Our Story

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church has a unique claim of having been organized in a still house, an abandoned building near the Wilheim-Menius graveyard. The formal organizing of Grace Church took place on the second Sunday of May, 1880. Dr. John B. Davis, who assisted in organizing, preached on that day. The twenty-two charter members were: J. C. Bernhardt, Laura Bernhardt, Jacob Bost, Susan Bost, Mary Bluster, W. D. Bluster, Florence Fisher, J.A. Fisher, Maggie Fisher, Mollie Fisher, Mary Fisher, Luther A. Lentz, Martha Lentz, Marty Lentz, W.A. Lentz, Elijah Miller, Loretta Murph, Lucretia Smith, William Smith, Mary Weaver, Jane Wilhelm, and J. R. Wilhelm. The cornerstone was laid on October 30, 1880. Grace’s history goes back much further than 1880 and overlaps with the history of other Lutheran congregations. The founders of Grace Church had met for quite some time in the old abandoned house for services every other week. Many of their ancestors had begun to migrate to this area of North Carolina around 1750. 

Grace’s pastors, from the very beginning of her organization, have been well-trained and conscientious workers. Five of the pastors have served as President of the North Carolina Synod. Others served as professors and Presidents of Colleges and seminaries, as missionaries, developers and organizers of churches, or as members of important boards and committees—each task outstanding in its own way. Grace’s first pastor, Rev. V.P. Stickly, helped organize Grace Church, and it was dedicated on April 24, 1881. The church was remodeled in 1924. In 1929 some Sunday School Classes were added, the sanctuary was re-floored and stained. In 1939 the parsonage was built on Miller Road. 

On March 30, 1947, the church building burned during the Sunday service. Most of the movable furniture was saved and placed in storage. Council immediately secured the use of Patterson School to hold services in. At a meeting on May 18, 1947, it was decided to rebuild the church on the old site. By December 1947 plans were complete and the work was soon begun. On July 4, 1948 Holy Communion was celebrated in the new church by Rev. Lutz. On September 20, 1949 the cornerstone was laid. The items placed in a sealed box in the cornerstone were the constitution, the history of Grace, the Common Service Book and the membership list. The church was dedicated on November 6, 1949. 

The Parish House, including the kitchen was built in 1955; and in 1963-64 a new educational unit connecting the church building and the parish house was constructed. In 1971 an air-conditioning system was installed for the church building, parish house and educational unit. 

In February, 1949, Grace Church extended a call to the Rev. C. S. King to serve as pastor. He accepted the call in March and came to Grace in June. He set up a definite system of organized work with monthly council meetings and individual communion cards. Pastor King was very missionary minded and after two years with Grace, he resigned to organize a mission church in Tampa, Florida. Grace regretfully accepted his resignation. 

On February 11, 1951, Grace unanimously extended a call to the Rev. James E. Walker of Maiden, N.C. The record of council minutes show that this was the second time Grace had extended a call to Rev. Walker. In 1948 he declined desiring to stay longer with the pastorate he was then serving. In May, 1951 Pastor Walker accepted the call and served as Grace’s pastor until February, 1967. After a serious illness, he decided to retire and live on his “Jay Bird Ranch”. In a short time though, as his health improved he was called back to duty and he was continually being called to serve. His years at Grace were busy years. There was great growth in membership. In 1955 the Parish House and the kitchen were built at a cost of $35,000. 

A memorable day in Grace’s history took place on May 17, 1953 when an organ recital by Professor Lawrence Wheeler was held at Grace to dedicate a new Baldwin Electronic Organ and Mass Cathedral Chimes, presented to Grace by the children of the deceased Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Kuhn, Mary, Alfred and Allison Kuhn. The gift was dedicated to the Glory of God in memory of Mary Fisher Archey and her daughter, Mary Archey Kuhn, grandmother and mother of the donors. Mary Fisher Archey was one of the first to be buried in Grace Cemetery. She was the daughter of Capt. J. A. Fisher, who was an active charter member of Grace. 

On September 11, 1955, Grace observed her 75th Anniversary. The Rev. Baxter Weant preached the sermon. Dr. John L. Yost, Sr. and the Rev. Walter Yount took part in the service. Catherine Miller read the history of the church. 

In 1963 – 64 the new educational unit was constructed at a cost of $16,700. Because of money in savings the total amount borrowed was only $7,000. In Sept, 1963 a motion was passed that a council member be off the council for a period of three years before being eligible for re-election. By 1964 the

membership of Grace was 450, the Sunday School enrollment was 420 with an average attendance of 300. 

