Original Grace Chapel

In 1918, Pastor F. C. Esemann of Trinity, Racine, organized the “Lutheran Mission Society,” composed of members of St. John’s and Trinity congregations. With the aid of this society, two lots were purchased in the “West Racine” district, at the corner of Washington and West Lawn Avenues. A small chapel was built and services were held on Sunday afternoons with Pastors Esemann and J. F. Boerger of St. John’s taking charge.

In 1919, eight families from Trinity, having moved to West Racine, received their release in order to start a new congregation. Later that year, a call was extended to Pastor Herman W. Bartz. He was installed on December 8, 1919, having just completed his tour of duty with the Armed Forces. Earlier in 1919, Mrs. Louise Kahl had established a Sunday School, and for many years she offered her time and talents to the instruction of children.

And the church grew. By 1926, increased membership made it necessary to add a 30-foot extension to the rear of the original building, increasing capacity to 200 people. Grace was given $50.00 per month from 1919 through 1927 from the mission board to keep the doors open.

Growing pains surfaced again and a Building Committee was organized. They began raising the funds and making plans for a new church building.

Groundbreaking for the present church occurred on May 25, 1941, with the dedication services following only 10 months later on March 22, 1942.

In March 1946, Pastor Elmer Eggold was installed as an assistant pastor, serving until 1949.

In 1953, Pastor Gerold R. Martin joined Grace in a part-time role while serving as principal of Racine Lutheran High School. By 1957, the rapid growth of church membership and Sunday School made it necessary to call Pastor Martin to be the second full-time pastor. He accepted and was installed on September 29, 1957.

Under the leadership of Pastors Bartz and Martin, both the church and the Sunday School membership continued to grow rapidly. More room was needed for the Sunday School. In 1959, another Building Committee put on a fundraising campaign, which raised over $200,000 in cash and pledges over a two-week period. Architect A. J. Seitz, drew up plans for the new educational unit, and on September 11, 1960, groundbreaking ceremonies were held. One year later, on September 10, 1961, the new unit was dedicated. The mortgage to the educational unit was burned in 1969.

In August 1963, Pastor Thomas Streiter, a teacher at Lutheran High, agreed to help with the many pastoral duties at Grace. This was in addition to his teaching duties at Lutheran High. Pastor Edwin Metz, a faculty member at Lutheran High School helped to fill our pulpit in the absence of one of our pastors.

In May 1965, Pastor Bartz became Pastor Emeritus after forty-six years of ministry at Grace. He passed to his eternal rest in 1974. In 1965, Pastor William Robinson accepted our call as Associate Pastor, a position he held until January 1969.

We then branched out. In 1966, mission church property on Highway H was acquired and in 1967, a Mission Church Steering Committee was formed. Ground was broken in June 1968 with the first service being held over a year later on September 7, 1969, at the new Chapel of the Cross Lutheran Church.

Pastor Donald Heiderich was installed at Grace in September 1969; he resigned in June 1971.

In 1970, Grace joined Concordia School Association with Holy Cross (Racine) and Faith (Sturtevant). The Association governed Concordia Lutheran Elementary School (K-8) and gave every family at Grace the opportunity to give its children a Christian elementary education. Grace is also an association member of Lutheran High School.

In December 1971, Pastor Melvin E. Thur was installed and was instrumental in forming an active Evangelism Program within Grace congregation.

In November 1974, Grace contracted Schlicker Organ Co. of Buffalo, New York, to build a pipe organ to our specifications. Professor Hugo Gigrke of Concordia College, Milwaukee, designed the two manual and pedal pipe organ. It contains 27 ranks, totaling 1,446 pipes and was dedicated on Trinity Sunday, June 5, 1977.

Braille Work Center No. 94 was dedicated at Grace in February 1976. With Barbara Gerber as coordinator, it was the first Braille Work Center established in Wisconsin. Since the first training session in December, 1975, thousands of books have been printed, bound, and sent to places around the world.

In July 1977, Steve Pickel was installed as Director of Christian Education, a position he held until spring of 1981.

In August 1982, Pastor Martin retired and Grace celebrated his 50th year in the ministry. He and his wife Dorothy moved to a retirement village in Arkansas. He passed to his eternal rest in 1999.

