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History

Grace celebrated its 75th Anniversary on December 8th, 2013. Click HERE to watch the 75th Anniversary Video.

The Parishioners of Grace Lutheran Church trace their heritage to a group of founding members who received their peaceful release from Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Evanston on November 7, 1938. During that month, the group adopted a constitution, chose the name Grace English Lutheran Church, and elected its first officers. Part-time pastoral leaders, the Rev. Frank Wittmer and the Rev. Rudolph Zimmerman, were instrumental in forming the congregation's life in a neighborhood with little tradition of Lutheranism.

For the first fifteen years, services were conducted in the library and then in the auditorium at Nichols School.

The Rev. Henry Duwe was called in February 1943 as the first permanent pastor of Grace Church. His ministry is remembered as a uniquely inspired and dedicated pastoral service that spanned 32 years. Under his leadership, the congregation purchased property at the corner of Wesley Avenue and South Boulevard in 1951, and the new church structure was dedicated on December 6, 1953.

Challenges and inconvenience worked in these early years to create a strong bond of fellowship that continues among the congregation's members.

The decade of the 1960s was a time of growth for the congregation. In 1962, the Rev. Edward May, then executive director of the Wheat Ridge Foundation in Chicago, and a member of Grace, was at times available to assist Pastor Duwe. Growth in worship and excellence in education required increased space, and in 1966, the present education building was completed.

Pastor Duwe retired in 1975 and the congregation called the Rev. Frederick Reklau of Windsor Park Lutheran Church, Chicago, who was installed in June 1975. Pastor Reklau continued the tradition of excellence in worship and education. His leadership provided a steady course through a difficult period in the life of the congregation when it left the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and affiliated with the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, a predecessor body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In 1988, Grace Church celebrated its 50th anniversary and dedicated itself to a renewal of its facilities and its life as a congregation. To mark this milestone, plans were made to purchase a new pipe organ and for the renovation of the sanctuary.

In June 1982, the Rev. Donald McCrary was ordained at Grace Church, having been called as a Worker-Priest to serve as chaplain and program manager for alcoholism services at Parkside Medical Service; he remained at Grace Church until November 1985. In 1983, the Rev. Dr. Marianka Fousek was called to service as a chaplain at Chicago Uptown Ministry under the title of Worker-Priest at Grace Church. While now retired, Pastor Marianka remains a member of Grace.

In October of 1991, Pastor Reklau accepted a call to St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in West Chicago, Illinois. A call was extended to the Rev. Randall Lee on September 13, 1992. During this time, the work to renovate the sanctuary continued, and the new pipe organ and sanctuary furnishings were dedicated on December 5, 1993. In July 1995, Pastor Lee accepted a call to serve as assistant to the Secretary of the ELCA.

In September 1996, Pastor Stefan Rickman was installed as pastor of Grace. Coming from an urban congregation in Youngstown, Ohio, he brought new ideas for ministry with children and small groups. He also led Grace to worship in energetic and more diverse styles. Grace began to grow again, in membership, worship attendance, and number of ministries.

As Grace has grown, so has the need to add to our staff. In December 2002, we called Kaari Reierson to serve as part-time associate pastor. Pastor Kaari also worked at the ELCA. as Associate Director of Studies, Division for Church in Society. She continues to serve Grace through preaching and presiding as a Colleague in Ministry.

Daniel Ruen, Grace’s current pastor, has been serving full time since May 6th, 2007.

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