Grace church approved organizing a Boy Scout Troop in 1965. The church has actively supported the Scouts. Gril Scout Troops were added later. The Scouts had access to the Church’s activity bus, which was of great benefit to them. 

In March, 1968 Grace congregation voted to extend a call to the Rev. Claude V. Deal, Sr. to become pastor of Grace. In July, 1968 Pastor and Mrs. Deal came to us. In his acceptance letter he pledged to try to be a true Shepherd of the Flock. He was that. He came to us from Incarnation Lutheran Church, Charlotte, a church that he had organized and served as its first pastor. He had an enthusiastic missionary spirit and influenced the increase in membership of the Evangelism Committee as well as engineering a broad visitation program. Grace participated actively in the interdenominational “Key 73” evangelistic movement. 

In 1969 Laymen began to assist the pastor in administering Holy Communion. 

In 1972 Boy Scout Explorer Post 315 of Grace agreed to keep up the church grounds for a yearly sum of $600. At another time they were engaged in helping with extensive work done on the old graveyard. They also helped with the church’s pictorial project in 1975. 

Pastor Deal had served as chaplain in the US Army during World War II with the rank of Major. Most of all he will be remembered at Grace for his soft-spoken, encouraging words, his benevolent smile, and his convincing message that the Holy Spirit will guide us in all our attempts at service. Members of Grace were deeply saddened by his death on May 15, 1974. He was buried in Grace Cemetery. 

On May 19, 1974 a motion was carried by the council to keep all the tapes of Pastor Deal’s sermons and the tape of Rev. Land’s sermon on Sunday after the death of Pastor Deal.

On Sept. 8, 1974 a motion was carried to dedicate the church office in memory of Pastor Deal. The Luther League requested and was permitted to dedicate an oil painting of him to be hung in the church office. Completing and furnishing the church office was a project in which Pastor Deal was very interested. An organ fund was also set up in his memory. 

On Monday, October 13, 1975 Pastor Jacob L. Mayer, Jr., his wife Karen and their children Kristin and Andy came here from Harrisonburg, Virginia. On October 15, Pastor Mayer began his ministry as Grace’s pastor. 

In 1974 Grace elected her first woman council member, Bette Parnell. In 1975 and ’76 two other women of the church, Edith Sloop and Geraldine Martin, were elected council members. Each of these three ladies had served as president of Grace Lutheran Church Women. 

On June 6, 1976 Grace church accepted the donation of a new organ and chimes from the N. C. Sloop family. A dedication service for the organ, the chimes, processional cross, donated by Bette Parnell, and the Sanctuary Lamp, donated by the Aldridge family was held on Oct. 24, l976. 

For quite some time the Historical Committee of Grace has been interested in securing an Archives Room. On Feb. 19, 1978 the congregation voted on using part of the narthex of the church for this purpose. 

When Salem Lutheran Church burned in February, 1979, Grace began plans to help her neighbor in rebuilding. Several collections were taken and on July 10, 1979 Salem was presented with a gift of $2,296.80. 

In October of 1978 Pastor Mayer presented a letter to Grace’s congregation expressing doubts about his continuing ministerial work. He explained that for the next year he would like to attend classes at Rowan Technical College, classes giving training for industrial-type work. At the same time, he would like to continue serving this pastorate while making a decision about his life work. This was agreed upon in a congregational meeting with some dissent. Most of the members of the congregation were very prayerful that he would make the right decision and were very happy when he decided that it was God’s will that he continue work in the ministry. 

On October 15, 1979 Pastor Mayer preached his farewell sermon at Grace. The next Sunday Grace congregation shared a church family supper with Pastor Mayer and family and presented them with a Love Offering. Pastor Mayer began serving as pastor of a mission church in the Virginia Synod the 1st of November, 1979. Pastor Mayer will be remembered especially for his excellent sermons and his sacrificing so much of his time chauffeuring bus loads of Senior Citizens on many enjoyable trips. 

Amazing Grace Senior Citizens group proudly boasts of having among the membership three retired Lutheran ministers, and two widows of former pastors. These ladies are Mrs. Claude V. Deal, Sr., and Mrs. C. E. Lutz. The Rev. LeGrand Mayer is the chaplain, and the Rev. James E. Walker and the Rev. Wayne Daubenspeck also contribute to the programs. 

