Our Story

Grace Lutheran Church Through the Years

140th Anniversary Briefs

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September 6, 1883
Pastor Anders Nilsen ordained.
September 19, 1883
Seven men met to organize a Lutheran Church in Watertown.
October 23, 1883
Ladies Aid was organized with 8 members. Miss Sarah Bodtker first president.
December 22, 1883
First Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church organized in a room over the Merchants Bank of Watertown
Hans Mathiesen elected chairman of congregation.
January 8, 1884
Congregation held first annual meeting.
July, 1885
Congregation acquired title to present site for church property.
August, 1885
Sunday School was organized. Six pupils.
Sept. 26, 1886
Dedication of first church building, Professor Sven Oftedal officiated.
Building was 30x40 with no basement– It cost $2000.00.
Altar cloth and altar decorations purchased.
Organ purchased for $50.00.
“Pigeforening” (young girls) organized by Caroline Nilsen.
Ladies Aid bought a communion set and mourning cloth for altar and pulpit.
Ministerial Book and baptismal fount were bought.
Congregation joined the “United Lutheran Church of America.”
Pastor Nilsen resigned due to failing health-last official act was to perform marriage of daughter Caroline. He passed away November 25.
Ladies Aid bought new furnishings for church: a table, stand, hat rack, looking glass, and carpet.
First parsonage built
“Dorcas Society” took the place of “Pigeforening”
Idea of Luther  Hospital was developed which later became Memorial Hospital, later merging into St. Anne’s Hospital, then finally Prairie Lakes Hospital today.
December 6, 1915
Discussion held on building a new church
December 1, 1916
Due to poor crops, the decision was made to wait one more year before building the new church.
March 7, 1916
Decided to give 1/3 of “ingathering money” to Augustana College.
June 3, 1919
Congregation voted to build new church.
April 15, 1920
Constitution and by-laws were read in Norwegian and English. Decision was made that English was to be used at all meetings.
August 1, 1920
Cornerstone laid for new church. Official act performed by Rev. George Wigdahl.
May 9, 1921
Name of church changed to Grace Lutheran church.
July 10, 1921
Present brick building was dedicated. Dedication sermon given by Dr. H.G. Stub.
June 24, 1922
Women given voting rights.
February 21,1923
Grace Mission Society joined the Women’s Missionary Federation.
January, 1924
Envelope system for offerings approved.
Pastor Okdale started devotional services on radio.
October 11, 1927
Lutheran Daughters of the Reformation joined.
November 5, 1931
Junior Luther League organized.
December 2, 1932
Boy scout Troop No. 65 organized. Scoutmaster Leland H. Rhodes.
October 22, 1933
50th  Anniversary observed. Dr. O.J. Aasgaard guest speaker
December 1, 1935
First radio broadcast of church services on KWTN, now radio station KWAT. Fee was paid by Rev. Okdale.
December 31, 1936
Grace Lutheran Aid began following union of Grace Ladies Aid and Grace Circle.
March, 1937
Bylaws and Constitution of` Grace Lutheran Aid adopted.
March 2, 1937
Congregation took over sponsorship of radio broadcasts.
December 3, 1940
Adoption of Ministers Pension Plan approved.
January 11, 1943 
Burning of church mortgage of the church we now use.
Nine stained glass windows contributed by members and church organizations.
September, 1943
60th Anniversary celebrated.
October 12, 1943
Luther Hospital Association report notes $3,000 mortgage had been paid off, discusses staff intact but for one called to military service, and the directors had authorized the sending of ten students to Augustana college in Sioux Falls as part
of the School of Nursing training.
January, 1944
Action taken to set up fund to beautify church.
May 6, 1945
Grace conducted 500th radio broadcast.
Congregation approved sponsorship and support for full time missionary.
Approval given for purchase of pipe organ.
65th Anniversary observed. Dedication of chancel and pipe organ.
Remodeling of church. Statue placed in altar.
Forty One Luther Leaguers off to Saskatoon, Canada for International Convention. Last minute Greyhound bus driver strike caused need to find buses from Yankton to provide rides.

Hymn request program started.
December 9, 1951
Congregation voted to buy a parsonage.
