Our Story

Grace Lutheran Church Through the Years

Sept. 19, 1883       Seven men met to organize a Lutheran Church in Watertown
Oct. 23, 1883         The Ladies Aid was organized with eight members.
Dec. 22, 1883        The First Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Watertown, Dakota Territory, was organized in a room over the Merchants Bank of Watertown. Hans Mathiesen, was elected chairman of the congregation.
Jan. 8, 1884           Congregation held first annual meeting.
July, 1885              Congregation acquired title to present site for church property.
Aug. 1885              The first Sunday School Class, was assembled with six pupils.         
Sept. 26, 1886       Dedication of the first church building by Professor Sven Oftedal. The building was 30 by 40 feet with no basement and cost $2,200.00. Altar cloth and altar decorations purchased.
1887                      Church organ purchased for $50.00. “Pigeforening” (young girls) organized by Caroline Nilse
1889                      Ladies Aid bought a communion set and mourning cloth for altar and pulpit.
1890                      Ministerial Book and baptismal fount were bought. Congregation joined the “United Lutheran Church of America.”
1892                      Pastor Nilsen resigned due to failing health – last official act was to perform marriage of daughter Caroline. Passed away November 25.
1893                      Ladies Aid bought new furnishings for church – a table, stand, hat rack, looking glass and carpet.
1902                      First parsonage built.
1903                      “Dorcas Society” took the place of “Pigeforening.”
Dec. 6, 1915          Discussion held on building a new church.
Dec. 1, 1916          Due to poor crops, decision was made to wait one more year before building a new church.
May 7, 1916           Decided to give 1/3 s of “ingathered money” to Augustana College.
June 3, 1919          Congregation voted to build a new church.         
April 15, 1920         The Constitution and By-Laws were read in Norwegian and English. After this, English was used at all meetings.
Aug. 1 1920           The Cornerstone was laid for the present church. Official act performed by Rev. George Wigdahl.
May 9, 1921           The name of the church was changed to Grace Lutheran Church.
July 10, 1921         The present brick building was dedicated. Dr. H.G. Stub, delivered the dedicatory sermon. The church cost $82,068.38.
Jan. 24, 1922         Women members were given voting rights.
Feb 21, 1923         Grace Mission Society joined the Women’s Missionary Federation.
Jan. 1924               Envelope system for offerings approved.
1924                      Pastor Okdale started devotional services on radio.
Oct 11, 1927          Lutheran Daughters of the Reformation joined.
Nov. 5, 1931          Junior Luther League organized.
Oct. 22, 1933         The 50th Anniversary was celebrated.
Dec. 1, 1935          The first broadcast of the Grace Lutheran Worship Service on KWTN, now radio station KWAT.
Dec. 31, 1936        Grace Lutheran Aid began following union of Grace Ladies Aid and Grace Circle.
Jan. 11, 1943         The burning of the mortgage on the church we now use.
                              Nine art windows contributed by members and church organizations.
1943                      Sixtieth Anniversary celebrated.
1946                      Approval given for purchase of pipe organ.
Sept., 1947            Lutheran Brotherhood reorganized.
Sept. 6, 1948         The celebration of the 65th Anniversary of the congregation.
                              The pipe organ was dedicated and the church refurbished for this occasion. Statue place in altar.
1951                      The Hymn Request Program was added to the Grace Lutheran Hour.
                              Congregation voted to purchase a parsonage.
June 12, 1953        Study began on parish education addition.
June 19, 1955        The first drive-in service was held at the “Melody Theater”.
                              Drive-in services moved to the “East Park Drive-In Theater” in 1961.
Dec. 4, 1955          Choir presented “The Messiah” for 21st consecutive year, filmed and presented over KDLO-TV on December 11.
Dec. 18, 1955        First program of “Let the People Speak” given on local TV station.
Jan 10, 1956          Congregation voted to buy Farl and Lokken properties and the Merty property to provide space for the new Fellowship Hall.
Jan. 20, 1956         First production of “Through the Porthole,” a children’s television show 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. (Groundbreaking on May 19, 1957)
April 20, 1958         Dedication week for the Parish Education Annex which cost approximately $350,000.