During 1975 while we were without a pastor, the Rev. Daubenspeck supplied us so well. We called upon him again in November after Pastor Mayer left. For health reasons he has not been able to serve as supply pastor much of the time recently, but we feel very fortunate to have secured the services of so capable a pastor. He came to the NC Synod in 1974 from the Pennsylvania Synod and served St. David’s, Kannapolis until his retirement. He attended Chaplain’s School at Harvard University and also had clinical training at Greystone Mental Hospital. He served in the US Army in Alaska and Europe. When he decided to serve a pastorate again he had calls from California to Florida. He could have entirely missed us “rascals”, as he affectionately refers to us. Pastor Daubenspeck has endeared himself to all of us and we are always happy to have him back at Grace. 

The year 1980 marked the 100th anniversary of Grace. Throughout the year the congregation celebrated this milestone with activities each month peaking during the month of May when the church was chartered in 1880. At the end of the centennial year there were 344 members on the Sunday School rolls with the need for additional space. 

In 1980, Grace Lutheran Church called the Rev. Gene C. Bost to pastor the congregation. A Rowan County native from the Enochville community, Pastor Bost graduated from Landis High School, served in the US Army and was stationed with the Dugway Proving Ground, southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, S. C. Ordained in 1973, he served Cross of Christ, Concord, before coming to Grace. Married to Myra King Bost, they are the parents of Barry Gene, Keith Alan, Bonnie Sue and Benjamin. 

Pastor James E. Walker, who served Grace from 1951 – 1967 when he retired, was granted the honorary status of Pastor Emeritus in 1981. Pastor Walker remained an active member in Grace’s congregation and was adored by the children who would flock to him after service for a piece of carmel candy. His love for children and their spiritual growth is marked in history by the establishment of the Pastor James E. Walker Endowment Fund which provides financial assistance to children attending Lutheridge. Since its inception, more than 100 campers have attended Lutheridge with the help of the Walker fund. 

Long time Children and Youth Choir director, and organist, Rebekah Safriet, resigned in 1981, passing on the training of young voices to Patsy Parnell. Miss Patsy’s flock of little lambs learned more than how to carry a tune. They learned to respect the sanctuary and appreciate the ceremonial aspects of festival services. Alice Higgins assumed the role of organist. Also that year Jean Miller donated a gift of handbells in honor of her son, Bruce Miller. 

Over the years structural improvements were made to the church building. In 1981, the sanctuary balcony was carpeted and the balcony pews were upholstered. A removable center handrail was installed at the steps to the chancel to assist church members as they approach the altar for communion which at the time was administered by tables.” In 1982, the stained glass windows were repaired and covered with a protective Lexan coating. 

The Church Constitution was revised in 1982 including the Cemetery Rules. A guide for the distribution of the Sunday School offering was proposed and continues to be used. The first Sunday of each month allows for a special offering for Rowan Cooperative Christian Ministry, all offering collected on the second Sunday of the month is directed to the Property Fund, and the third Sunday calls for a special offering for the Community Aid Fund. The Community Aid Fund was established by the Sunday School class of Margie Martin and Geraldine (Martin) Aldridge for disbursement as the need arises in the surrounding community. 

Faye (Overcash) Merkt was hired in 1983 as the first church secretary. The job remains a part-time position and was held by Vivian Diggs beginning in 1988. The office equipment purchased by the church has evolved with the ever-increasing pace of technology. 

The congregation, comfortable with the new Lutheran Book of Worship (green book) by 1983, was given the opportunity to take home a copy of the Service Book and Hymnal (red book) with the remainder given to the Senior Citizens group. In 1984, lectors were used to read the lessons on a trial basis. This change has since become permanent with the lector leading the Psalm as well. 

Though the Long Range Building Committee was not formally established until 1998, the Council often considered numerous aspects of long-range planning. In 1982, a committee that was formed to explore the possibility of purchasing additional land for the church found no adjacent land available for sale at that time. In 1984, the kitchen and bathrooms in the Parish House were remodeled and that same year the Building Fund and supporting committee were established. 

Pastor Bost was granted permission to purchase a home, vacating the parsonage, in 1985. The council minutes explain their support, “given the age of the parsonage, the apparent trend of churches away from providing housing and needs of the church for which funds now invested in the parsonage property could be utilized.” A housing allowance of $7,200 was added to the budget. Upon appraisal of the parsonage and property in 1986 at a value of $49,000, the decision was made to lease the parsonage. 

Also, in 1986, in conjunction with the discussion of possibly purchasing now-available land adjacent to the church, the church property was surveyed and concrete markers placed to mark the corners. In 1987, the land acquisition was completed with the purchase of 10 acres east of the church at a cost of $40,000 with a $5,000 deposit. Immediately, the men suggest a use for part of the land---building a softball field. In 1984, the Sunday School Department supported five softball teams in the church league. Numerous trophies can be found on display in the Sunday School office-----a testament to the Teams’ fellowship on the field. Though the church’s involvement in the softball league has waned over the years, the softball field, completed in 1994, is maintained for various church and community activities. 