June 12, 1953
Study began on parish education addition
January 11, 1954
Gift subscription to Lutheran Herald for all members approved
June 19, 1955
First drive-in service held at Melody Drive-In Theater.
Farl property acquired- to be used for Sunday School.
December, 4, 1955
Choir presented “The Messiah” for 21st consecutive year, filmed and presented over KDLO-TV on December 11.
December, 18, 1955
First program of “Let the People Speak” given on local TV Station.
January 10, 1956
Congregation voted to buy Farl, Lokken, and Merty properties to provide space for the new Parish Hall/Education addition.
January 18, 1956
“Through the Porthole,” a children’s program featuring Captain Dick (Pastor Richard Borrud) first presented over KDLO. Program added to broadcast by KELO-TV in October, 1956.
July 12, 1956
Architect authorized to go ahead with plans and specification for new Parish Hall.
September 23, 1956
“Every member Visit” plan started.
May 19, 1957
Ground breaking for Parish Hall
April 20-27, 1958
Dedication week for the Parish Education Annex which cost approximately $350,000.
December 7, 1958
25th presentation of “The Messiah.”
September 2, 1959
Special congregational meeting discussed to start of a new congregation on the north side of Watertown.
October 26, 1959
Congregation voted to extend credit up to $65,000 to the new congregation.
November 6, 1960
Godspeed Service was held for 212 members and 50 families transferred to daughter church, Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer on north side of Watertown
Drive-In services moved to East Park Drive-In Theater.
New Public Address system installed in sanctuary, six hearing aid units provided.
January, 10, 1962
Training for Bethel Bible Study teacher begun.
Easter Services begun at Watertown Civic Arena.
Average attendance at services in 1963-1,170.
December 22, 1963
80th Anniversary.
Congregation had a membership of 3,154 baptized, 2,083 confirmed.
Theme for sermon – “Hold Not Back”
1480th radio broadcast.
Start of congregational phase of the Bethel Study Program. 210 adults took part.
Grace Lutheran Foundation established.
Sharon Vik leaves to serve as a nurse in Ethiopia under World Brotherhood Exchange.
Parsonage on 18th 4th St. SE sold. Purchased home at 315 7th Ave. NE.
Congregation voted support for Rev. and Mrs. Kenneth Mesplay in New Guinea.
Plans to remodel sanctuary and enlarge church entry approved. Congregation did not approve loan for project.
Saw beginning of new concept for Confirmation and First Communion.
Introduction of Children’s Sermon.
Organization of a “Couples Club.”
Remodeling work done in church basement for classrooms.
Purchase of Born house.
September 15, 1973
90th Anniversary celebrated. Congregation included 3,0078 baptized members, 2,209 confirmed members. Average attendance 958.
December 7, 1973
The Final Payment of the Mortgage on the Educational Annex was paid.
December 9, 1973
Celebrated 2,000th consecutive broadcast of Grace Lutheran Hour on KWAT.
Sale of parsonage approved by congregation.
Congregation approves remodeling of church narthex to what it is today
Dedication of Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer.
January 1, 1975
United Mission Appeal for the A.L.C. Grace Lutheran’s pledge was for $26,400. The U.M.A. was completed on April 25th with $49,587
Bids let for remodeling of church narthex.
Groundbreaking for remodeling of church narthex.
September 28, 1975
Laying of cornerstone for new narthex.
November 30, 1975
Dedication of new narthex and remodeled sanctuary, and Fellowship Hall. Project cost approximately $350,000.
December 25, 1976
Annual Community Christmas Supper began with Kermit and Buff Johnson organizing.
New Articles of Incorporation and a new Constitution approved by congregation.
Pony Express Program for stewardship project approved.
Grace Lutheran sponsored two refugee families from Viet Nam.
September 24, 1978
Celebration of 95th Anniversary.
Women’s fall church bazaar started, later renamed Nordefest.
Board of Deacons recommend adoption of new Lutheran Book of Worship.
Lexon Covering on stained glass windows.
Introduction of new (Green hymnal) Lutheran Book of Worship.
Purchase of bus for church use.
New system for hard of hearing installed as memorial to Les Mathiesen
Purchase of land in old school block for parking space.
