July 17, 2024

Church History

Hope Lutheran Church and Student Center, founded in 1952, has a rich history.

Mission and Groundbreaking

The idea to establish a ministry to students and the University of Maryland community in College Park and the surrounding area was first discussed in the 1940s. The Board of American Missions of the United Lutheran Church in America surveyed the area from 1946-1951.

The first service of the mission congregation that would become Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church was conducted by the Rev. Otto Reimherr at the University of Maryland Armory on Palm Sunday, April 6, 1952. The congregation was officially organized on November 16, 1952, at the Memorial Chapel of the University of Maryland with 69 charter and confirmed members.

Groundbreaking for the sanctuary occurred on March 4, 1955, and the cornerstone was laid  on April 29, 1956. The church building was dedicated to the glory of God on April 28, 1957. The congregation chose the name “Hope” from a list of suggestions provided by the Board of Missions, because as the congregation was being organized, plans were underway for the first meeting of the World Council of Churches to be held in the United States (in 1954). The theme of that gathering was “Jesus Christ, the Hope of the World.” The doors of the original sanctuary were embedded with a cross, a ship, and compass points, inspired by the symbol for the World Council of Churches. On April 30, 1989, Hope conducted a celebratory service as the mortgage on the building was retired.

The beautiful stained glass windows in our sanctuary were installed in May 1964. Every other window is reversed, with dark colors placed on the bottom and light colors at the top of the panes, to provide more natural light in the worship space.

Hope's Pastors

Two of Hope's former pastors and the former University of Maryland chaplain are pictured at right, the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Platz, the Rev. Richard H. Graham, and the Rev. Dr. James B. Vigen.

Pastor Reimherr was the first pastor at Hope and served from December 1951 through January 1953 as the “missionary” pastor of the congregation and from January 1953-September 1959 as the regularly called pastor. 

The Rev. Theodore Caspar was called in January 1960 and served until July 1975. In the interim, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Platz served as pastor. 

The Rev. Dean Anderson was called in May 1976 and served until January 1985. During the pastoral vacancy, the Rev. Dr. Charles Gravenstine served as interim pastor.

The Rev. Richard H. Graham was called as Hope’s fourth Pastor in December 1986. In June 2007, he was elected to serve as the Bishop of the Metropolitan Washington, DC Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Pastor Graham resigned his call at Hope in August 2007. The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth A. Platz again served as interim pastor.

In April 2009, the Rev. Dr. James B. Vigen was called as Hope’s fifth pastor, and he served at Hope through June 2014. Pastor Richard Hoehn began as interim pastor in October 2014 and served through September 2015.

In 2014-2015, Hope's transition process included a critical series of congregational conversations facilitated by Hope’s Transition Team. These conversations addressed different areas of challenge and opportunity as we navigated the pastoral transition while continuing the vision/mission work that was begun in 2014.

In June 2015, the congregation voted to adopt a Pastor Julie and Pastor Ray editedmotion that Hope enter into collaborative ministry with Lutheran Campus Ministry (LCM) at the University of Maryland, College Park. The corporate structure and finances of the two ministries remain distinct and independent. Pastor Ray Ranker, Lutheran chaplain at the University of Maryland, became Hope's senior pastor in September 2015. Hope called Ms. Julie Bringman as a part-time pastor, effective September 2015, under the oversight of Pastor Ranker. She was ordained at Hope in October 2015.

In June 2018, Hope called Pastor Julie Bringman to a permanent call as pastor of Hope, beginning October 1, 2018. Pastor Ray Ranker returned full-time to his ordination editedcall as Lutheran Chaplain at the University (having been called to that position by the synod in 2011), but continues to preach or preside at Hope as his schedule permits.

Hope's Congregation Council and the Directing Committee of Lutheran Campus Ministry developed a Memorandum of Agreement for continuing this valuable collaborative ministry relationship after the synod-supported formal partnership ends in September 2018. The framework articulates the working ministry relationship between Hope and LCM and describes the collaborative engagement in mission for the two organizations.

Hope and LCM are grateful for the past support of the Synod in the formal endeavor. We look forward to working together in living out God’s mission in the world as bearers of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Hope is especially proud of its ongoing ministry with and among the University of Maryland community. Pastor Elizabeth Platz was the first Lutheran woman ordained in North America, on November 22, 1970. In October 2010, Hope celebrated 40 years of her ministry at the University of Maryland. In August 2011, Hope welcomed the new Lutheran Campus Ministry (LCM) associate chaplain, the Rev. Ray Ranker, who became LCM chaplain.

Other Historical Events of Note

In May 2007, the City of College Park selected our congregation to receive a Green Award in recognition of our work over the years to help maintain Guilford Run (the creek that flows across the street from us on the downhill side).

After many years of planning, Hope celebrated groundbreaking for the new narthex on November 2, 2008. The renovation project included not only the narthex but also an elevator and additional storage areas for the sacristy and other ministries of the congregation. The new building, the renovation to the original chancel, and the Cross of Witness were dedicated to the glory of God on October 11, 2009.

Hope members voted unanimously on November 19, 2017 that Hope become a Reconciling in Christ congregation and to adopt our new Welcoming Statement. Members and friends of the congregation engaged in a lengthy self-study process as we considered the opportunity to become a Reconciling in Christ congregation. We publicly affirm that all people are welcome here, and welcome to be fully themselves.

Hope Lutheran Church and Student Center

4201 Guilford Drive

College Park, MD 20740


office.hopecp @ gmail.com


Worship (In-Person and Online)Sunday 9:30 am. Our worship space is on the upper level. Child care is available.

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About Hope

Visit the About Us section to find out more about Hope. Hope is a Reconciling in Christ congregation. Read our full Welcoming Statement.

Our Core Values

We are ...

  • Welcoming
  • Growing Disciples who Lead
  • Loving Our Neighbors, Near and Far


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