The women of the church focused their energies on the inside of the building with the proposal of creating a “Bride’s Room/Lounge” in a downstairs storage room. Since its remodeling, the room has served numerous brides with a vanity area, floor-length mirror, comfortable seating and carpeted floor. Additionally, it has been used for small Sunday School classes when space is otherwise unavailable. 

In 1988 the Lutheran Church of America (LCA) became the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). Accordingly, the women’s group name changed from the LCW (Lutheran Church Women) to the WELCA (Women of the ELCA). The Grace WELCA have held several bazaars, led devotions at the Lutheran Home and participated in retreats at Lutheridge. The Lutheran Men in Mission was established at Grace that year. The Men’s group holds a breakfast meeting once a month and sponsors an annual chicken dinner to raise money for various causes. The Men have been on several mission trips to assist in disaster areas and help with the general upkeep of the facilities at Camp Agape. 

Several additions have been made to the sanctuary over the years that enhance the worship environment. In 1988, the Worship and Music Committee recommended replacing the brass altar cross with a wooden cross, five feet tall with a 30-inch figure of Christ on it. After some discussion, the congregation approved a larger brass cross, and the smaller cross was moved to the Sunday School opening area where the altar that was saved from the church fire in 1947 is used. 

Included in our evangelism efforts in 1988 was the purchase of advertisement in the yellow pages of the Concord Telephone Company directory for $22. In the interest of Christian fellowship, Family Night was born in 1989 to be held every fifth Sunday. Also beginning in 1989 was the publication of the church newsletter, spearheaded by Vivian Diggs, to provide the congregation with monthly updates of happenings in the church from birthdays to budget. 

Son of the congregation, Jerry Sloop, was presented with five sets of stoles upon graduation from seminary in 1989. The Rev. Jerry Sloop returned to Grace as Homecoming pastor on Sept. 20, 1992. Jerry, who passed away in 1998, was one of two brothers of Grace to pursue full-time ministry in the past 25 years. Brother Rick Sloop, completed seminary in 1995 and returned to Grace for Homecoming on Sept. 17, 2000 and on January 9, 2005 to participate in the 125th Anniversary Celebration. Sons of Eustace and Ruth Sloop, longstanding members of Grace, Jerry and Rick were active members during their formative years. 

In 1989 the parking lots were paved, but it would seem that more cars fit on an unpaved lot than a paved, lined lot. Jack Miller donated land on the west side of the church so the parking lot could include a circle drive and a gravel overflow lot was constructed on the east side. 

Considering the numerous, costly repairs that must be made to the aging parsonage, the council suggested selling the property. After much discussion, the motion brought to the congregation resulted in the motion passing. The parsonage was sold to the current renters, Don and Janice Gray. The revenue generated was put in the Building Fund. 

The early 1990’s brought several additions to the church grounds. George Basinger built and donated a metal cross, displayed on the west lawn. On the east lawn, the Men’s group constructed a brick planter and re-landscaped the front of the church. Also, on the back of the church property a 30 ft x 70 ft outdoor shelter was built. Mrs. Shirley Stiller donated new front interior and exterior doors of the church in memory of her husband, Boyce. 

The first edition of the Advent Devotional Guide was published in 1990. Members of the congregation volunteer or asked to write a short devotion related to a certain scripture pertaining to the Advent season. This is a project that has included participation from children, teens, adults. In 1991, Anna McBride started Children’s Church ----an alternate, child-focused worship experience. It enjoyed success for several years, but was eventually discontinued. Pastor Bost, concerned with Sunday School and Worship attendance, suggested holding a Rally Sunday which generated a Sunday School attendance of 100. The Evangelism Committee began reaching out to the new, nearby housing development, Spring Valley. 

The church often recognizes national holidays that are not part of the official church calendar. Of course, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are recognized, usually with flowers, including one honoring the oldest and youngest Mom and Dad in the congregation. Memorial Day or Independence Day is marked with a patriotic service with special music and a tribute to our military veterans. In 1991, everyone was encouraged to wear his or her work clothes to church on the Sunday prior to Labor Day. 

Christmas traditions also underwent change in the early 90’s when the Sunday School treat bags were removed from the budget and the live Christmas tree was replaced with two artificial trees. Fire safety dictated the switch to artificial trees and soon after, the ladies of the church made new Christmon ornaments to decorate the trees. 