Adoption of Biblical Stewardship program.
Education committee approves Marcia Jelsma to train as a Parish Education Associate at Augustana College as per Synod guidelines.
Individualized confirmation program adopted.
Search Bible Study introduced.
September. 18, 1983
Radio Broadcast from Grace Lutheran Church, number 2,500, will be part of the Centennial Festival on Sunday, September 18.
Rev. Bob and Susie Waite serve as missionaries to Central African Republic.
Stephen Ministry began.
Vote to merge ALC to become ELCA approved by congregation.
Launching of “Keeping Faith” fund drive.
Grace Lutheran Sponsored a Polish refugee family.
Divine Drama and Crossways Bible Study introduced.
Installation of elevator to the Sanctuary and basement.
Grace Lutheran Preschool started with Sylvia Lehman and Kay Yackley.
GLCW financed new carpeting and wallpaper in the church offices.
Established a maintenance fund for emergency maintenance from Clara Mathiesen Estate.
Installation of the internet to Grace Lutheran.
West parking lot paved from donation by Carl Nelson.
Wednesday School added as part of the Education Program.
Watertown Christian School began leasing classroom spaces for their school classrooms.
New windows installed in the 1957 addition as a result of many donations from faithful members of the congregation.
The creation of a new Chapel completed just off the northeast entrance.
Watertown Banquet started using the Grace Fellowship Hall on Monday evenings.
Blessing and Dedication of Upper Room-youth meeting room.
Contemporary Worship Services began under direction of Pastor Bill and Karen Hamill and Jerod Jordan.
Large screens, projector and cabinet for power point from Fremont Forsberg.
A garage was constructed.
The stained glass windows in the sanctuary were restored and thermal glass installed.
Installation of chair lift in education wing and automatic door openers installed.
New sound system and video projector installed in Sanctuary.
Carol Bergan hired as part time parish nurse.
Darlene Olson hired as part-time Volunteer Coordinator.
LATI campus ministry began.
Sanctuary remodel. Carpet removed and old wood floors were refurbished. Chair lift installed by pulpit area.
Painting of cross on wall behind pulpit added after removal of red drapes. New blue pew cushions added.
Rededication of remodeled sanctuary.
Beautification of the courtyard started as an Eagle Scout project and completed by Tony Bresson, head custodian.
Conference table designed and constructed by Tony Bresson for use in the Conference Room.
Stained glass windows in Narthex, Frosted windows in Chapel.
September. 20 & 21, 2008
125th Anniversary noted for Grace Lutheran.
Grace web page established.
Entrance enclosures added to Education Wing and Sanctuary.
Kitchen remodeled. New Stove installed.
Larger cross installed on bell tower of church.
Cranberry Hymn Books introduced.
Projection screens and TV as well as cameras installed.
Removed tiles from floor in Fellowship Hall and asbestos from the 1957 addition.
Fellowship Hall and hall floors rebuffed. Fellowship Hall floor stained and Hallways covered with epoxy.
Replaced boiler and water (pipe) lines.
New metal roof on Sanctuary.
March 2020—Church closed for Covid 19 Pandemic-Worship changed to recorded services for radio with recorded video uploaded to GLC website, YouTube, and Facebook.
Spring 2020-Parking lot services were held with staff and musicians using south Fellowship Hall windows and outside staging with congregation sitting in their cars in the parking lot.
Fall 2020– Services moved to sanctuary with 6 foot spacing, masking, without passing offering plate, and no singing by the
April 4, 2021
Easter-Services offered in sanctuary with singing through masks, communion allowed to come forward again, with
communion packets still available in pews, offering plates remain in back of sanctuary.
July 18, 2021
Celebraton-100th Anniversary of laying of cornerstone of Grace building.
December. 19. 2021
First Las Posadas held to celebrate Spanish speaking Christmas Celebration.
BeFriender program started with members visiting members.
Roof on 1957 addition replaced.
Many of the sidewalks around the church replaced.
Updated the phone system.
Committee descriptions were updated.
New lightweight tables purchased in fellowship hall (25 long/16 round).
