Grace English Lutheran Church is a Christ-centered, caring congregation with a long and respected history in the community. From its roots in the 1930's to the present, this church has seen change.
Grace moved to its current Oak Street location in 1981. In 2019, the church entered into a two-point parish agreement with First Lutheran Church in Poy Sippi. The churches share one Pastor with services being held in Berlin at 8:30 am and in Poy Sippi at 10:30 am on Sundays. This mutual ministry has resulted not only in a shared pastor but also has lead to partnership in ministries, activities, and fellowship.
"A New Beginning" - Artist's Statement by Barb Bellmer
In 2020, Grace dedicated a new cross to the sanctuary. This cross recognized the symbols that are important to Lutherans with a simplistic and contemporary flair. In keeping with the symmetry of the sanctuary, the design is balanced representing God's perfection using bilateral symmetry. The interior offers a cutout, or negative space, reminding us of the life and death of Jesus. It demonstrates that God made us in his own image and redeemed us through Jesus, his son.
The upraised arms represent us reaching up towards God in prayer and open to receiving God's grace. The use of a metal ring enclosing the bisecting "arm" of the cross exemplifies eternity which is infinite and never ending - hence, the circle shape. By using a ring rather than a solid metal disc, it signifies the evolution of our church as an ELCA congregation which is ever-changing and "open" and welcoming to all.
The oak wood reflects the wood used predominately through the church to emulate the autonomy of our beliefs while the combination of metal portrays the diversity of people within the church's membership. However, the softly rounded edges of the form suggest the gentleness, yet stability, strength,and stalwart quality of our congregation
Special Thanks to Bryan Evans for his skill and woodworking talents and to Karen Macauley for providing the materials to fund this project.
History of the Life of Grace
On the afternoon of Sunday, March 5, 1933, a group of Lutherans met in Washington School (now the site of the Boys and Girls Club) in Berlin to conduct their first worship service. The service was conducted by the Reverend E. E. Koch of First English Lutheran Church of Oshkosh. The people had asked him for assistance in organizing a Lutheran church in Berlin in which services would be conducted in English. The next Sunday the second Sunday service was conducted in the Union Congregational Church on the corner of State and Huron streets on the east side of Berlin.
On March 26, under the guidance of Reverend Koch, 99 members approved a constitution, signed a charter, voted to join the American Lutheran Church, and chose the name Grace English Lutheran Church. Reverend Koch served without compensation until July 9, while also serving his own large congregation in Oshkosh. He was instrumental in starting the Sunday School with 42 members and the Ladies’ Guild with 26 members.
On July 9, 1933, the Reverend H. F. Thoms was installed. Over the next four years as membership doubled the congregation started searching for a permanent location of their own. In April, 1937, the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, located at 266 East Huron Street, disbanded and Grace acquired the church and adjoining parsonage. Monetary donations and donations of equipment and labor allowed the building to be remodeled and then dedicated on February 6, 1938.
On December 19, 1938, Reverend Thoms died of an incurable disease; the Reverend U. Gamb was installed on March 12, 1939. The tenth anniversary booklet in 1943 was dedicated to the 22 young men from the congregation serving in the armed services during World War II. The Ladies’ Guild members sent each of the servicemen a box of cookies each month. There were now 210 baptized members, but Pastor Gamb reported that due to gasoline and tire rationing he was unable to make as many contact and meeting calls as he would have liked to do.
The Reverend A. Oberleiter was installed in December, 1943, followed five years later by the Reverend E. J. Cornils, and then three years later, the Reverend W. Williams.
In 1953 the Reverend Harold D. Gluth was installed; he served for 34 years. Those 34 years saw significant changes locally and nationally. An addition to the church was finished and the consequent debt was retired. Soon after that a building fund was started, looking toward the construction of a new church. In 1966, property was acquired at the corner of Oak Street and Memorial Drive. Construction was begun on that new building, which was dedicated in 1982.
Membership continued to grow and the ministry expanded to include the mentoring involved in the intern program, eventually involving seven interns. In 1988 the American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America merged to become the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. While women gradually assumed more leadership positions locally, they were eventually admitted to the ministry in the ELCA.
After Pastor Gluth’s retirement, the Reverend Peter Quello was installed March 27, 1988. Membership grew to over 1000. Part time visitation or assistant ministers and youth program coordinators were added to the staff of Grace, as well as additional music ministry personnel. After 22 years Pastor Quello retired on August 8, 2010.
On September 14, 2011, The Reverend Scott Piper was installed. The years that followed were troubled years for Grace. In September, 2018, Pastor Piper resigned, citing theological differences with the ELCA. The following month, on October 14, 2018, the congregation voted to remain a part of the ELCA, continuing and uplifting its longstanding relationship with the wider church body.
The Reverend Ted Johanson was named interim minister in November, 2018, followed by the Reverend Dione Miller as an interim minister in January, 2020.