In 1992, at the recommendation of the ELCA, the congregation voted to dissolve as an unincorporated association and recognize as a non-profit corporation. This year also brought about discussion of adding an additional staff person, possibly a part-time youth minister. With this in mind, a Staff Support Committee was created. Continuous communion was introduced in 1993, allowing an uninterrupted flow of parishioners to the altar to receive the Sacrament, and allowing for an orderly return to their seats. 

Witness of Grace hit the road to spread the Gospel message in 1993. This group of Spirit-led individuals performed an Easter-inspired musical drama at local and some not-so-local area churches. They continue to travel each Lenten season to congregations of all denominations to spread the Word, but Easter morning they perform at Grace for their family and friends as the Sunrise Service. Grace began a new Easter tradition in 1994 by asking the congregation to bring live flowers from their yards to decorate a cross in the chancel. As the processional hymn is sung, members file by the cross to add their flowers. When the cross is raised, all can see that what was once a barren cross, draped with a black cloth, has been transformed to a cross full of new life. 

In 1994, , the first scholarship fund was established at Grace with the financial gift from the estate of Bill and Cornie Allman. The William L. and Cornie Menius Allman Memorial Scholarship Fund has provided financial assistance to several college students in all study areas. In 1998, the Crawford and Eva Sloop Scholarship Fund was established for students pursuing full-time church work. While these funds are both endowed, the distribution is limited. In 2004, the Grace Lutheran Scholarship Fund was established with the guidelines stating that each year, the contributions to this fund be fully distributed. 

Patsy Parnell retired as Children’s Choir director in 1994 with Patty Reynolds assuming the role of Children’s and Junior Choir director. A couple years earlier, Lynn Lippard had taken on the responsibility of directing the Chancel and Youth Choirs. Another addition to our worship music was the purchase of the “Sing His Praise” hymnbook in 1995. The hymnal was selected for its vast array of “old-timey” hymns. 

Grace was the first host and sponsor of Godstock in 1994. It has become an annual Christian community event with live music, games, food and fellowship. The first Godstock raised more than $5,000 (matched by Lutheran Brotherhood) for two children in the community, one afflicted with Aids, the other suffering from leukemia. Godstock is now a two-day event, including Sunday worship, held at an area park. 

Scott Migliorisi was hired in 1995 as a full-time youth director. He generated a new excitement about the youth program and helped to start a new ministry, the Kids of Grace. He led a group of 30 teens on a mission trip to Atlanta, Georgia in 1996 where they held Bible School in communities where English was not the primary spoken language, worked at a food bank, helped clean and organize a homeless shelter and attended an inner city church in the Atlanta area. In 1997, Scott took a team from Grace to video an ELCA Global Mission event in Chicago, Illinois. Later that year, he resigned to accept a position at Christ Lutheran in Charlotte. A year later, Kris Lettenmaier was hired as Director of Youth Ministry and Christian Education. Kris and her family moved from South Dakota to Salisbury to continue her ministry. In 1999, Kris was reinstated by the ELCA as an Associate in Ministry and shortly thereafter resigned. Since then, several members of the congregation have provided exemplary leadership and spiritual guidance to the youth of Grace. 

In the late 1990’s, the community around Grace grew rapidly, most notably with the development of the housing community Grace Ridge. The Evangelism Committee has made many efforts to reach out to Grace Ridge and the Knollwood Elementary School area. In 1996, a new sign was installed on the front lawn of the church while the old sign was moved to the West entrance of the cemetery and now serves as a historic marker. The new, lighted sign has a message board that allows Grace to announce upcoming events or display faith-inspired messages. 

In 1997, after numerous propositions, the church sold ¼ acre of land across the road from the church to the Wilhelm Family. Also, this year, the nursery was moved and remodeled. Later a closed circuit video monitor was installed to broadcast the service to those in the nursery. The former nursery has been redecorated by the youth and transformed into a youth room. 

The Worship and Music committee’s interest in offering an occasional Contemporary Worship Service began with several evening Koinonia services. The contemporary service has since moved to the Sunday morning worship time on the fifth Sundays. Various instruments including keyboard and guitar, enhance the contemporary music selections and alternative worship style. 

After 19 years of service, Pastor Gene Bost resigned in July of 1999. Over the years, the members of Grace had discovered Pastor Bost’s tireless devotion to the elderly and shut-ins. His call to leave Grace to become the Chaplain of the Trinity Oaks Campus of Lutheran Services for the Aging, North Carolina Lutheran Home, was perhaps surprising at first, but understood to be a heaven-sent directive that would fully utilize his talents ministering to the aging. Pastor Bost served as guest pastor as we kicked off the 125th Anniversary celebration. The Rev. David Nelson served as the interim pastor for over a year as the call committee considered calling a new pastor. 