Watertown Fruit was purchased to sell fresh fruit seasonally and dried fruits, nuts and candy as Watertown Fruit by Grace, an ongoing fundraiser for the church
Light up letterboard on NE Corner was replaced with LED sign from Daktronics
Grace sponsored a Ukrainian Refugee family and two single Ukraine Refugees.
Renovation of the Choir Room began to fill in the tiers which had become hazardous.
September. 17, 2023
140th Anniversary Celebration held on September 17th
Daughter church LCOOR returned with choir and bell choir to combine with Grace in celebration of 140th. Pastor Laura Overbo assisted. Bishop Constanze Hagmaier proclaimed the Gospel.
4,587th consecutive regular broadcast over KWAT on our 140th Anniversary celebration which was live on the air.

Thanks be to God for those who have Blessed the mission and ministry of Grace Lutheran Church Through the Years
Pastors, Interns, Interims, and Lay
Senior Pastors of the Grace Lutheran Congregation
Anders Nilsen, 1883-1892; Franz C. Norman, 1892-1899; A.C. Barron, 1899-1907; J.B. Reinertsen, 1907-1912; O.J. Edwards, 1913-1922; H.A. Okdale, 1922-1937; Oscar C. Hanson, 1937-1941; B.R. Biorn 1942-1949; Conrad M. Thompson, 1949-1951; Carroll Hinderlie, 1952-1954; Norman Hammer, 1954-1059; George P. Larson, 1959-1968; Walter Kirkegaard, 1968-1978; Diedrik A. Nelson, 1978-1989; Howard Mars, 1989-1994; Gary Westgaard, 1995-2004; Stephen Lauricella, 2005-2012; Janet Miller, 2014-2019; Cheryl Rondeau-Bassett, 2020 –2024.
Assistant and Associate Pastors
Edgars O. Kiploks, 1950-1951; Kenneth E. Christopherson, 1950-1951; Harris E. Kaasa, 1956-1967; Gustav Kopka, 1958-1959; Charles H. Akre, 1959-1963; Ogden L. Lovdokken, 1963-1965; Julius Roehl, 1965-1967; John R. Meyer, 1968-1970; Dean Larsen, 1970-1975; Dennis Reiman, 1976-1979, Stephen Lien, 1980-1984; Robert N. Dovenmuehler, 1985-1992; Gary Hanson, 1985-1986; Suzanne Benidt, 1987-1992; Robert Waite, 1990-1992; Tedd Rieke, 1992-1995; John Sandstrom, 1996-1999; Del Oliver, 1997-2000; William “Bill” Hamill, 2000-2005.
Visitation Pastors
Edward O Erickson, 1951-1957; John B Rockne, 1957-1963; Joel E. Nelson, 1963-1972; Arthur H. Johnshoy, 1973-1984.
Lay Visitation Minister
Ray Kierstater, 2003-2006.
Former Interns
Herbert A. Loddings, 1938-1939; Reuben A. Wangberg, 1939-1940; Lowell A. Holte, 1940-1941; Reuben Gornitzka, 1941-1942; Gilford Helgeson, 1942-1943; Leonard Hultgren, 1943-1944; Eugene W. Nilsen, 1945-1946; Wallace J. Asper, 1946-1947; Raymond L. Brien, 1947-1948; Archie Lovaas, 1948-1949; Philip S. Froiland, 1954-1955; Myrwood A Bagne, 1954-1955, Richard J. Borrud, 1955-1956, Wilmer C. Frieseth, 1956-1957; Jay Spoonheim, 1965-1965; Kathy Waltz 1995-1996, Brenda Handle-Johnson, 2021-2022.
Interim Pastors at Grace
Bill Loughmiller, 1994-1995; Gene Peterson, 2004-2005, Dennis Hansen, 2012-2014., Carlene Rhody 2024-
Pastors Ordained at Grace Lutheran Church
Arthur Wigdahl, 1945; Cecil Tellekson, 1946; Merlin I. Seal 1949; 1; Robert Henriksen, 1953; Gary E. Clark, 1963; H. Allen Vik, 1963; Bruce Williams, 1967; Keith O. Hanson, 1972; Stephen D. Swenson, 1975; Kathy Boadwine, 1979; Jim Pollard, 1981; Roger Berner, 1982; Robert Waite, 1984, Randy Emgarten, 1999; Jared Rakness, 2006.