On July 3, 1983, Pastor Randal A. Poppe was installed as associate pastor. Pastor Poppe started a Bible Study Group that met at a restaurant every week for food for body and soul. He also frequently hosted trips to Germany.

Pastor Melvin E. Thur accepted a call to Iowa in June 1984. A call from Grace was accepted by Pastor Ronald A. Nichols, and he was installed October 28, 1984. He was instrumental in forming an active Bible Study life at Grace.

In anticipation of our 75th Anniversary, an extensive remodeling program was undertaken in 1988-89. When asbestos was discovered in the ceilings of the Educational Unit, a more elaborate renovation was planned. Following removal of the asbestos, new ceilings and bi-fold doors were installed, as were new energy efficient florescent lighting fixtures and carpeting throughout the entire structure. The interior was painted, and new furniture placed in the offices, new Sunday School office, Martin Room, Bartz Fellowship Hall, Youth Room, Nursery, and Sunday School classrooms. A foyer and cloakroom were added to the Washington Avenue entrance, and the former library was turned into an office equipment and supply room. This project was dedicated to God’s Glory with thankful hearts on April 30, 1989.

In 1994, Grace celebrated its 75th Anniversary of the founding of our congregation.

Pastor Ronald A. Nichols took a call to a North Carolina church in 1997 and later retired to Texas. He passed on to his eternal rest on June 11, 2012.

After a two-year vacancy, on July 11, 1999, Pastor Thomas Chryst was installed. He brought new energies to our youth program and Bible Study classes.

The year 2000 brought continued progress, including paying off the large mortgage, the installation of a parking lot, and the installation of air conditioning in the worship area. Grace was able to purchase another house on Monroe Avenue. It is now being rented, with plans to enlarge the parking lot at a later date.

In September of 2001, a new lighted outdoor sign was purchased. Grace Lutheran Church shall be able to share HIS WORD, day or night to the many people who pass by on busy Washington & West Lawn Avenues.

After careful study, Grace began in 2003 to celebrate the Lord’s Supper every Sunday at every Divine Service, which continues currently with gratitude.

With the publication of the new LCMS hymnal, Grace purchased and adopted Lutheran Service Book in 2007.

As part of our 90th anniversary celebration in 2009, we undertook a renovation project on the main floor of the education wing.

In January 2010, Grace ended its association with Concordia Lutheran School and developed other ways to support local Lutheran Elementary Education.

In July 2012, Pastor Chryst accepted a call as LCMS missionary to Singapore, and concluded his service at Grace in August. He and his family remained in the area and members of Grace until April 2015, when he received and accepted a call to Messiah Lutheran Church in Keller, Texas.

Pastor Poppe celebrated his 30th Anniversary in the Ministry on November 10, 2013, and Pastor Chryst his 15th Anniversary on July 13, 2014.

In 2014, Grace purchased and installed a new sound system, which has been a blessing to all to be able to hear God’s Word more clearly, without technical interruption.

In August 2014, Grace installed its first vicar ever in its history. Vicar Jens B. Jenson was a student at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is from Kendrick, Idaho, and his wife, Jessica, is from Remsen, Iowa. Former Vicar Jenson was ordained and installed at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Armour, South Dakota on July 24, 2016.

In August 2015, Grace installed its second Vicar. Vicar Jacob J. Eichers was a student at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is from Grafton, Wisconsin, and his wife, Kara, is from Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. He has been called to serve as Pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

In September 2017, Pastor Poppe retired and became Pastor Emeritus after thirty-four years of ministry at Grace.

On September 10, 2017, Pastor Brian T. Crane was installed as Administrative Pastor.   He accepted a call to Arizona in 2022.

On February 25, 2018, the Voters’ Assembly approved the construction of an elevator addition to provide accessibility to all three floors of our church building. Construction on this project began April 30, 2018. The elevator addition was dedicated on February 3, 2019.

On February 11, 2024, Pastor John A. Frahm was installed as our current Administrative pastor.  Grace is currently using Lutheran Service Book (CPH, 2006) as its hymnal for Divine Services.