The History of Grace Lutheran Church

Old GLC church building and parish houseGrace Lutheran Church is a thriving congregation located on the corner of Fourth and Main Streets in downtown Mankato, Minnesota.

Founded on January 10, 1887 as the Immanuel Swedish Lutheran Church, our name was changed to Grace Lutheran Church in 1925 because there was an Emmanuel German Lutheran Church and the similar names caused confusion.

On September 1, 1888 an organizational meeting of Grace, Belgrade and Judson congregations was held. At this meeting, the members decided that Belgrade and Grace would jointly call a pastor to serve both congregations. The Judson congregation decided to continue using Gustavus Adolphus College students as their a pulpit guest; however, over the years, Grace pastors Swante Carl (S.C.) Franzen, A.E. Erickson, N. P. Tuleen and O.J. Arthur visited the Judson congregation regularly. Judson became known as the “little sister” of Grace Lutheran; and in 1922, Judson named their congregation Bethany Lutheran.

The first pastor, S. C. Franzen, arrived to serve Grace and Belgrade in December of 1889. With a membership of 100 parishioners, a lot of land on the corner of Fourth and Main was purchased for $800, and a church was built for $15,000 with doors facing Main Street. When Rev. O.J. Arthur arrived, he gave 4 services each Sunday – one in Judson, one in Belgrade, and two at Grace.

Worship services and education opportunities such as Bible Studies and Sunday School were taught in Swedish until 1914 and 1912, respectively. In 1930, services in Swedish were held on weeknights and services in English were held on Sunday.

The Ladies Aid was founded July 7, 1887 and held in ladies’ homes. On May 31, 1888 the ladies were organized into units. In 1958, the Ladies Aid became the Grace Lutheran Church Women, when the Augustana Synod made a move to consolidate the ladies’ groups. During the 1987 merging of three Lutheran church bodies, the groups were formed again under the new Women of the ELCA (WELCA).

Our present church, with main entrance doors facing Fourth Street, was designed by Wick, Stansfield and Kagermeier and built by the Robert Carlson Construction Company between 1965 and 1967. Our ‘Grace’ mosaic, which faces Fourth Street, was first designed as a mural by Dr. Donald Gregory (Professor - Art, Gustavus Adolphus College), now on view in our narthex, and then created as a mosaic by the Scuola Mosaicisti del Friuli (Fruili School of Mosaic) in Splimbergo, Italy. When the work reached Mankato, the mosaic was installed by the Mankato Tile and Terrazzo Company. History and photographs of our mosaic may be seen by clicking here.

A talented musician and congregation member was Elias J. Halling, who was on the faculty of Mankato State University, and joined our church in 1937. He was instrumental in the purchase of the Moller organ, rather than an electronic organ that some members preferred. That organ, in its third revision, has been enlarged so that as of 2013 it has 41 ranks with a total of 2411 pipes, making it one of the most impressive organs in the southern part of the state. This instrument is truly an asset to worship services and numerous events. Mr. Halling was our Voices of Grace choir director for over 37 years when he retired. His patience and determination in choral direction produced some of the finest choirs at the college and at Grace. He was honored by Mankato State by the naming of the recital hall in the Performing Arts Center the E.J. Halling Recital Hall.

Our current Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Scott E. Olson, arrived in August of 2010.

In 2011-2012, the congregation celebrated our 125th anniversary. In the fall of 2012, we began Wednesday Faith Night programming, moving Sunday education to Wednesdaay evenings, which includes a meal, worship and faith formation education for all ages. Supervised nursery care for 0-3 is available for parents/guardians who attend or volunteer to lead activities. Children ages four to sixth grade participate in activities in the classrooms, and seventh and eighth grade students meet in the Youth Room with Pastor Olson and adult leaders. Adults age 16+ meet in the Heritage Room and view video series, discuss topics and more.

Interested in a few "fun facts"? Click here.