At the close of 1999, the Long Range Planning Committee suggested three long-range considerations: 1) adding on to the sanctuary to provide handicap access, handicap restrooms, and a larger narthex area, 2) building a family life center, and 3) remodeling the parish hall. 

During 2000, the gravel, overflow parking lot was paved along with the road around the cemetery. The land resale donation by Marvin and Mary Ruth Sloop was used to establish the Cemetery Endowment Fund for upkeep of the cemetery. Until 1979, the graves in the Grace cemetery were marked and dug by hand. 

A call was extended to and accepted by the Rev. Woodrow Frick who was installed on November 26, 2000. Pastor Frick has a passion for spiritual music and, coincidentally the supplemental, With One Voice, was purchased shortly after his arrival. 

A revised constitution and bylaws were proposed and accepted in 2001. In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the council discussed the formation of a Security/Emergency Committee. The renovation plans moved forward for a sanctuary addition, a ramp between the sanctuary and the education building and the renovation of the ladies restroom in the education building. After significant fundraising by the ladies of the church, new playground equipment was purchased and installed near the shelter. Continual outreach efforts led to the introduction of Friendship Pads that are passed along each pew to better identify visitors and prospective members. 

The renovation was completed in February 2003 at an approximate cost of $564,305. Dedication of the building addition and reinstallation of the cornerstone occurred on Palm Sunday, April 13. At the close of 2004, the bank note for the renovation project was paid in full. 

Following a summertime trend, service time was changed from 11:00 am to

10:30 am, with Sunday School moved to 9:30 am (rather than 9:45 am), and Sunday School opening was discontinued. Grace decided to keep the new schedule year-round in 2003. 

As early as 1994, the ELCA began addressing issues related to human sexuality. In 2001, the ELCA adopted a resolution to study homosexuality in reference to the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of people in committed, same-sex unions. In 2003 and 2004, Grace gained a heightened awareness of the issues contemplated by the ELCA. With general opposition to the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of people in committed, same-sex unions, Grace voted to send the Synod a message by withholding 50% of its benevolent contribution in 2005. Grace hosted the ELCA-sponsored sexuality study, Journey Together Faithfully, in 2004. Although attendance was relatively low, the general consensus seemed to remain opposed to the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of people in committed, same-sex unions. 

Grace’s 125th year has been marked with honored guests, outstanding musical performances, and special events. The Anniversary Committee has provided the members of Grace with a retrospective look into the past. Former pastors, clergy associated with Grace and the North Carolina Synod Bishop, the Reverend Doctor Leonard H. Bolick, have been guest preachers throughout the year. Past organists have returned to fill the sanctuary with time-treasured tunes. Special anniversary Sundays even included a return to the worship service from the Service Book and Hymnal (the red book). Many former choir members, who sang under the direction of Rebekah Safriet and Patsy Parnell, reunited throughout the year to practice and perform favorite anthems. A special anniversary choir was also organized to supplement the Chancel Choir on special occasions. 

Even the bulletins have been incorporated in the anniversary celebration. A new bulletin style featuring a sketch of the current church, drawn by Patty Reynolds, was introduced and each Sunday includes a snapshot look into the past with a “A Moment in Time in the Life of Grace”-----an announcement pulled from the bulletin archives. 

Anniversary events began with a kick-off luncheon in January featuring an entertaining musical review through the decades, from spirituals to pop favorites. A Wedding Gown Fashion Show highlighted the evolution of bridal style over the past 125 years complemented the youth-sponsored Valentine Dinner. Many ladies dusted off Easter bonnets and hats from the past for Easter Sunday. The Anniversary Sunday, May 15, was marked in many ways as members sported vintage outfits, the Catawba Brass supplied special prelude music, several men participated in a beard growing contest and the children played games of yesteryear following a covered dish meal. 

On All Saints Sunday, a “Spirit Walk” was held wherein 20 of the 22 charter members were recreated in word and costume. In December, the Reverend Gene C. Bost was made Pastor Emeritus of Grace Lutheran Church. Having begun his ministry with Grace in 1980 when the church was celebrating its 100th anniversary. Pastor Bost remained at Grace until July of 1999 when he left to assume the position of Chaplain at the North Carolina Lutheran Home in Salisbury. This honor was bestowed on Pastor Bost as the church concluded its year-long anniversary celebration. 

