OUR HISTORY

 

The first Lutheran service in Liberal was held in the country home of Mr. A. J. Winkler on the last Sunday in October, 1931. This service was conducted by Rev. S. G. Widiger, then of Garden City, Kansas. A few weeks later Rev. Widiger and Rev. M. Studtman of Hooker, Oklahoma, began holding services in the Security Benefit Association Hall in Liberal. When the first resident pastor, Rev. C. C. Streck, arrived in August of 1932, services were held in a home on North Prospect Avenue. Shortly thereafter they began to worship in a residence on South Pennsylvania Avenue. The residence served both as chapel and living quarters for the missionary. Pastor Streck left Liberal in October of 1933.

1933 | Grace Congregation

In November, 1933, Rev. H. Hageman arrived in Liberal. Rev. Hageman continued to hold services in the home until the following February. It was felt that the location was unsuited for mission work, so services were held in a building at 1020 North Kansas Avenue. This residence again served as chapel and parsonage. Pastor Hageman's services at Liberal were concluded in June, 1935. During the next months very few services were held. Student Bringewatt of Garden City held services for a time.

The members then began worshiping in the Episcopal Church on North Sherman Avenue. Services at that time were conducted by Rev. Studtman and Rev. A. J. Brase, both men serving at Hooker.

Late in 1936, Rev. H.M. Daenzer was called by the Kansas District Mission Board to continue the work in Liberal. He remained until the year 1940.

Pastor A.C. Esch of Hooker then supplied the Liberal Mission from November 1940 until May 1941, at which time Rev. A.J. Bruns of Meade, Kansas, began his work in this city. Pastor Bruns continued to serve the congregation until January, 1944.

Pastor A.C. Esch then again served the congregation until Rev. E.H. Kroening was installed on the 16th of July, 1944.

1945 | Grace organized

 

Grace Lutheran Church was organized on December 16, 1945, under the leadership of Pastor Kroening. At its organization the congregation numbered 31 communicants and 62 baptized members. On October 12, 1947, Grace Lutheran Parish Hall was dedicated. By this time the congregation numbered 48 communicants and 86 baptized members. Pastor Kroening continued to serve the congregation until June 1948. Rev. Homer Kurth of Meade served as vacancy pastor until October 1948, at which time Rev. G.C. Hattendorf was installed to serve the congregation. He served the congregation until October 11, 1953. The vacancy pastor at this time was Rev. A. Stoehr of Meade, Kansas.

 

1957 | sanctuary built

 

On August 14, 1955, Rev. David L. Wacker was installed. Under his leadership a new church was built and dedicated to the glory of God on November 10, 1957. On September 4, 1960, a new organ purchased by Mr. and Mrs. V.L. Minns, was dedicated as a living memento to Pastor Wacker. On October 2, 1960, Pastor Wacker preached his farewell sermon and moved with his family to Bridgman, Michigan.

 

Pastor Robert J. Daniel of Hooker, Oklahoma, served during the vacancy. On January 22, 1961 at 7:30 p.m., Rev. Herbert H. Ries was installed as pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Liberal, Kansas. The membership at this time was 177 communicants and 363 souls. On September 19, 1965, Pastor Ries preached his farewell sermon and moved with his family to Adell, Wisconsin.

Pastor A.R. Rasch from Meade filled the vacancy until October 31, 1965, when he also moved to a new parish in Colby, Wisconsin. Pastor Donald T. Heiderich from Hooker, Oklahoma, served as vacancy pastor until May 29, 1966. On June 1, 1966, Rev. W.J. Wehmeier of Guymon, Oklahoma, began serving the vacancy. He was assisted by Summer Field Worker, Vicar Don Mueller, of Hooker, Oklahoma.

Rev. Heiderich again resumed the duties of vacancy pastor in September, 1966. On January 15, 1967, Pastor Heiderich announced to the congregation that he would be leaving on February 15th so that he could return to Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, for post-graduate studies. Rev. E.J. Harman of Christ Lutheran Church in Elkhart, Kansas, filled the pulpit and confirmed a large class of youngsters on April 16, 1967.

1967 | self-supporting

 

After a 19 month vacancy, Pastor Eugene Jurgensen accepted the call extended to him by Grace and was installed in May of 1967. With his encouragement and the hard work of Vera Miller, a weekday school was opened in the fall of 1967 with a large enrollment. The congregation also made the decision to become self-supporting and remove itself from subsidy by the District. Many were thrilled and determined to make this endeavor successful and yet some were a little nervous about it all. It was during this time that midweek classes were begun. In June, 1970, Pastor Jurgensen preached a farewell sermon to the congregation and moved to Pilger, Nebraska where he had accepted a call.

