Remarks at the Rededication of the Luther Place Memorial Church
It is a great pleasure to meet with you this morning and say a word of greeting on the occasion of the rededication of this church, coming as it does almost simultaneously with the entry of your pastor into his eightieth year.
From the standpoint from which I am obliged so continuously to look at matters, there is a peculiar function to be played by the great Lutheran Church in the United States of America. This is a church which had its rise to power in and, until it emigrated to this side of the water, had always had its fullest development in the two great races of northern and northern middle Europe—the German and the Scandinavian. The Lutheran Church came to the territory which is now the United States very shortly after the first permanent settlements were made within our limits, for when the earliest settlers came to dwell around the mouth of the Delaware they brought the Lutheran worship with them, and so with the earliest German settlers, who came to Pennsylvania and afterwards to New York, and the mountainous region in the western part of Virginia and the states south of it. From that day to this the history of the growth in population of this nation has consisted largely, in some respects mainly, of the arrival of successive waves of newcomers to our shores, and the prime duty of those already in the land is to see that their own progress and development are shared by these newcomers.
It is a serious and dangerous thing for any man to tear loose from the soil, from the region in which he and his forbears have taken root, and to be transplanted into a new land. He should receive all possible aid in that new land, and the aid can be tendered him most effectively by those who can appeal to him on the ground of spiritual kinship. There fore the Lutheran Church can do most in helping upward and onward so many of the newcomers to our shores; and it seems to me that it should be, I am tempted to say, well-nigh the prime duty of this Church, to see that the immigrant, especially the immigrant of Lutheran faith from the Old World, whether he comes from Germany or Scandinavia, or whether he belongs to one of the Lutheran countries of Finland or Hungary or Austria, may not be suffered to drift off with no friendly hand extended to him out of all the Church communion, away from all the influences that tend to safeguarding and uplifting him, and that he find ready at hand in this country those eager to bring him into fellowship with the existing bodies.
The Lutheran Church in this country is of very great power numerically, and through the intelligence and thrift of its members, but it will grow steadily to even greater power. It is destined to be one of the two or three greatest and most important national churches in the United States; one of two or three churches most distinctly American, most distinctively among the forces that are to tell for making this great country even greater in the future. Therefore a peculiar load of responsibility rests upon the members of this church. It is an important thing for the people of this great nation to remember their rights, but it is an even more important thing for them to remember their duties. In the last analysis the work of statesmen and soldiers, the work of public men, shall go for nothing if it is not based on the spirit of Christianity working in the millions of homes throughout this country, so that there may be that social, that spiritual, that moral foundation, without which no country can ever rise to permanent greatness. For material wellbeing, material prosperity, success in arts, in letters, great industrial triumphs, all of them and all of the structure raised thereon will be as evanescent as a dream if they do not rest on the "righteousness that exalteth a nation."
Let me congratulate you and let me congratulate all of us that we live in a land and at a time when we accept it as natural that this should be an inter-denominational service of thanksgiving, such a ceremony as is to take place this afternoon, in which the pastors of other churches join to congratulate themselves and you upon the rebuilding of this church. One of the constant problems of life is to try to cultivate breadth without shallowness, just as we want to cultivate depth without narrowness. It seems to me our good fortune that men have been able to combine fervor in doing the Lord's work with charity toward their brethren who do it with certain differences in the non essentials. The forces of evil are strong and mighty in this century and in this country, as they are in other countries; and the people who sincerely wish to do the Lord's work will find ample opportunity for all their labor in fighting the common enemy and in assuming toward their fellows of a different confession an attitude of generous rivalry in the effort to see how the most good can be done to our people as a whole. I thank you for having given me the chance to speak to you this morning, to say a word of greeting to you and to wish you Godspeed with all my heart.
Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks at the Rededication of the Luther Place Memorial Church Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/343754