A brief history of Grace Lutheran Church
Quick link- click a year 1955, 1960, 1965,
1970, 1975, 1980-90, 1991-2003, 2004-2014
The Rev. Herbert W. Goerss, then Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Springfield, petitioned the Atlantic District Mission Board of the LC-MS, to survey West Springfield for the possible establishment of a new church in this location. As a result of this survey, the District Board of Directors called Donald F. Jung in June 1952, to begin work in this area as a Missionary.
The survey proved the need, and a house was purchased on the corner of Westfield and Woodmont Streets. With the help of members from Holyoke, Springfield and Westfield Lutheran Churches, the first floor was converted into a chapel and office with a parsonage on the second floor.
Our first service was held March 1, 1953. We had 180 persons in attendance with only seating for 80, so we used the apartment up stairs, coatrooms, kitchen and all available space. During 1953 we had our first Vacation Bible School, Adult Bible Class and Adult Membership Class, Sunday School with 22 enrolled and our first Baptism.
In January 1954: We outgrew our facilities and a portable school building was made available to us, so on January 31st we broke ground for our first chapel.
June 20th was the day the charter membership had been established with 174 baptized members, of whom 104 were communicant members. The following week we were received as a member congregation of the LP-MS.
On June 27th, the completed chapel was dedicated. This was made possible with the effort of 73 different people and 5400 hours of volunteer labor. This resulted in a chapel seating 200 at a cost of only $7,000.00.
This year we called Rev. Donald F. Jung as our pastor and on March 6, 1955 he was installed as first Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church. 1955 gave us a number of firsts:
· The Voters Assembly
· Church Council
· High school Bible class
· Walther League
· The Lutheran Women’s League.
June 27,1955: The church was incorporated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Kenneth and Edith (Osley) Mattoon were the first couple to be joined in holy matrimony in the first chapel of Grace Lutheran Church.
Our first choir was organized under the direction of Mrs. Robert Menz.
September 11,1956: Ground broken for the erection of a new parsonage. Work began on a new parsonage on property facing Woodmont Street. This gave us full usage of the rooms over the Chapel for Sunday School Classes and meeting rooms.
January 27, 1957: A new parsonage was dedicated and the Pastor and his family moved in.
January 1958: One and one-half acres of property adjacent to the corner property, and fronting on Westfield Street, were acquired for future expansion and growth. (Our present church and educational wing, and parking lot are now located on this property.)
March 1958: A celebration was held for our 5th anniversary in the Lord’s service, in West Springfield.
February 22,1959: The Young Couples Club was organized with activities suitable for Christian fellowship and entertainment.
On Sunday mornings Westfield and Woodmont streets could no longer hold all the cars of the members, so the land set aside for future development, was used to form a parking lot.
September 11,1961: The voters accepted and installed a complete air-conditioning system for the chapel. This same system was eventually installed in our present church and education wing.
November 11, 1962: A new Allen Organ was dedicated to the glary of God and served us until it was replaced with our new pipe organ.
A new service to the community was the installation of a meditation phone. Anyone could call a telephone number and get a spiritual message.
In November, the Voters decided that it was time to make plans for a permanent church structure.
February 28, 1965: Pastor Jung celebrated the 10th anniversary of his call as pastor of Grace Church. For two and one half years before, he served as a mission developer for
the Atlantic District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. (LC-MS)
April 23,1967: Kicked off a three-year fund drive to retire the debt on the church. Fund drive was a complete success and the pledges met the goal. Pledges were dedicated on April 30,1967.
The congregation was notified that Rev. Donald F. Jung had accepted a call to a church in Michigan.
July 15,1967: The Jung family left West Springfield and headed for Birmingham, Michigan.
December 1967: The Rev. Martin J. Luecke, of Cincinnati, arrived in time to conduct the Christmas services. He was installed as the second Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church.
March 24,1968: The fifteenth anniversary celebration was observed by the burning of the property mortgage. This gave us the property completely debt-free.
In June, the property acquired in 1958 for expansion was demolished by the efforts of the membership, at no cost, to accomplish it.
November 1968: A building committee was formed and a timetable for the new church was adopted.
A Special Gifts Committee was formed to receive gifts and pledges to help pay for the new church and keep from borrowing to a minimum. The trustees engaged Alfred P. Casella as the architect for the new church with a cost not to exceed $210,000.00.
