By 1925, Christ Church had the largest Lutheran membership in the city: 2,000. A newspaper article around that time called Christ Lutheran, “a downtown church doing work all around,” whose goal was to be “as great a blessing as possible to as many people as possible, as long as possible.”
Dr. Zimmerman understood the power of publicity and was far ahead of his time in the use of promotional materials, such as by distributing booklets with upcoming sermon topics, buttons (often with his own picture on them), and cards with personal messages. After 38 years as pastor, Dr. Zimmerman retired in 1925. He remained quite active, writing and speaking, until his death in 1952.
Some felt that, with Dr. Zimmerman’s dynamic personality and leadership gone, Christ Church would decline or even close. But none of these dire predictions came true. Dr. Oscar Blackwelder became pastor in 1925 and expanded the church’s initiatives into new areas.
A formal church office was established, an assistant pastor to specialize in youth work was called, a boy scout troop organized, and weekly church services just for young people were started. The Christ Church Luther League (an organization for teenagers) had 600 members, the largest youth group of a Lutheran Church in the country. Special services were added for holidays, and streetcars hired just to bring people to church. To extend the influence of the congregation, Dr. Blackwelder broadcast his eloquent sermons on the radio.
After eight years, in 1933, Dr. Blackwelder resigned to move to Washington, DC, and Dr. John L. Deaton accepted Christ Church’s call to become its third pastor, a position he would hold for almost 27 years. The current physical plant was constructed during his pastorate.
The Parish House was dedicated in 1936, with funds raised during the Great Depression. The addition included what was called “the most beautiful children’s chapel of any Lutheran church in America,” a Fellowship Hall, 22 classrooms, and a large kitchen. The hall had an overflow which was connected to the church by folding doors, doubling the nave’s seating capacity.
In the 1930s and 40s, a longer period of confirmation was started, and an Altar Guild was formed. The adult choir grew, and junior, intermediate, high school, and young adult choirs were formed. A newsletter, the Christ Church Visitor, was sent to members’ homes, and the 11 a.m. service was broadcast live on the radio each week to an audience numbered over 10,000. By this time, 12 Christ Church members had entered the Lutheran ministry.
In the 1930s and 40s, a mother’s club and a young women’s missionary society were formed, and father-son and mother-daughter banquets and summer Vacation Bible School classes were added to the annual calendar. Church suppers, featuring oysters and sour beef or crab cakes and ham, became social highlights of the year, attracting patrons from all over the city.