Gloria Dei, established in 1966, is a merger of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church (Finnish Lutheran) and Salem Lutheran Church (Swedish Lutheran).
St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church
One hundred years ago, in 1880, Pastor Alfred E. Backman, the first clergyman from the Church of Finland to serve the new congregations, moved from Calumet to Hancock to occupy a new parsonage. During the following decade, a church was built on Quincy Hill. This was later used primarily by the Norwegians.
The Rev. Dr. Juho K. Nikander arrived from Finaland in 1885 and soon a new church in Hancock was constructed at the junction of Reservation and White Streets. This church still stands. The name of the church was St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church.
Salem Lutheran Church
At the turn of the century (1899-1900), the Swedish Lutherans organized a separate congregation and shortly thereafter built a church on the corner of Michigan Street and Lincoln Drive. This church also stands, and is owned by the Disciples of Christ. The Swedish church became part of the Augustana Synod. The church was named Salem Lutheran Church.
The merger of Salem and St. Matthew’s churches came with the advent of the new national organization, the Lutheran Church in America. A desire to unite within a new structure gave impetus for a major building program. This reached fruition in 1970 with the dedication of the current sanctuary with the name of Gloria Dei.
With roots going back to the Suomi Synod, Gloria Dei shares a close history with Finlandia University (formerly Suomi College). St. Matthew’s was considered the “mother church” of Suomi College and the Suomi Synod, and since then Gloria Dei has continued to maintain a close relationship with Finlandia University.