 

Pastor Donald Deterding of Meade, Kansas, served as vacancy pastor until he accepted a call to Salina, Kansas, and moved away. Pastor James Wenzel, Hooker, Oklahoma, then assumed the duties of vacancy pastor.

 

On January 10, 1971, Pastor Paul Helmer was installed as pastor of Grace Congregation. He and Pastor Wenzel enjoyed a renewed friendship having been separated by distance for a time. Only for the short time, however, as Pastor Wenzel soon moved to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, to serve a parish there.

 

In 1976 Pastor Helmer accepted a call to St. John Lutheran College in Winfield, Kansas, to serve as Assistant Professor of Greek. Pastor Helmer preached his farewell sermon on December 26, 1976. Pastor Richard Bode of Hooker, Oklahoma, served as vacancy pastor for the next few months. It turned out to be a short vacancy.

 

On January 18, 1977, a call was extended to Pastor William P. Wagner of Gresham, Nebraska. Pastor Wagner accepted the call and arrived early in March in Liberal. He was installed as pastor of Grace Lutheran Congregation on March 27, 1977. His wife, Ruth, and their daughters arrived in Liberal in May, having completed the school terms at their respective schools in Nebraska. During his years of service until his retirement on August 5, 1984, our membership increased. After retirement Pastor and Mrs. Wagner remained in Liberal. He died August 12, 1988.

 

1980 | Church on West 11th Street

 

The cornerstone of our current church building was laid October 5, 1980. After a grand march from Lincoln Avenue to our new church building, three dedication services were celebrated on November 16, 1980, with approximately 750 in total attendance. A parochial school was started in the fellowship area in September 1981.

 

Rev. Dr. Richard Bode was installed as pastor of Grace on September 16, 1984. A separate building for Grace Lutheran School was dedicated on August 25, 1985. Classes kindergarten through sixth grade with three full-time teachers were added. Total enrollment in April of 1988 was 50 students. Women became part of the voters' assembly as officers and committee members, with the exception of serving as elders, president, or vice president. The community benefitted through this time when open-door outreach was available from the pastor at Grace. Pastor Bode preached his farewell sermon May 20, 1990. Pastor Lynn E. Spencer of Meade served as pastor of Grace during the vacancy.

 

On August 26, 1990 Rev. Dr. Paul Johnston was installed as pastor of Grace. During his ministry the operation of Grace Lutheran Preschool was suspended, a congregational Resource Center was begun, and new impetus was given to youth work in the church, including regular children's sermons. A Wednesday evening fellowship supper was added to the midweek schedule in October of 1990. During the 90's, Grace Lutheran participated in the Heartland Share program, which gave low-income families opportunities to purchase food in bulk for lower prices. In October 1994, Grace began renting space to the Head Start program of the Kansas Children's Service League. After a back injury in December of 1997, Pastor Johnston resigned for health reasons on August 16, 1999.

 

On May 7, 2000, Grace called Rev. Andrew Wehling. After his acceptance of the call, he was installed August 13, 2000, and is our current pastor.

 

2001 | Retirement of debt

 

On May 6, 2001, Grace celebrated the retirement of its building debt in a special service of thanksgiving and praise. During the service, a copy of the mortgage was burned by President Kent Krueger and Treasurer James Miller. The church's resource center was rededicated as Wagner Hall in thanksgiving for the ministry of Pastor William Wagner. Guest preacher that day was Rev. Howard Patten, President of the Kansas District---LCMS. Other special guests included Pastor Wagner's wife, Ruth, of Wichita.

 

In May 2002 Erich Schieber became the director of the Hispanic Outreach program. He led home Bible studies, a Spanish Catechism Class, and translated worship services for Spanish speaking attendees. In June, 2003, Grace began offering worship services in spanish once a month. However, these were suspended after one year due to declining attendance.  In September, 2005, an English as Second Language computer lab was opened in an upstairs classroom and was actively used by the community for several years.

 

A new church sign was dedicated May 6, 2007.  New sanctuary windows were dedicated March 23, 2008.  A new sanctuary sound system was dedicated June 5, 2011. 

 

In January, 2013 the Head Start program vacated our school building. One classroom was converted into a youth room, another into a quilting room, and the third into meeting space.

In February, 2014 a water pipe in the sacristy froze and burst, flooding the entire sanctuary and fellowship hall. The sanctuary was renovated with new carpet and furnishings and rededicated on November 23, 2014.

Video screens were added to the sanctuary in October of 2015.

 

At the end of 2017, Grace Lutheran Church included 271 baptized members and 216 communicant members.

To God alone be the glory!

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