Grace Lutheran celebrates 50 years starting this weekend
KINGMAN - When the Rev. Ray Christenson looks back at Grace Lutheran Church's progress over the past 50 years, all he can see is what's ahead for the growing congregation.
"This is a reminder that in an age when not many people are involved in church, we are alive and well and have a mission for the future," said Christenson. "At times in the past, we've almost come to a grinding stop. But our youth program, building projects, daycare expansion and now our 50th anniversary are propelling us into the next 50 years."
The church, located at 2101 E. Harrison Ave., will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this weekend and next with a variety of events, from a car show and combined worship service to a trunk or treat Halloween event.
The celebration will include a meeting with guest speakers, former pastors and a slide show of the church's growth and ministries.
The church's first worship service took place in March 1963 at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Kingman, according to Grace Lutheran's 50th anniversary book. In May 1963, worship services were moved to Van Marter Hale Mortuary Chapel. Visiting pastors and laymen led the congregation each Sunday.
In January 1964, the Rev. Arthur Mees came to serve Grace Lutheran, and the congregation was formally organized March 14, 1964, with 221 members. The groundbreaking ceremony took place April 26, 1964, for the church's planned A-frame sanctuary, and the first worship service there was July 12, even though the building wasn't quite finished yet.
The church continued to grow, and in 1980, two worship services began for the 367 members. The Grace Lutheran Preschool started, and construction of Luther Hall for its attendees was completed. Construction was started in 2000 on a new sanctuary that was significantly larger than the A-frame. It was completed in August 2001. By 2006, the church had grown to 750 members.
But from 2005 to 2010, membership declined as an economic recession forced members to move to other areas of the country for work. There were negative feelings about decisions the national church had reached, and families moved to other congregations or formed their own Lutheran church.
Christenson accepted a call as a permanent pastor of the church in 2009, and has led the congregation of 524 in reaching out to the community. Expansion of the church's kitchen, bathrooms and offices took place in 2013, including the addition of commercial-grade kitchen appliances for preparing meals for the needy.
Grace Lutheran Preschool became Grace Lutheran Child Development Center in August 2013, adding a full-time daycare element to the existing preschool program. A house on church property was renovated this year and both programs were moved into it.