Frederick Evangelical Lutheran Church was established in 1666, the same year that Erik Nelson Smith took formal possession of the island of St. Thomas in the name of the Danish West Indies Company. The original colonizing group included a Lutheran pastor, Kjeld Jensen from Slagelse. A few months after the settlers landed, Smith died, and the Lutheran pastor had to assume temporal, as well as spiritual leadership. The Lutheran church, during the early decades of the Danish colony, was closely allied with the development of the colony. The settlement was a venture of private
enterprise by the stockholders of the Danish West Indies Company under a charter by the royal government. This charter included a provision that the Lutheran church (the state religion of Denmark) was to be maintained in the colony and the company was to select appropriate ministers to serve.
When St. Thomas became a crown colony through the purchase of the company by the state in 1754, the church was able to expand its role in community affairs rapidly. It was already operating schools for the Lutheran children and it later did so for slave children as well. It was a Lutheran pastor, the Rev. Hans Stoud, who first proposed that a hospital and school should be built on each island and saw his proposal realized on St. Thomas.
Thanks to the laborious efforts of the pastor Erik Wold and Mr. J. M. Mages (a Dane born on St. Thomas and the same family after whom Magen's Bay is named) Luther's small catechism, a hymnal and a grammar book were all printed in the Creole language by 1770.
With regard to slavery, which was the expected labor force of a plantation economy, the slaves owned by Frederick church for parsonage use were freed by decision of the church wardens in 1845, and all slaves who had had not heretofore purchased or earned their freedom were granted unconditional emancipation by Governor Peter van Scholten in 1848. A similar proclamation was issued by president Lincoln for the United States in 1863.
Worship services were originally held in homes of the planters and soldiers. Later, space was made available at Christensted. A small chapel was built right in the fort courtyard and grave markers were set in its floor as memorials may still be seen there. Danish, creole and later English languages were used in worship of the congregation. Creole was used as late as the 1840s and the last Danish services, held at Christmas only, were discontinued in the 1930s.
The present building was started in 1789 and completed in 1793. Its cost was met by private donations, contributions from the government and a considerable loan from the Danish West Indies poor fund. The building was gutted by fire in 1826, but the walls remained sound and it was rebuilt. Hurricane damage was sustained in 1870, and the appearance of the present building dates from the repair and remodeling of that period. The tower was added at that time. It houses the
church bell which was installed in 1871. A vestry was added to the rear of the building in 1951 and a sacristy in 1954. The altar was moved behind the arch in the 1951 remodeling and the pulpit was relocated to the west. The wood in the chancel and pulpit is local mahogany. In 1993, the 200th anniversary of the dedication of the building was celebrated by the congregation, followed in 2001 by the celebration of the 335th anniversary of the existing congregation.
Bethania "mission" hall, patterned after the mission building of the Danish church, was dedicated for use as a Sunday school and parish hall in 1908 and even served and as a home for the elderly parishioners for a short time. Of the greatest antiquity is the parsonage, located at 23 Kongens Gade behind the church on Government hill and across the steps from the government house. This building is one of the oldest continually used structures on the island being more than 250 years old. The original walls, which is re-partially exposed in several of the rooms, consists of bricks and stones brought from Denmark as ballast for sailing ships. They were left for building purposes in exchange for cargoes of sugar, cotton, rum etc. In the remodeling program of the 1960s, the original fireplace and brick oven in the kitchen were removed, but the huge beam across the opening and the chimneys are still visible. The cell for rebellious slaves can still be seen in the first floor courtyard.
In 1959, the congregation opened an elementary school (pre-kindergarden through 6th grade); however, in 1995 hurricane Marilyn destroyed the building and now only the cement foundation remains.