Brief History of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Pottstown
Grace Lutheran Church originated in the minds of several Christians, residing in the northern part of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, early in 1896. A service was held on May 24, 1896 in a Mennonite Chapel at Oaks and Evans Streets under the guidance of the Rev. Dr. J.J. Kline, pastor of New Hanover Lutheran Church. The group began to prepare for their own church, under the leadership of Pastor Kline. Property was secured on the southwest corner of West and Evans Streets for thirteen hundred dollars. Sixty-two people were enrolled as charter members.
The group secured the use of the abandoned Royer’s School House which stood on the site where the Manor Care Nursing Home stands today. On Sunday, July 5, 1896, the group met for their first regular worship service. On July 6, 1896, an organizational meeting was called and Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church of Pottstown, PA was chosen as the name. On September 6, 1896, Pastor Kline was elected as the first pastor of Grace Church.
The Rev. Dr. J.J. Kline resigned as pastor of Grace Church on March 14, 1937. The congregation had grown from 62 charter members to 475 communing members. On August 15, 1937, the Rev. Asa S. Wohlsen was elected second pastor of Grace Church. In January of 1943, a church building fund was created. On September 26, 1944, the congregation purchased land at the southeast corner of Charlotte and Porter (now Nightingale Avenue) Streets. In 1947, additional frontage of 60 feet was added to the site to prepare for the building of a new and larger church facility.
In 1948, Pastor Wohlsen resigned and on November 21, 1948, the congregation called its third pastor, the Rev. Dr. Edgar S. Brown, Jr. At this point, Grace Church had grown to 1067 baptized members, 757 confirmed members and 549 communing members. On February 22, 1953, ground was broken for the new building and on June 7, 1953 the cornerstone of the existing facility was laid. On June 6, 1954, the Festival of Pentecost, the new Grace Lutheran Church facility was consecrated and on the Festival of The Holy Trinity, June 13, the regular Sunday schedule of the new church began.
On July 1, 1955, the Rev. Dr. Brown resigned as Pastor of Grace Church. The church membership now included 1393 baptized members, 898 confirmed members and 684 communing members. On February 5, 1956, the Rev. Richard G. Hoffert was called as the fourth pastor of Grace Church. The original plans for a Parish Building were reviewed and revised and on October 9, 1966, the additional education and social facilities wing was dedicated, along with a refurbishing of the existing facilities. The Rev. Richard G. Hoffert left Grace Church as pastor on December 31, 1990. The Rev. William A. Heisley was called to be the fifth pastor of Grace Lutheran Church on February 2, 1992.
In 1996 and 1997, Grace Church celebrated its 100th Anniversary with a year long anniversary celebration. 1996 also marked the start of the “Keys to Our Future” Capital Campaign designed to replace aging heating and mechanical systems, purchase and install a new Allen organ and provide for general refurbishment of facilities. This campaign ran through Easter of 1999. On February 1, 1998, the Rev. William A. Heisley left Grace Church to become pastor of Mt. Olive Church in Minneapolis. On January 3, 1999, the Reverend Edward E. Kropa was called as the sixth pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Pastor Kropa assumed his responsibilities as pastor on March 15, 1999 and was installed as Pastor on June 6, 1999. It was during his time as pastor that Contemporary Worship events were started in the parish hall and eventually moved into the sanctuary. Pastor Kropa relinquished his office as pastor of Grace Church on March 26, 2006 to accept a call as pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church in Lilburn, Georgia.
The Rev. Paul J. Xander was called by Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church to be its seventh pastor and assumed his duties on Monday, March 17, 2008. During his pastorate, ministry based improvements were made to the building, the 45 year old preschool began the process of being licensed as the current Grace Early Learning Center (school and extended care) and a blended worship model (contemporary and traditional) was developed and refined.Pastor Xander relinquished his office on July 21, 2013 to accept a position as a Resident Chaplain at Reading Health System.
In October of 2014, the Rev. Karen M. Sease was called by Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church as its eighth, and current, pastor.