History of Grace
History of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church’s history began when some of the German Lutheran immigrants gathered in Oconto Falls to worship together. In 1897 they established Zion Lutheran Church, a congregation of German speaking people, located on the southeast corner of Franklin and Union Streets in Oconto Falls.
As the community grew, many other Lutheran people also settled here and in 1905 developed an English-speaking congregation, St. Jacob’s Lutheran. The church building was built at the southeast corner of Washington and Caldwell Streets.
Both congregations operated independently with Zion belonging to the Joint Synod of Ohio and being served by a pastor who lived in Morgan, and St. Jacob’s belonging to the Iowa Synod and being served by a pastor who lived in Oconto Falls. With language becoming less of a barrier after World War I and with three synods merging to form the American Lutheran Church in 1930, the people of Zion and St. Jacob’s began talking about the possibilities of being one congregation.
On June 4, 1939 the two congregations merged, adopted the new name of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, and decided to combine the belongings of each congregation and use the St. Jacob’s facility to form the new place of worship for the people of Grace. Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church continued to grow over the years making it necessary to periodically enlarge and remodel the building. Finally, in 1958 the congregation voted to relocate. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held at 501 South Main Street in Oconto Falls on Sunday, April 26, 1959. The cornerstone laying service was on July 26, 1959.
The last worship service held at the old building was on February 28, 1960. Ash Wednesday, March 2, 1960 marks the first worship celebration at the new site, our current location.
In June of 2009, Grace Lutheran Church celebrated its 70th Anniversary. A special worship service was held with guest speaker, Bishop Jim Justman from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. After the worship there was a potluck dinner and then a special music service with many members of Grace participating.
On November 9th, 2009, Grace ELC voted to join the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ. On February 14th, 2010, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church passed a second resolution to terminate their relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
In June of 2014, Grace Lutheran Church celebrated its 75th Anniversary.
The pastors who have served Grace are:
Rev. Arlin Adams1939 to 1941
Rev. Hugo Schmidt, Jr.1941 to 1949
Rev. Alfred Hanisch1949 to 1951
Rev. Wilbur Lindsley1951 to 1960
Rev. H.K. Diemer1960 to 1986
Rev. Kevin Ruffcorn1986 to 1993
Rev. William Sutlief1993 to 2006
Rev. Shaun McFarland1998 to 2000
Rev. Doreen Jeffers2001 to 2009
Rev. Larry Bong August 2010 to March 2015
Rev. Carole Neitzel March 2015 to August 2016
Rev. Gary Olson August 2016 to Present