In the fall of 1969, Al Kuhn, purchased a bell, cast in Troy, N.Y. in 1854. This he gave as a gift and is now installed in our church steeple, and used every Sunday and on special occasions.
April 5, 1970: With the use of a farm plow and a long rope, the Pastor and every one attending the service were invited to pull the plow all together, to break ground for our new church.
April 29, 1970: The A. L. Phelps Co., Inc. was named contractor and began construction in May.
July 24, 1970: The Daily News publishes a photo of the early roof structure of the under-construction Grace Lutheran Church. The girders for each side of the pitched roof are shown symbolically coming together in points at the top, seeingly pointing upward. The facility, with an expected seating capacity of 200, is still on track for completion around Thanksgiving of 1970.
July 26, 1970: The cornerstone, paid for by the Sunday School children, was laid. Each child received a polished chip of the stone from which the cornerstone came. One year later every member received a chip also.
December 6, 1970: The new church was dedicated and at the 3 P.M. Service. The Rev. Donald F. Jung was the preacher.
In 1971, the activity of scouting Troup 553, sponsored by Grace Lutheran, began. The first ‘5’ represents the area number and the 53, the year of founding of Grace. Troup was lead by Robert Young, Jim Porter and Victor Walz. They did “dog-sled”, car washes, sale of Christmas trees, Church and community services.
March 25, 1973: Church celebrated its twentieth anniversary.
Reverend Martin J. Luecke accepted a call to Hendersonville N.C. and a call committee was organized to call a new Pastor.
June 23, 1974: A call was extended to Reverend Louis R. Beyer. He accepted and was installed as our third pastor. Pastor Beyer was more affectionately known the members of Grace as Pastor ‘Rudy’ Beyer.
Mr. Larry Wohlrabe was installed as Youth Staffer to assist Pastor Beyer with our youth program.
Lenten Services were expanded to include a potluck dinner before the service. Congregation was divided into teams that were responsible for a dinner each week. This tradition has continued even to this day with great success.
Pastor Beyer and other clergy of West Springfield organized the West Springfield Parish Association (Laity and Clergy).
August 30, 1975: New England District Youth Staffer, Mark Schoepp served the youth in the churches in the District.
Pastor Beyer served as Chaplain in the Massachusetts Air National Guard assigned to the 104th Fighter Group in Westfield Mass. with a rank of Major.
June 26, 1976: Louise Fleming was the first woman president in our history of Grace Lutheran Church.
July 25, 1976: Ground was broken for the start of construction of a multi-purpose addition to Grace Church to serve as additional Sunday School and meeting rooms.
September 7,1976: The congregation was advised of a split away from the LC-MS.
April 1, 1977: Grace Lutheran Church withdrew membership in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod by a unanimous Vote. It was then voted to join the Association of
Evangelical Lutheran Congregations (AELC), and our application was accepted.
April 21, 1977: The new expanded Christian education center wing, was dedicated by Pastor Louis Beyer and co-pastor Frederick Puelle.
Approximately 245 members and Rev. Fred Puelle of St-John’s Lutheran Church Westfield transferred their membership to Grace Lutheran Church. Pastor Puelle had
resigned from LC-MS, and accepted a call to be co-pastor with Pastor Beyer of Grace Lutheran Church. In January 1979 he accepted a call to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Bristol, Conn.
May 14, 1978: Our 25th anniversary was celebrated with the dedication of our “We, though many, are one body in Christ” banner shaped as a stained glass window with symbols denoting the beliefs of our faith and the rites and offices of our church.
September 2 1979: Vicar Linda Schmidt preached her first sermon at Grace. Vicar Schmidt was a fourth year seminary student and served her one-year internship at Grace.
April 1980: Grace became the sponsor of a Vietnamese refugee family, Thoi Van Truong and Kim and child Phu.
July 11, 1982: the Ordination and Installation of Keith E. Enko as assistant Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Rock island Ill. He is the son of Clifford and Lillian Enko.
April 8, 1984: Grace Lutheran Church dedicated into service a new Zimmer Pipe Organ.
November 15, 1987: The dedication of the Rev. Donald F. Jung Fellowship Hall as a memorial to his gifts and a blessing of a strong beginning here, in West Springfield by the ministry of this our first Pastor.
