History of Grace Lutheran Church
The beginning of Grace Lutheran Congregation can be traced back to 1878, when Rev. J. Krueger, a circuit rider pastor stationed in Fergus Falls, MN, first served 8 people in the Fargo-Moorhead area. In 1884, Rev. Glasz, a synod ‘traveling missionary’, served Fargo and Fairmont, ND. In 1886 and for years after, services were held at the home of August Koenemann, a road master for the Great Northern Railroad. Rev. Metz was the circuit minister who started this arrangement; he was followed by Rev. G. Matazk in 1893, who served from Sabin, MN. Rev. A. Wihlborg was the pastor who officially organized the congregation. On January 18th, 1898, Grace Lutheran Congregation, U.A.C. was officially founded. The congregation still used the German language for the services.
From 1898 to 1905, services and classes were held in the Swedish Baptist Church and in the Norwegian Lutheran Free Church on 4th St. N. in Fargo, but a desire to have their own church building motivated members to purchase and build on the first property in 1904 for $4,631 (this included property purchase, building and furnishing of the church). Built mostly by the members, it was dedicated on July 30, 1905, with the parsonage being built two years later.
Rev. Zucker helped organize the first Christian Day school in 1908. At that time, the congregation reported 200 souls.
After Rev. H. Mackensen was installed in 1910, English language services were added to the German services. By 1916 the congregation was self-sustaining; needing no more financial assistance from the district, but the Christian Day school was discontinued due to low enrollment. Rev. Mackensen was released to become an army chaplain. Installed in 1918, Rev. J. Nauss encouraged the church to use English as the official language for services and meetings. In 1923, the 25th anniversary was celebrated with Rev. Mackensen and Rev. Zucker returning to preach special services. By 1923, the church was debt free.
Dr. A. Grumm from Garrison, ND, was installed in 1926 and served the congregation for 32 years. The LLL (Lutheran Layman League) chapter at Grace was the founding chapter in the organization in 1929.The spring of 1930 brought a new era to Grace church with the purchase of land and the construction of a new church on the present site. The value of the church and parsonage was $60,000, with the church being in debt for $22,350 ($311,525 in 2013's money).
The new church had a special room in it where St. Peter's Lutheran Church for the Deaf held services. Rev. W. Ferber was pastor. They still use our church for their services to this day.
In September 1937, the church purchased and dedicated the existing organ. Originally a theater organ built in 1929, it cost $3,300 to purchase and install in the church. By 1938, the 40th anniversary was celebrated and the church consisted of 645 souls.
In 1941, the Grace Guild service group became a charter member in the Lutheran Women's Missionary League (LWML). Additions to the church included the installation of the stained glass windows (1945) and the acquisition of land on 13th Ave. N between Broadway and 7th St. N, (1947). This land was used as a branch Sunday school with a temporary building, and plans were to develop this site for a sister church.
In 1948, the church celebrated its 50th anniversary. There were now 865 souls within the congregation, but in 1950, Immanuel Lutheran church was organized around a nucleus of members from Grace church , and they built on their present site previously purchased by Grace.
Grace School, after having been closed in 1916 due to low enrollment, was reorganized in 1948, and enrollment started with 41 kindergarten children. Each year, another grade was added to the curriculum. The classes were held in the basement of the church and later at Immanuel Church. In 1951, during Dr. Grumm's tenure, the present Grace School building was constructed.
Dr. Grumm left Grace in 1957 to become First Vice-President of the LCMS. He was replaced by Rev. F. Werth. Membership now numbered 1176 souls.
In 1960, another sister congregation was formed from Grace members, this time at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in West Fargo, ND. In 1965 the old parsonage was sold and a new one bought on 19th St. South in Fargo. During 1968, the church and school were extensively remodeled, including the addition of the new narthex on the south side of the church. This renovation cost over $148,000 ($989,950 in 2013).
Rev. Werth retired and Rev. F. Muenchow was installed in 1968. Rev. Muenchow and his family eventually purchased the old parsonage in 1971.
In 1975, Rev. A. Weidner was installed as pastor of Grace. A new parsonage was also built that year. In addition, major renovations were done to the school and the church, including installation of the floor of the basement of the church, with new basement windows and a new kitchen (1988). The school gymnasium was also added at this time.
The church organ was repaired and rededicated in 1983. Refurbishing of the pews and installation of new carpet in the sanctuary was done in 1992. In 1996 the elevator was installed and dedicated that year.
Two houses adjoining the church property were purchased in 1998. This allowed the church to expand the parking area to the north.
When the church celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1998, a large banquet was held at Grace Lutheran School with a hog roast; many former pastors returned for the services. At this time Rev. Weidner informed us of his pending retirement.
In 2001, Rev. T. Smelser was installed. Baptized members now numbered 630. The parsonage was sold in 2001. Pastors now arrange for their own housing.Grace School was turned over to the newly-formed Red River Lutheran School Association in 2003, thus sharing the financial responsibility with other sister churches.
Rev. Smelser passed away from cancer in 2005. Before that, plans had been discussed to expand the church building itself. With a growing population of young families, the desire to have our own classroom space on site instead of using space at the school was great. However, these plans were put on hold during our time of vacancy, when we were blessed to be served by Rev. B. Worral and Rev. R. Sedlmayr, pastors from Immanuel church.
Rev. M. Abraham was installed in June of 2007. Soon after, we were left without a pastor, as he unexpectedly passed away in April of 2008. This vacancy was served by Rev. T. Vaughn and Rev. G. Krueger.
In 2008, Rev. D. Suelzle was called and he retired on May 31, 2023. Membership remains steady at about 630 souls.
In June 2022, the church installed an Allen Genisys Three-Manual GX-335 organ. The old Wangerin organ was dismantled in 2024. Pipes from the old organ were used in other organs around the area, including the Fargo Theater's Mighty Wurlitzer.
In 2023, the congregation celebrated her 125th anniversary with a variety of events, including a special worship service, and organ dedication concert, and an Octoberfest celebration.
Over Labor Day weekend in 2023, the church building was vandalized, resulting in thousands of dollars in damage. The worst of the damage was from a fire extinguisher, which was set off in the sanctuary. The congregation had to have the church professionally cleaned. Due to the fire extinguisher dust, most of the electronic components in the Sanctuary also had to be replaced, including the church's audio and live streaming equipment, as well as it's 2-year-old Allen organ.