In March, 2006, the Rev. Dr. David Paul Nelson joined the staff of Grace as Assistant for Pastoral Care. Having served as Interim Pastor from July, 1999 to November of 2000, we welcomed his return to Grace. James Lewis Moose, church treasurer for more than 33 years, was honored by the Church in May, 2006 for his dedicated service by establishing the James Lewis Moose Endowment Fund. 

Pastor Woodrow F. Frick submitted his Letter of Intent to Retire in October, 2007, to become effective April, 2008. Pastor Frick served Grace from November, 2000, until his retirement. 

As the year 2007 came to a close the congregation had the following membership breakdown: Total baptized 624, total confirmed 518, total unconfirmed 106, active confirmed membership 264, confirmed communing 320, unconfirmed communing 23, associate members 3. 

The Call Committee, after due and diligent search, presented to the church council the name of the Rev. Jerome Cloninger to be called as pastor of Grace and he accepted July 13, 2009. Pastor Jerome grew up in eastern Catawba County, a graduate of Lenoir Rhyne University, Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and was serving as pastor of Salem Lutheran Church in Wakefield, Nebraska when he accepted the call to Grace. He and wife, Kim, his high school sweetheart, have four children. Pastor Jerome was installed August 16, 2009. 

The Lutheran Men in Mission started a fish fry fundraiser in October, 2009 for individuals and/or families experiencing financial difficulties because of serious illness that live within the immediate and/or outlying areas of Rowan County. The first was the Carl Doby Memorial Fundraiser and it was a success. 

As Grace moved forward into the year 2010, in April Pastor Jerome presented a statement to the congregation, at the direction of the North Carolina Synod, entitled Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust. This was followed by in depth discussion, study, research, with every member given a voice on this important issue. On May 30, 2010 at the completion of the study, it was determined there would be no change in the status of Grace with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. 

The church also began developing plans to build a family life center that would include architect, contractor and a capital campaign for fundraising. June, 2011, the church council voted to proceed with the building of Grace’s Family Life Center. On Sunday, January 22, 2012, the official groundbreaking was held and Ike’s Construction Company was given Notice to Proceed. The FLC, as it was referred to by the congregation, was dedicated on June 30, 2013, with 250 in attendance that enjoyed a delicious meal and entertaining portrayals of Grace’s charter members from 1880. 

In January of 2012, the Youth of Grace began fundraising to enable them to attend the Youth gathering in New Orleans, Louisiana, which they attended and reported a spiritual, uplifting and life-changing experience. 

The original structure of Grace was a still house located on Fisher Mill Road, Salisbury, with the formal organizing in May, 1880. In 1881, the Rev. V. P. Stickly, Grace’s first pastor, directed the construction of a 35 x 60 foot frame building and it was dedicated in 1881. This structure underwent many additions and improvements through the years, but on March 30, 1947, the fire alarm was given during the close of Sunday School and the building burned within 45 minutes. By December, 1947 plans were made to rebuild and on July 4, 1948 Holy Communion was held in the new church. Still in use today, in 2013 plans began for repairs and changes in the sanctuary and were completed January of 2015. The congregation of Grace always strived to have a beautiful setting for worship and praise to God in His Holy House. The new Family Life Center suffered a major leak in the parlor and gym in March of 2015 with repairs completed in May. 

Tim Smith, newly-elected Bishop for the ELCA, was Homecoming preacher in September, 2015. Bishop Smith is the grandson of the Rev. James E. Walker who served Grace as pastor from 1951 to 1967. 

In July of 2016 as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and to further strengthen Grace as a congregation, the church moved to a Forward Together program to build worship, outreach, benevolence, education and fellowship. Pam Roseman agreed to lead the implementation and presentation of the new program. 

Responding to the need from Lutheran World Relief and lead by Terri Brown of the congregation, the ladies of the church who love quilting began a labor of love to provide handmade quilts to the LWR that will be shipped to impoverished countries such as Haiti, Sudan and Tanzania. Quilts have also been donated to Prevent Child Abuse Rowan and the annual LMIM Fish Fry Fundraiser. As of 2021, 458 quilts have been completed and donated. Quilting at Grace became a blessing to all involved. 

Rowan Helping Ministries has been supported by Grace for many years, as has the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts programs, thanks to strong leadership. For many years Grace has supported several mission families that have served throughout the world. 

As the issue of security and safety became more relevant in our society, Grace became more aware of the importance of security on the church campus and proceeded to implement changes for the safety and security of worshipers. 

