Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church celebrates 75th anniversary

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Pastor Philip Krieger is the sixth to lead the congregation at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, founded in 1938. Photo to Deb Wuethrich.

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church will be celebrating 75 years of gospel ministry in the Tecumseh community with a “75 Years of Grace” worship service and anniversary event on Sunday, Sept. 15, at 4 p.m. The special worship service will include a sermon by guest preacher Rev. Michael Bater, as well as music from the adult choir and hand chime group. A special German- style meal will follow.

Marge Bryan, 95, recalls the Lutheran church’s roots as a mission when services were first led in private homes. She remembers services being held in the Braun Building at 206 E. Chicago Blvd., currently Tecumseh Camera Shop.

“It was a funeral home then,” said Marge. A church historical sketch notes that the first Lutheran service in Tecumseh was held there on August 14, 1938, when Grace Evangelical Lutheran’s first pastor, R. W. Sheele, was installed by Pastor A.G. Wacker of Ann Arbor. What was called “Grace English” Evangelical Church became official when it adopted its constitution on January 23, 1939.

Members soon began planning for a new church and purchased property at 302 N. Maumee St. After a fire in 1940 in the Braun building, the congregation held services in a member’s home, and then at the Episcopal Church building in Clinton until its new church was dedicated on December 1, 1940.

“My husband, Oscar, and I were the first ones to be married in the new church,” said Marge. That was in 1942. “It was during the war, and we had a two-and-a-half-day honeymoon and he was sent to India.” She said they had no time to go far, so they honeymooned in Toledo.

Marge said she and Oscar, now deceased, were always active in the church and raised two children, Pamela and John, who were both baptized and confirmed there. Her sister Doris Mohr, 91, is also a longtime member.

“I was a charter member of the altar guild and sang in the choir for years,” she said. “Oscar was head of the ushers for a long time.”

The present structure was added on to the first church on the site, and was dedicated in 1979. A painting of the first church, by artist Tom Thiery, hangs outside the pastor’s office just inside the church.

Asked what she enjoys about Grace Lutheran and its congregation, Marge said, “Everything! It’s my church and I love it! That was number one on our list of things to do every week.”

Six pastors have served the church since its beginning: The Rev. R.W. Scheele, from 1938-43; The Rev. J.A. DeRuiter, 1943-49; the Rev. A. Jeschke, 1950-58; The Rev. K.F. Koeplin, 1958-68; The Rev. K.W. Strack, 1968-98; and Pastor Philip E. Krieger, 1998 to the present.

Pastor Krieger said he was serving in Manistee when he heard the Lord’s call to Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church. He said the church’s ongoing mission — the heart of the Bible and service in Christ — are core to his Bible studies and sermons, and like the church name implies, everything is centered on God’s grace.

“Our name, ‘Grace,’ tells us why we’re here: through God’s undeserved kindness to sinners,” he said. “It’s the amazing grace nobody deserves, but by God’s grace, the gospel is there for everyone. Everybody needs it.”

Pastor Krieger said one of the strengths he sees is the church’s desire as a congregation to engage and support each other as members.

“Sometimes it’s done secretly, like when someone gives me funds to forward to someone else in need,” he said. “I also believe we’re a singing church and have a wonderful chorus with hymns and worship music that’s beautiful and well-done.”
The women of the church have also compiled a 75th anniversary cookbook that is for sale during this special time.

Pastor Krieger said Rev. Bater, who will be speaking at the special festival service, grew up in Tecumseh. “He went to our pastor training and is one of the young men who is a son of the congregation,” he said. “We thought it would be appropriate to have him come back and be our guest preacher.”

Invitations have also been extended to neighboring community churches, and a sister church from Riga, St. John Lutheran Church, will be putting on the meal. Others in the community are welcome to join in the celebration.

For more information or to RSVP to help those making preparations, call 423.3716.

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