First English Lutheran Church in Detroit was founded in 1896 in a small chapel on the corner of Mt. Elliot and Pulford Streets. First English was named as such because it was the first Lutheran Church in the city to use English as its primary language in services. Reverend William Henry Price was the church’s first pastor.
By 1908, the congregation had outgrown its place of worship, so plans for a new church building were unveiled in September. The new sanctuary, designed by the firm of Spier, Rohn’s, & Gehrke, seated 800 and was finished a year later at a cost of $20,000. Though the church was initially to be dedicated on September 19th, 1909, the sudden passing of the Reverend Price just days before caused the ceremony to be pushed back to January of 1910.
First English thrived in the early half of the 20th century, becoming part of the large Lutheran movement that started in the city and spread out into the suburbs. A large parish house was built next door in 1930, adding a gymnasium and meeting hall.
As the mostly white membership started to leave the neighborhood in the 1940’s and 50’s, the church decided to relocate to Grosse Pointe Woods, and built a new sanctuary in 1957. The old church was sold to St. James Baptist, a predominately black congregation, and the parish house became a city recreation center.
St. James Baptist Church was founded in November of 1939 at a church on the corner of Madison Avenue and Rivard Street, which was demolished to make way for Interstate 375. It was at St. James that church organist Charles H. Nicks Jr., founded the St. James Adult Choir, becoming a mainstay of the gospel music scene. In 1992, they moved again to new location on Van Dyke, settling in the former Holy Name Catholic church.
In 2001, the church was sold to Revival Tabernacle Church of Christ, which closed in 2005. It appears to have been vacant since. First English Lutheran Church continues on today in Grosse Pointe Woods. St. James Baptist later renamed itself Shield of Faith Ministries, and is still active, though the neighborhood around it has started to decline.