1906 – The Founding of Emanuel

More than one hundred years ago a small group of Swedish immigrants gathered in the presence of God to mark the beginning of Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel Church. Today, Emanuel is still located at the corner of Peak and San Jacinto Streets in East Dallas, celebrating uninterrupted worship services since 1906.

The church building was built in phases with the hands-on participation of parishioners with the first service in the Sanctuary celebrated on September 14, 1931. The education building, Ericson Hall, opened in 1966.

A Pivotal Decision

In 1956 the congregation made a pivotal decision to remain at the East Dallas location and not relocate in spite of the changing nature of the neighborhood. This decision was not without controversy, and approximately half of the congregation left Emanuel to join other congregations. Emanuel remains commited to the neighborhood around Peak and San Jacinto.

Emanuel has evolved to serve its ever-changing community over the years, renamed Evangelical Emanuel Lutheran Church in 1930. Worship in the beautiful little sanctuary has been celebrated in the language of the community, starting in Swedish, moving to English, adding a Spanish-language service in 1975. Always welcoming diversity, in the 1980s Emanuel was blessed with Asian refugees living in the surrounding neighborhood and for a while the Gospel was heard in Vietnamese and Cambodian.

Today, the neighborhood is changing again. Gone are the Swedish and Asian immigrants, although Spanish is still spoken by many. The older apartments populated by the poor are gradually giving way to new apartments full of busy professionals. Emanuel’s parishioners come from the neighborhood, but also come from across the Dallas-area, drawn by the mission of the church and its warmth and inclusiveness.

A Brief Chronology

1906 Founded as the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel Church with 10 communicants.
1921 Property at Peak and San Jacinto purchased for $3,650. Building campaign commences.
1931 First service celebrated in current Sanctuary September 13. More than 200 attended Christmas service.
1956 The congregation had grown and was divided with some wanting to relocate to the suburbs. Part of Emanuel broke away, moved to North Dallas and formed Bethany Lutheran. Those who remained recommitted to serving the surrounding inner city community.
1966 The education building, Ericson Hall, was completed. In addition to housing Sunday School and other church activities, Emanuel Lutheran Day Care Center began operations at Ericson Hall, primarily serving low income neighborhood children.
1975 Spanish ministry founded. Community programming expanded with Food Pantry, ESL classes, GED classes, reading program.
1984 Congregation sponsors an Indochinese ministry as hundreds of Indochinese refugees resettle in the neighborhood.
1990 Head Start takes over management of the day care center, expanding services for neighborhood children at Ericson Hall.
1995 Emanuel is recognized as a national historic place and is registered with the Register of National Historic Places with the United States Department of Interior.
1997 Building restoration work is completed.
2005 Head Start program leaves Emanuel.
2006 Centennial celebration. Ground breaking for the New Century Project to add administrative space, and improve accessibility.
2009 New Century Project is completed.