The year 2018 brought a renewed interest in a church columbarium and planning began to initiate this and for it to be in place as the need for a columbarium should arise. 

In conjunction with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Department on March 17, 2019, the congregation participated in an Active Shooter Exercise with approximately 90 members of the congregation participating. As a result of this, the church council approved Grace being a reunification site in the event of a school evacuation at neighborhood Knollwood Elementary School. 

Grace entered 2020 with plans for another year of worship, education and fellowship but the Corona Virus Pandemic interfered. Church services were cancelled at the beginning of Holy Week and were not resumed for several months. While church services were cancelled, some activities, business, and events were treated in a different manner. Virtual services were available and as the warmer temperatures arrived, worship services were held in the Charlie Sloop Memorial Shelter or on the church grounds and also in the Family Life Center where spacing of those in attendance could be easily taken care of. Worship was reopened on September 20, 2020 with two services, one in the FLC and one outside. 

The year 2008 saw many counties in North Carolina participating in the Barn Quilt Trail, a statewide blend of history, culture and community spirit in the State. Rowan County, Salisbury and Grace Lutheran Church were part of this movement. In 2020, a beautiful Barn Quilt was hung at the Charlie Sloop Memorial Shelter by the Circle of Hope. 

The annual LMIM Fish Fry Fundraiser in October, 2020, continued as a drive-thru and proved to be successful. To date the Fish Fry has raised over $360,000. Also in October, the columbarium was delivered and set up. Sadly, the church organist, Karen Lucas, died March 24, 2021, followed by husband, Carlton Lucas, October 28, 2021, the first to be inurned in the columbarium. 

In 2021, Grace continued to plan worship services around the Synod guidelines that were set because of the corona virus pandemic, with services being adjusted according to the numbers provided by County and State health officials. The church lost 6 members during the year, some due to complications of the corona virus and some to other health issues. 

The year 2022 began with Pastor Jerome Cloninger tendering his resignation effective January 9 as our much-loved pastor. He accepted a call to Macedonia Lutheran Church in Burlington. A farewell luncheon was held on January 9 to thank him for his 12 ½ years of dedicated service to the congregation of Grace Lutheran Church, and to wish Pastor Jerome, wife, Kim, and son, Zeke, God’s continued blessings on their new call. The Rev. Michael Frye accepted the call as Interim having served numerous parishes in his many years of service to the Church. 

Thankfully and joyfully services were resumed with Sunday School at 9:30 am in the FLC, and worship in the church at 10:30 am on March 13, 2022. Easter was celebrated on April 17 with much praise and thankfulness to God that we have come this far in maintaining worship services in spite of the obstacles that have arisen over the past two years. ALL PRAISE AND THANKS TO GOD, OUR FATHER, AND CHRIST JESUS, HIS BELOVED SON. 

Time and space will not permit the mentioning of even a fraction of the great number of lay members who have rendered dedicated service to Grace Church. As St. Paul said, “We are surrounded by so great a host of witnesses.” Some are with us now and many have gone on before us, all urging us to continue the good work so that when we come to the close of life’s day, each of us may be able to say, not boastingly but humbly, knowing that we were led by the Spirit of Christ, “I have fought a good fight; I have kept the faith”. 203


1880-1882 V. R. Stickley

1882-1887 J. D. Shirey

1887-1888 D. A. Sox

1888 C. A. Brown, Seminary Student

1889-1892 Whitson Brown

1892-1894 C. A. Brown

1894-1895 V. Y. Boozer

1895-1897 H. N. Miller

1897-1907 H.A. Trexler

1908-1911 B. S. Brown, Sr

1911-1912 O. W. Aderholdt

1913-1918 G. O. Ritchie

1918-1921 Roy T. Troutman

1921 J. Arthur Linn, Supply Seminary Student

1922 C. M. Fox, Supply

1922 C. P. Fisher, Supply

1922-1923 W. G. Cobb

1925-1932 C. A. Brown

1932-1940 C. F. Kyles

1940-1948 C. E. Lutz

1949-1951 C. S. King

1951-1967 James E. Walker

1968-1974 Claude V. Deal, Sr

1975-1979 Jacob L. Mayer, Jr. 

1975&1979 Wayne M. Daubenspeck, supply

1980-1999 Gene C. Bost

2000-2008 Woodrow F Frick

2006 - 2009 Rev. Dr. David Nelson, Pastoral Care & Interim

2009 - 2022 Rev. Jerome Cloninger

2022 - 2023 Rev. Michael Frye, Interim

2023-present Rev. Joshua Lewis Copeland