New Jerusalem has the distinction of being the oldest Lutheran Church in the Metropolitan Washington D.C. Synod. Situated in Lovettsville, Virginia we embrace our resilient German and rural roots even as we celebrate being made new in Christ Jesus.
We celebrated our 250th anniversary in 2015 and we blessed to share our history and commemorate this milestone with our neighbors and community.
New Jerusalem Lutheran Church was established a decade before the nation gained its independence. As the name implies, our forefathers wanted us to become the new Jerusalem; a place of worship, learning, service and fellowship. Our congregation has witnessed and been in the midst of the great events and movements that have shaped this country including wars, economic depressions, epidemics and times of peace and prosperity.
German-speaking immigrants from the Palatine region of Germany and Alsace, and Lorraine of France established the congregation in 1765. The physical buildings stand on the original property granted by George William Fairfax, and our neighboring Lovettsville Union Cemetery is where many Virginia pioneers are laid to rest. Their faith and their stories are the substance of New Jerusalem’s heritage.
A log building served as both church and parochial school. A stone church, built in 1802, replaced the log structure until it collapsed in a snowstorm. The third church survived the Civil War. It burned in 1868 and was replaced by the present church which was dedicated in 1869. The landmark bell tower was added 1903.
Until 1830, the main language used during worship services was German.
NJLC’s first pastor, the Reverend Johann Samuel Schwerdfeger, emigrated to the US in 1753 and eventually settled in Canada, where he established some of the first Lutheran congregations.
Legend has it that the church building burned in 1868 because of unrequited hostilities between parish members because of the war.
The River Cross
May I never boast of anything except the cross or our Lord Jesus Christ …
— (Galatians 6:14a)
The River Cross is NJLC’s processional cross, one that is an integral part of our worship services. The cross began its journey with New Jerusalem not leading members up the aisle, but rather as an altar cross. It was donated to the church Dr. and Mrs. A. B. Householder in 1932. The beautiful brass cross remained in place until November 7, 1971, when the congregation came for Sunday worship and found it missing.
In early 1972, the missing cross was replaced by the large wooden cross which now hangs over the altar and is used for most of the year.
Believed to be stolen, the cross donated by the Householders was not seen again until January 18, 1980 when a fisherman found it in the Potomac River by Point of Rocks, Md. The Sheriff’s Department was notified and Loudoun County Sherriff Bob Legard, a member of the church, and Pastor Mike Kretsinger, went to reclaim the missing cross.
For nearly a decade the cross donated by the Householder family lay in the muddy waters of the Potomac; it was reclaimed and has become one of the primary symbols of our faith. This cross has been known as “The River Cross” ever since.
The River Cross has been converted into a processional cross, and has again become an integral part of our worship services. On festival occasions and at other services, it serves as a meaningful reminder of how we are led by this cross.
Here the cross has central place.
— “God Is Here!”, With One Voice