Church History

churorigHistory of Our Church

     Grace Lutheran Church was first organized in 1841 as part of a “Union Church,” a single building shared by German Lutheran and Reformed congregations on S. Church Street. The first communion of which we have a record was on April 29, 1843 when 73 received the Lord's Supper. From surviving records it appears that the Lord's Supper was administered once a year until 1852, from then until 1900 twice a year, and after that four times a year. In recent years, we have returned to the weekly communion advocated by Martin Luther, but lost following the Reformation era.

     On various occasions, the congregation was part of multiple church Lutheran parishes and was served by pastors also preaching at other local Lutheran congregations, as well as by young men studying for ministry.

     Following the Civil War, the same dispute arose in our congregation, that affected many Lutherans across the nation at that time. Division occurred between those who emphasized a charismatic spirituality and those who were more liturgical. Eventually the charismatic pastor and about a hundred members left and organized St. Matthew's Lutheran Church at the southern end of the town. That congregation remained as the second Lutheran Church in Macungie until it eventually disbanded a century later.

     Records show a Union Sunday School existed until January 1, 1877, when each congregation organized its own Sunday School. Still existing today, Sunday School is part of a Christian Education program from cradle to grave.

     The building sharing arrangement with the German Reformed congregation (now UCC) ended in 1893 with a vote for the Lutherans to withdraw and to build their own building. The Chapel was built upon a lot on West Main Street donated by D.D. Fritch & N.D. Fritch and H. F. Bogh. The first regular service was conducted in the new chapel building in August of that year.

In the mean time plans were underway to construct the building in which we now worship. In 1896 while traveling in the Holy Lands the Rev. Myron Rath purchased a stone in Jerusalem, which was used as the cornerstone when new construction began in 1898. (A portion of the stone is also set in the rear wall.) This building was dedicated on May 21, 1899.

     A parsonage for the pastor’s residence was erected in 1926 on the site of the old Evangelical Free Hall. In later years, as pastor purchased their own homes, this house was sold. In 1935, extensive repairs were made to the church and the sanctuary was redecorated. A $6,000.00 renovation of the Chapel was undertaken during the 60th Anniversary of construction in 1953; and two years later, major repairs were made to the towers and stone facing of the church building. In 1958, the sanctuary underwent a renovation, with new carpeting and lighting.
     In the next few years, additional property was purchased; and in 1963, work began on a new $65,000 Christian Education building. The cornerstone was laid in 1964, and on Trinity Sunday, the completed building was officially dedicated. In 1969, the organ originally built by C.F. Durner of Quakertown during the 1898-99 construction, was replaced by one made by the Fritzsche Organ Company of Allentown. The current music program includes youth and adult choirs, hand bells and instrumentalists.

     The adjoining apartment buildings were demolished in 1993, and the land converted for parking. In March of 1995, a stained glass window restoration project was begun which would ultimately span five years, involve more than five thousand hours work, and cost more than $100,000.00 to complete.

     During 1997, other rehabilitation and beautification projects were begun in order to renew the church structure in anticipation of the 100th Anniversary of its construction in May 1999. A new heating system was installed, the exterior brick coat and granite walls were cleaned, the parking lot was paved and landscaped, the church building was repainted inside and out, and new carpeting was installed in the sanctuary.

     Twenty-first Century improvements have included making the building accessible for the physically challenged, by adding a section onto the front of the education building to include a ramp and a chair lift, as well as air conditioning for the entire structure. The roof was replaced in sections: first one half of the sanctuary, then the old chapel, next the Christian Education building and finally the other half of the sanctuary.

     In 2008, the congregation went on its first mission trip, sending eighteen youth and adults to work in Findlay OH following severe flooding. In 2009 and 2010, the location was an impoverished area of West Virginia. In 2011 the trip was to Pulaski, VA which had been hit by a tornado that April. In 2013 the trip was to NJ for Hurricane Sandy relief. 2015 the group is headed to Guatemala. The locations may differ each year, but our commitment to reaching out is always constant. Other support includes local fire victims, food banks, world hunger, disaster relief, as well as local and national ministries.

     In 2011, renovations to the chapel were dedicated. This was the original worship space when the congregation moved to Main Street in 1893. During these renovations, the former stage was removed, new flooring installed where the stage had been, wall repainted, a kitchenette installed, and the "Good Shepherd" painting by Paul Janert cleaned for its 75th Anniversary.

     In 2013, a study was undertaken to determine costs, financing and professional fund rasing counsel for a major renovation of the 50 year old Education Building (classrooms and fellowship hall), work on the parking lot and offices, new heating systems and a conversion from oil to to gas, as well as other needed work around the complex. When the study was completed, it was decided to proceed, with the most of the work done from June of 2014 through Winter of 2015.

     Pastors serving the congregation recently include: Charles Naugle (1949-1978); Gary Langensiepen (1979-1985); John Berntsen (1986-1993); Elizabeth Mitchell (1988-1989); William Maxon (1994-2006); and Paul Bartlett (2007-2015.)

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