St. Paul Lutheran Church is located in Lanesville, a village in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Sandwiched between granite quarries and the Ipswich Bay, St. Paul Lutheran Church was initially established to service the Finnish quarrymen and their families, but has grown to serve the entire community of Cape Ann.
St. Paul’s history is closely joined to that of the Finnish quarryworkers who settled in Lanesville in the 19th century. The first Finnish Lutheran congregation began in Rockport on April 3, 1893. The “Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of Rockport, Pigeon Cove, and Lanesville” had a church at 20 Forest Street, Rockport. The services at this church were conducted in Finnish. In 1940 the Lanesville congregation purchased the current church building. The building itself is much older and dates from 1876, when it began life as a Universalist church. Between its beginnings in 1876 and its conversion to St. Paul, the building saw service as a gymnasium,community meeting hall and, at one point, a lightening bolt struck the abandoned building.
St. Paul Lutheran Church in Lanesville predates the 1941 dedication of the current church; prior to the building’s consecration in 1941 the Lanesville congregation met at a smaller chapel on nearby Norseman avenue. This original Lanesville Lutheran church dates to March 1891, and had a reed-type pump organ for musical accompaniment. In the original building, on Norseman Avenue, just a few blocks from the current church, services were exclusively in Finnish. For the first 10 years of its existence from 1941 to 1951 in our current location on Washington St., services were still offered in Finnish; St. Paul started offering Finnish and English services starting in 1951 and eventually moved to the English language service of today. Some of our eldest members still recall having to learn Luther’s Small Catechism in Finnish, though they themselves were primarily English speakers.
*This brief history draws heavily upon Carol Sampson’s more comprehensive history of May, 2001. Copies of this history are available in the church library.