St. Michael’s Lutheran Church — Columbia, South Carolina
SC Picture Project | Lexington County | St. Michael’s Lutheran Church
St. Micheal’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lexington County was founded in 1814 by the Reverend Godfrey Dreher after members of nearby German-speaking Lutheran churches Zion, Bethel, High Hill, and Twelve-Mile Creek had been gathering in a schoolhouse since 1812 to worship in English. These members desired an English-speaking Lutheran church. When German and Swiss Lutherans immigrated to what are now Orangeburg, Calhoun, and Lexington counties beginning in 1735, several Lutheran congregations were established. However, the Church of England imposed its denomination on other churches – particularly French and German congregations – as non-British Europeans continued settling in large numbers.
Many congregations resisted the Church of England or conducted Anglican services in their native language until after the Revolutionary War when the Church of England no longer held political power; several Lutheran churches continued in the tradition of worshiping in their native language after the war. Yet some people, like those who helped organize St. Michael’s, wished instead to worship in English.
While numerous Lutheran churches of both languages existed in the midlands area of South Carolina in the early nineteenth century, the denomination had no central form of organization in the state. Several churches had been admitted to the North Carolina Synod beginning in 1803; St. Michael’s Lutheran Church joined the North Carolina Synod in 1814, shortly after its formation. By 1824 the denomination in South Carolina was ready to break away from the North Carolina Synod due to the inconvenience of the synod’s distant location as well as theological disputes.
On January 14, 1824 a group of local Lutheran ministers met at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church to form the South Carolina Synod and elected the Reverend Godfrey Dreher as its first president. Since then Synod meetings have taken place here in 1826, 1857, and 1924. Another important meeting held at St. Michael’s was the first ecclesiastical meeting of the Lutheran Church in South Carolina on April 30, 1816. According to legend, business conducted in German was held inside while business spoken in English was held outside on the church lawn during the meeting.
The church initially met in the one-room Pleasant Spring schoolhouse near this site. Soon afterwards in 1814 a church was built at the present site on land donated by the John Dreher, father of the Reverend Godfrey Dreher. This church is said to have been painted blue. By 1880 a new church was built, and its ceiling also was painted blue. St. Michael’s is informally called the “Old Blue Church” because of the color of the first church, and the name continued with the blue ceiling in the second church. The present St. Michael’s Evangelical Lutheran Church building was completed in 1921.
Members of St Michael’s, who had invited African-Americans – both enslaved and free – to worship here in the church’s gallery prior to and during the Civil War, helped their emancipated friends secure land for a new church of their own in 1869. This church was called Pleasant Spring Church and is still active.
St. Michael’s Lutheran Church Info
Address: 400 River Road, Columbia, SC 29212
GPS Coordinates: 34.073141,-81.240985