April 11, 1993: Pastor Louis R ‘Rudy’ Beyer gave his farewell sermon as he had accepted a call to St. James Evangelical Lutheran church, Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Pastor Edwin H. Larson became our interim pastor until his resignation, which allowed us to call him to be our permanent pastor. On January 10,1994 he accepted our call.
March 20, 1994: Pastor Edwin H. Larson was installed and served the congregation until January 2002.
Late 1999:With the help of many people, the house was converted into the Church Offices, Pastor’s study and conference room and Sunday School rooms all on the first floor. The 2nd and 3rd floors serve as apartments with the rent helping to defray the cost of the mortgage. By the end of the year, the congregation purchased the multi-family house next door to the church at 1568 Westfield Street.
January 2002: Pastor Larson accepts a call to St. Peter’s in Holyoke, Mass. Grace is assigned a transitional pastor, Rev. Robert E. Villani, who incidentally had just retired from the same St. Peter’s in neighboring Holyoke, Mass.
2003: Rev. Dr. Laurie J. Andersen is accepted as the pastor of Grace.
2006: Pastor Andersen accepts a call to Coastside Lutheran Church in Half Moon Bay, Calif. Rev. Robert E. Villani agrees once again to serve as Grace’s interim pastor.
2007: Pastor Derek Harman accepts Grace’s call for a new pastor, having just completed his Masters of Divinity at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Calif.
2008/2009: Grace beings a six-month visioning process with the goal of redefining the congregation’s mission and core values, and developing a five-year plan for the church. A special committee of new and long-time members is formed for this task.
May 2009: Pastor Harman led a travel group from Grace Lutheran Church West Springfield to the 32nd annual Kirchentag, which took place from May 20-24 2009 in Bremen, Germany. View Kirchentag pictures here.
Summer/Fall 2009: Repairs to Jung Hall include a new roof and new interior ceiling tiles. The tiles were sponsored by Grace’s Women in Christ group. The church also formally established a mission endowment fund.
2010: Grace erects and dedicates a peace pole on the lawn directly in front of the sanctuary facing Westfield St. The peace pole is a symbolic representation of . The dedication ceremony is attended by featured guests from the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts, guests from the surrounding neighborhood, the local news media and a large portion of the congregation.
2011: On Feb. 5, 2011, Grace Lutheran Church West Springfield hosts the ordination ceremony of the Rev. Steven Wilco, pastor-elect of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Amherst, Mass. The officiating minister is the Rev. Margaret Payne, bishop of the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). The sermon is delivered by the Rev. Alice Kerr Laird, associate to the bishop.
In May, Pastor Harman and his wife Dawn welcome their first child, a son named Beckett. In the summer, several members of the congregation joined together to build a new handicapped ramp for the rear entrance of the church. Separately, that fall a group of volunteers led by church member and past council president Scott Kent completed work on the peace garden surrounding the peace pole on the front lawn of the church.
In a Dec. 8 letter to the members of the congregation, Pastor Harman resigns his position with Grace to accept a call at Messiah Lutheran Church in Redwood City, Calif. A farewell worship and celebration of his ministry is held on the last Sunday of the year.
2012: Grace Lutheran Church West Springfield welcomed the Rev. William M. (Bill) White as its Interim Pastor as of Jan. 16, 2012. Soon after the church council approved the formation of a ministry site committee, charged with creating a profile to help identify Grace’s next pastor. In the spring, Grace began a new effort to plant a robust flower and vegetable garden on the northwest side of the church. In the summer, the church installed a new air conditioning system.
2013: Grace hosted ELCA New England Synod Bishop James Hazelwood at a luncheon on Tuesday Feb. 12. Bishop Hazelwood was elected bishop in June 2012. One of his goals is to visit every church in the Synod his first year. That means 185 congregations from southern Ct. to northern Maine plus two in upstate New York. Grace was #69 in his trek.
In March, Grace recognized its 60th anniversary.
On July 1, 2013, Pastor John Marquis joined Grace as its new full-time pastor. With several decades of ministry, Marquis specialized in youth ministry, having headed and guided spiritual life at several private academies in New England.
2014: The church focused on several needed infrastructure improvements, including brand-new windows throughout the building, new paint and tile floor in Jung Hall, and the purchase of an automated external defibrillator (AED) device.