Church History for Grace Lutheran Church
1952 - 2012

The first formal organizational meeting for the birth of Grace Lutheran Church was held in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ted Jahns in January, 1952. The meeting was led by the Rev. A.C. Domfeld, Pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Grand Prairie, Texas who agreed to serve as temporary pastor. Nine people attended this first meeting. The church had its first worship service on January 20, 1952 in the old city hall auditorium on the corner of Main and Pecan Streets. Thirty-four people were in attendance.

A call committee was appointed on March 13, 1952 for the purpose of calling a pastor. In April, 1952 the church was named "St. John Lutheran Mission". Later that year with the adoption of a constitution the church was renamed "Grace Lutheran Church". In June of 1952, the first officers of Grace congregation were installed: President, Ted Jahns; Vice President, Raymond Anderson; Secretary, William Fuqua; Elders, A.J. Kunkel and Henry Wendland; Trustees, Emil Lucas, Raymond Anderson and Henry Albrecht; Board of Education, Ted Jahns, E.O. Voge, and Henry Wendland. The charter membership listed forty-two baptized members, with twenty-nine being communicants.

On August 3, 1952 the Rev. Arthur Senn was installed as the first pastor of Grace Lutheran Church. The first house of worship and educational facility, located at 406 Summit Street, was constructed at a cost of $7,500, and was dedicated on October 4, 1953. That building still stands at the corner of Summit Avenue and Border Street and is owned by the University of Texas at Arlington. Pastor Senn accepted a call to Ohio in 1956. The congregation then called its second Pastor, the Rev. Melvin Cordes, who was installed on October 7, 1956. On its fifth anniversary in 1957 the congregation numbered 276 baptized members, of which 159 were communicants. After two years of study, a decision was made to purchase 13.5 acres of land at 210 West Park Row for $25,000. On January 6, 1963 our present house of worship was dedicated to the Glory of God. At that time, the communicant membership was 240.

A new ministry began in 1967 with the opening of a kindergarten, taught by Mrs. Ruth Brown. Through the efforts of Grace congregation, a campus ministry was begun at The University of Texas at Arlington and the Rev. James Luecke was installed as the first Lutheran Campus pastor in November of 1969. Midweek School began at Grace in September, 1970.

After fifteen years of faithful service Pastor Cordes accepted a call to Messiah Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas and on August 29, 1971, the Rev. David B. Joeckel was installed as the third pastor of Grace congregation. The congregation then numbered 500 communicant members.

On March 31, 1974, construction began on an Education Building and upon completion was dedicated to the Glory of God on November 3, 1974.

In 1975 our Mother's Day Out program began with Mrs. Marge Wilhelm serving as Director and an enrollment of 40 preschoolers. Mrs. Marilyn Roberts served as the second Director of the Mother's Day Out program from 1975 - 1988. Also in 1975, Grace congregation assisted in the founding of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in southwest Arlington. Since that time, Grace has also provided assistance in the founding of St. John Lutheran Church in Mansfield and Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in southeast Arlington.

Ms. Mary Irrer was called to be our first Director of Christian Education and Ms. Gwen Hinrichs was our first Parish Worker in July of 1977. Grace acknowledged its twenty-fifth anniversary in 1977 with a festive celebration.

In 1979, the Rev. Timothy Steenbock was installed as the Associate Pastor and Mr. Dave Ricke was installed as Director of Christian Education. The Family Life Center, which included meeting rooms, classrooms, a gymnasium, offices and a kitchen was dedicated in 1981.

In August of 1982, Ms. Ruby St. Martin and Ms. Grace Bohling were installed as the first teachers of our Christian Day School and that ministry continues today. The school began with 25 students.

In the spring of 1985, David Ricke accepted a call in Nebraska.

On August 10, 1986, Mr. William Johnson was installed as the Minister of Youth. Our Mother's Day Out program had grown through the years and now numbered 120 children, and Mrs. Vickie Gunthener was serving as the Director.

On May 30, 1987 Grace Congregation celebrated its 35th anniversary. Baptized members numbered 1876 and communicant members totaled 1369. Ms. Ruby St. Martin was now serving as Principal of the Day School as well as teaching.

On August 7, 1987, Mr. Michael Fuchs accepted our call to serve as Principal of Grace Lutheran School. There were 92 Christian Day School students at this time.

In 1988, in order to accommodate growth in our Christian Day School, the congregation agreed to construct the two-story classroom building, remodel the youth shed and construct the storage building. These projects were completed largely with congregational labor including installation of the "Hot Tar" buildup roof during that 100°F July summer. Also, during 1988, Grace Congregation agreed to share its facilities with the Zion Korean Church as a mission until Zion could afford to construct a facility of its own.