Pastors who are Sons of Grace but Ordained Elsewhere
Gene Sikkink, 1960; Willard L Olsen, 1965; Walter J. Rasmussen, 1968; David Geo. Larson, 1974.
Non-Ministerial Staff
Educational Directors and Associates
Erwin B. Overby, 1960-1961; Willis V. Hanson, 1961-1964; Marcia Jelsma, 1983-2014, Beverly Scriver, 1992-1999; Chris Benson, 2000-2002; Jerod Jordan 2002-2011,2015-2020; Becky Sprouse, 2021-2023; Josh Casper, 2023.
Business Administrators
Miles Nysetwold, 1961-1966; Judy Everson, 1995-2014; Cindy Vander Liest, 2014-2023; Kat Anderson 2023-
Parish Workers
Rev. H.J. Hetien, 1921-1922; Gertrude Larson, 1926-1928; Rev. Geo. Wigdahl, 1927-1937; Viola Stene, 1949-1950; Hulda Simenson, 1951-1955; Betty Ellingboe, 1955-1959; Ruth Harrington (Stadhem), 1957-1960; Shirley Skoglund (Flagstad), 1965-1967; Agnes Syltie, 1967-1968; Marian Herr, 1968-1970; Ardella Hjelle, 1970-1974; Susan Wolf, 1974-1978; Alice Waldow, 1978-1982; Lindsey Miller, 2015; JoAnn Spartz, 2015-2017; Jennifer Landon, 2018-2020.
Parish Secretaries
Mildred Christopherson, 1944-1948; Marlene Megard, 1948-1950; Carol Beglou, 1950; Violet Halse (Field), 1951-1953; Elvira Lee, 1953-1957; Helen Crandall Wareham, 1957-1958; Doris Shaha, 1958-1959; Ruby Hippe, 1959-1961; Marlys Muller, 1961-1970; Ardell Johnson, 1970-1974; Nancy Nehring, 1974-1975; Cindy Haug, 1975-1976; Deb Palucci, 1976-1979; Cindy Erickson, 1979-1980; Julie Jensen, 1978-1971; Buff Johnson, 1980-1997; Shirley Kumm, 81-83; Linda Rakness, 1983-1987; Charlene Piehl, 1995-1997; Becky Leddy, 1997-1999; Elva Sigurdson, 2000-2003; Renee Ploof,2004 -2009; Mary Beth Lauricella, 2009-2012; Jody Norsworthy, 2012-2014; Kathy Kruiter, 2012-2020; Liz Dunn, 2014-2020; Will Rogers, 2021-20122; Breanna Hemiller, 2022-2023, Kelly Parkinson, 2024-
Syliva Lehman, Kaye Yackley, Lisa Goens, Bobbie Jenner, Kara Julius, Kalli Green, Dani Dobberpuhl, and Maia Brooks
Mrs. E.C. Davey, Mrs. Cecil Tellekson, Mrs. Marie Bjornsrud, Mrs. Esther Mikkelson, Mrs. Lucille Billington Evenson, Mrs.s Art Henrikson, Velma Johnshoy, Doris Nelson, Blair Titze, Barb Kirkegaard, Gretchen Rogotzke, Angie Eickmeier, A.J. Sherrill, Mike Stusiak, Judy Everson, Marcia Jelsma, Isaac Montemeyer.
Custodians and Assistants
Ole Gesley, Ole Slostad, Ben Edwards, John Carlson, Rev H.A. Okdale, Rev. G.O. Wigdahl, Oscar Monson, Steve Johnson, Seymour Peterson, Simon Engels, Herb Englund, Arthur Vogt, Ray Ostrander, John Gonzalez, Merle Stark, Lew Fjerstad, Willie Redemske, Al Satter, Don Seim, Charles Schnackenberg, Judy Cordell, Jerry Urban, Judy Gilbertson, Chris Bensen, Myron Namken, Jerod Jordan, Elton Bresson, Dan Brekke, Rich Dunn

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