th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the Horns’ arrival in Cambridge. The fund supports campus ministry at University Lutheran and in the New England Synod.
University Lutheran establishes a Mission Endowment Fund.
University Lutheran Church agrees to house the St. James Summer Shelter, later known as the Harvard Square Summer Shelter, during the summer months.
A 9 am family-friendly, non-shushing, wiggles-welcome service replaces Sunday School as the church’s primary outreach to children and families.
University Lutheran becomes a founding member of the Harvard Square Sanctuary Coalition, later renamed the Cambridge Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition, and opens its doors to house a family under threat of deportation.
On March 15, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, UniLu replaces in-person worship services with a Zoom service at 10:30 am. It later adds Zoom Children’s Church at 10 am.
After 17 months of Zoom-only worship on Sunday mornings, UniLu begins hybrid (simultaneous in-person and Zoom) services on August 15.
In December 2021, the family taking sanctuary in the church is able to move to a new home.

Pastors of University Lutheran Church

  • Norman Goehring, 1929-1940
  • Edmund Steimle, 1940-1953
  • Henry E. Horn, 1953-1978
  • Roger Johnson, 1958
  • Oscar Ice, 1960-1963
  • Donald Lee, 1966-1971 (called to serve full-time at MIT)
  • H. Paul Santmire, 1966-1968
  • Charles Leps, 1968-1972
  • Constance F. Parvey, 1972-1977
  • Patricia Hundley, 1975
  • H. Frederick Reisz, Jr., 1978-1992
  • Jessica Crist, 1979-1983
  • Susan P. Thomas, 1983-1995
  • Thomas Blom Chittick, 1993-2003
  • Joanne E. Engquist, 1996-2011
  • Donald S. Larsen, 2004-2012
  • Katherine A. Shaner, 2007-2008
  • Kathleen O’Keefe Reed, 2013-2022
  • Kari Jo Verhulst, 2013-2018
  • Gracious Moyo, 2021-present
  • Carrie Ballenger, 2022-present