In 1989, Pastor Steenbock accepted a call in Oklahoma and after a year long vacancy, the Rev. Rudy Herbrich accepted our call in January, 1990 to serve as Associate Pastor. Also, in that year Bill Johnson accepted a call to serve in Collierville, Tennessee. A "Vision 2000" Committee began working in 1989 to develop a master plan for Grace Congregation and to project future needs. In May of 1991 this committee recommended the appointment of a Structure Committee, relating to the improvement of our church governance, and also a Building Committee, with the assignment of employing an architect to develop a Master Plan for our church property.

The Structure Committee completed its study, with acceptance of new by-laws and the election of a Board of Directors. The governing body is comprised of 10 elected members to serve on The Board of Directors and an elected president of the congregation. The voting members of the congregation elect this governing body.

On September 16, 1990, Grace began holding three worship services per Sunday with the second service being a Contemporary Service. Mrs. Susan Fuchs was the Director of Music, with Mrs. Terry Moore leading the music at the contemporary service. Mrs. Lou Anne Hoffman was the Director of Parish Education. Mrs. Connie Strand became the Director of Grace Lutheran Early Education (GLEE), formerly known as Mother's Day Out, for the 1990-1991 school year and Mr. Jim Frerking was installed as Principal of Grace Lutheran School in August of 1990.

In 1991 "The Way of the Cross", a journey with Jesus on His way to the cross, began with Lou Anne Hoffman as the Director. On the Saturday evening before Palm Sunday, guides led us through the campus scenes to experience reenactments of Christ�s last days on earth. In April the youth of Grace and other congregations presented "Room 77", their first of five youth musical productions, at the A-1 Classy Theatre at UTA directed by Lou Anne Hoffman and choreographed by Julie Hoffman. Their professional productions were widely received and the youth were asked to perform at Concordia University in Austin and at Glorybound held in Fort Worth.

In 1992 Grace congregation added a Director of Business to the staff. Mr. Ed Bohm served as the Director for seven years, retiring in 1997. This position was responsible for the care and maintenance of the campus and the management of finances.

In 1992, the congregation had the opportunity to purchase 5.5 acres of land adjacent to the church property, along with a 19,000 square foot medical building which would be remodeled for the Christian Day School. The church narthex was also enlarged In 1993 Mr. Les Winkler accepted a call as the Director of Youth and Growth Ministries, and Ms. Gina Matthias served as interim Youth Director. Mrs. Cathy Taylor served as Director of Grace Lutheran Early Education from 1994-1997. In 1997 Ms. Sheryl Hansen was called to serve as Director of Parish Worship and Music and Ms. Shelly Savant began her service as Director of Youth Ministry. Mrs. Dawn Stacy became the Director of GLEE in 1997. Mr. Glenn Meissner was hired in 1997 as Business Director to replace Ed Bohn who retired.

Senior Pastor Dr. David Joeckel served the congregation faithfully for 28 years before retiring in December of 1998. He and his wife, Judy, were honored with special services, dinners and a trip. In addition to his ministry at Grace, Pastor Joeckel served as Fourth, Third, and Second Vice-President of the Texas District for a total of 14 years. In 1998 Grace Congregation numbered 1485 baptized souls.

The year of 1998 brought changes to our school. Jim Frerking moved to California and Mr. James Hohnbaum accepted our call to fill the position of principal.

In 1999, Grace participated with other area churches to form the Lutheran Intercity Network Coalition (LINC). The Rev. Mark Joeckel was called to direct this ministry, and Grace provided office space and other support services for Pastor Joeckel.

In 2000 the congregation placed a call to the Rev. Brad Beckman of St. Louis, Missouri to serve Grace Lutheran Church as Senior Pastor. He was installed in August of that year.

In January of 2002 Grace celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a special worship service at Johnny High Music Review Auditorium in Arlington with Pastors David Joeckel, Rudy Herbrich and Brad Beckman officiating. Following the service, a dinner was served and the Charter Members were recognized and honored. The 50 years of Grace�s history was presented with a pictorial display.In addition to serving the congregation, Pastor Beckman served as interim principal of the school from June 2002 to December 2002 at which time Dr. Pat Coomes was named principal. She served from January to June of 2004. In 2003 Miss Melissa Saran was called to serve as Minister of Youth. In 2004 Pastor Rudy Herbrich received a peaceful release with plans to move to Wisconsin. The position of associate pastor remained open. Also in 2004, Mrs. Dawn Stacy, Director of the Grace Lutheran Early Education program assumed the position of Principal of Grace Lutheran School as well as the Director of GLEE.

