First Lutheran Church of Gainesville began in 1931 with two Lutheran brothers and their families who had moved to Gainesville and worshipped together in their homes. A traveling Lutheran pastor came once a month to conduct the services for them. As more Lutheran families and students moved to the area, their number grew too large for their houses, so they held worship services in a former office and storeroom at a local mill where the brothers worked.
In 1938, a pastor of their own was sent to Gainesville to what was by this time St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church. He soon found a better place for them to meet in the recreation hall of a tourist court. When the tourist court needed to turn that into more tourist accommodations a few years later, services were moved to the Florida Union Chapel on the university campus. It was supposed to be a temporary arrangement, but it lasted for eight years. They bought a house for a parsonage and held worship services there for a few months, then rented a church that had been converted into an upholstery shop and turned it back into a church again. Before long, it had to be moved so they searched for yet another place to worship. A funeral home chapel turned out to be the nicest place they’d had yet! That was in 1952, and plans were underway for a church building of their own. After twenty-one years of worshipping in various places, a happy congregation dedicated its chapel and student center on the current church property in December of 1952. It was a good time for a new beginning with a new name, and St. Matthews became First Lutheran Church of Gainesville, or popularly known as FLC Gainesville.
Almost fourteen years passed before a larger place of worship was built. The current sanctuary was dedicated in May of 1966. The chapel was eventually replaced by a large educational/fellowship/office complex, and other adjoining properties were purchased. On one of those properties a child development center was built in 2008, and the first year of Open Arms began there in August.
A number of pastors have served the congregation over the years. Campus ministry has always been a large part of its ministry, and beginning in 1966 and for the next forty-six years a vicar was assigned to First Lutheran each year to work with the students. The current staff consists of a pastor, a Director of Christian Education, a director of music, child development center director, and administrative secretary.