In 2005 Mr. Dave Pendley accepted a call to serve as Director of Christian Education (DCE). Also, in this year Mrs. Raquel Fehr was employed as Director of Publications and to direct the ministry at the U.T.A. Lutheran Student Center, Mrs. Lou Anne Hoffman was employed as part time Director of Ministry Involvement, and Mrs. Greta DeWitt was employed as part-time Director of Children's Ministry and Pastor David Joeckel rejoined the staff as the Visitation Pastor. In December 2005 the first Women�s Ministry Festival of Tables was held with 100 ladies attending.

In 2006 the first Woman's Ministry Spring Tea and Fall "Girl Time Getaway" Retreat were held. Stephen Ministry began at Grace in 2006 with eight trained Stephen Ministers and five trained Stephen Leaders. The LINC offices were moved off our campus, and VBS ministered to 220 children.

In 2007, Pastor Beckman accepted a call to Lincoln, Nebraska, Mr. Steve Stigler was employed as Principal of Grace Lutheran School, and Ms. Jackie Cantrell was employed as Director of GLEE. Also, the Women's Ministry was greatly expanded to include the Festival of Tables, Spring Tea, Girl Time Get Away, and Summer Bible Study. Grace also began the "That Grace May Abound" capital campaign for the purpose of expanding and improving various campus facilities.

In 2008, the Rev. Dr. Russell Hildebrandt accepted a call to serve as senior pastor at Grace. Also, this year the congregation recognized Pastor David Joeckel's 50th Anniversary of ordination, and hosted the ordination of the Rev. Christopher Kennedy (a son of the congregation) as he accepted his first call to serve at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Texas.

Dave Pendley accepted a call to serve in Chicago, Ill and Sheryl Hansen was given a peaceful release from her call. The church was blessed with renovation of the Altar Rail, two screens to help with the worship services and a remodel of the nursery. Grace Lutheran School established God's Grip on Grace Scholarship Golf Tournament this year under the direction of Lou Anne Hoffman.

In 2009 we held the first Daddy-Daughter Dance at Grace and introduced a new Greeter System. Rev. Kevin Hintze accepted a call to serve as Associate Pastor with primary responsibility for Grace�s youth program. Mrs. Elizabeth Hilsabeck was employed as Director of the Music and Worship Arts and Mrs. Sherry Burgdorf was named Director of Grace Lutheran Early Education.

In 2010, Grace was still suffering from the effects of the economic downturn experienced by most institutions, governments, and individuals in the U.S. and the world. Painful reductions in most of our ministries were required. However, with God's blessing and strong congregational leadership, we began to recover and get our house in order. Glenn Meissner retired as Business Manager this year, and he was replaced by Sharon Folks on a part-time basis. Raquel Fehr was replaced at the Lutheran Student Center with part-time volunteers. The position of Director of Ministry Involvement was eliminated and Lou Anne Hoffman changed position to become the Office Manager.

In 2011, as a result of our successful "That Grace May Abound" capital campaign, we were finally able to construct handicapped accessible restrooms in an extension to the Narthex. We also added a new church nursery that is closer to the sanctuary and a new sidewalk from the Sanctuary to the Family Life Center. The new church office was relocated and completely remodeled. Our church buildings took on a new fresh look with the interior renovations, remodeling and new roofs! The entire campus will be re-roofed by June 2012. With Pastor Hildebrandt's leadership, several outreach opportunities were started such as SERVE AHS, Kids' Hope and Career Connection. Congregation members and people from our community came to experience Walk Thru the Bible Old Testament and Walk Thru the Bible New Testament.

In 2012, Steve Stigler, our school principal, completed his colloquy program and was formally Called by the congregation.

Some of the current ministry programs at Grace Lutheran Church, in addition to our worship services and Sunday school, include LifeLight Bible Study, Tender Loving Care Bible Study Groups, a Women's Bible Study, and Stephen Ministry. Also, a Men's Club, "Club Grace", (a program for second through sixth graders which involves the children of the community as well as Grace members) and a Men's Community Basketball program. We offer a variety of music programs for people of all ages. Grace also has a Braille Center that prints and assembles Bibles for the blind, a 55+ Group, and "The Piecemakers", (a group of ladies who make quilts, baby layettes and health kits for Lutheran World Relief). Grace Lutheran also supports a U.T.A. Lutheran Student Center Bible Study and meal program, Arlington Charities, the Arlington Life Shelter, and the Arlington Ministerial Association.

Our vision statement is "Bringing the Hope of Christ to our Community". Grace is blessed to be located in the center of a multi-cultural area in Arlington and a neighbor to the University of Texas at Arlington. Our vision is to tell people, not just from Arlington, but also from all over the world, about Jesus and to bring them to know Him as their Lord and Savior.

This page updated June 12, 2012.