Sept. 2, 1959         Special congregational meeting discussed start of a new congregation on the north side of Watertown.
Oct 26, 1959          Congregation voted to extend credit up to $65,000.00 to the new congregation.
Nov. 6, 1960          Godspeed Service was held for 212 members, about 50 families who were released to establish a daughter mission congregation, Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, on the north side of town.
Dec 22, 1963         80th Anniversary. Congregation had a membership of 3,154 baptized, 2,083 confirmed. (1480th radio broadcast).
1964                      Grace Lutheran Foundation established and continues with property and investments to this day.
1965                      Parsonage at 18 4th Street SE sold. Purchased home at 315 7th Ave NE Shore Acres purchased as future site for Drive-In services.
1971                      Plans to remodel sanctuary and enlarge church entry approved. Congregation did not approve loan for project.
                              Voted to support Rev. and Mrs. Kenneth Mesplay in New Guinea.
1972                      Work cone in church basement. Purchase of Born house.
Sept. 15, 1973       90th Anniversary celebrated. Congregation included 3,007 baptized members and 2,209 confirmed.
Dec. 7, 1973          The Final Payment of the Mortgage on the Educational Annex was paid.
Dec. 9, 1973          The 2000th consecutive regular broadcast of the Grace Lutheran Hour over KWAT.
1974                      Sale of parsonage approved and remodeling of church narthex.
                              Dedication of Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer.
Jan. 1, 1975           United Mission Appeal for the A.L.C. Grace Lutheran’s pledge
        To                  was for $26,400. The U.M.A. was completed on April 25h with
April 25, 1975         $49,587 pledged on a basis of 3 years with 262 families pledging towards the appeal.
Sept. 28, 1975       Cornerstone was laid for the new Narthex.
Nov. 30, 1975        Dedication of the New Narthex and the rededication of the remodeled Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall. Project cost approximately $350,000.
1977                      New Articles of incorporation and new Constitution approved.
1978                      Grace Lutheran sponsored two refugee families from Viet Nam.
Sept. 24, 1978       95th Anniversary of Grace Lutheran Church.
1982                      Purchased land in old school block for parking space.
1992                      Major repairs to the roof, the sanctuary, the bell tower, the parish education unit and the addition of an elevator to provide access to the different levels of the church.
Sept. 18, 1983       Centennial Celebration – 100 Years of Grace.
                              Radio broadcast for Grace Lutheran number 2500, will be part of Centennial Festival.
1987                      Vote to merge ALC to become ELCA approve by congregation.
1990                      Grace Lutheran sponsored a Polish refugee family.
1992                      Instillation of the elevator to the Sanctuary and basement.
1993                      Grace Lutheran Pre-school started.
1999                      Watertown Christian School began leasing space for classrooms.
2000                      New windows installed in 1957 addition as a result of many donations from faithful members of the congregation.
2001                      Creation of a new Chapel completed by northeast entrance.
2002                      Watertown Banquet started using the Grace Fellowship Hall.
2003                      A garage was constructed.
2005                      The stained glass windows in the sanctuary were restored and thermal glass installed.
2006                      Installation of chair lift and automatic door openers installed.
                              New sound system and video projector installed in Sanctuary.
                              LATI campus ministry began.
                              Organ in sanctuary rebuilt and Sanctuary refurbished.
2008                      Beautification of the court yard as Eagle Scout project, conference table designed and constructed for conference room.
Sept. 20 & 21, 2008              125th Anniversary Celebration
2013                      130th Anniversary Noted of Grace Lutheran
2018                      Replaced boiler, water (pipe) lines.
2020                      New Roof on Sanctuary
Senior Pastors of 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, 193-1922; 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, 1954-1959; George P. Larson, 1959-1968; Walter Kirkegaard, 1968-1978; Diedrick A. Nelson, 1978- 1988; Howard Mars, 1989-1994; Gary Westgaard, 1995-2004; Stephen Lauricella, 2005-2012; Janet Miller, 2014-2019; Cheryl Rondeau-Bassett, 2020-
Assistant and Associate Pastors
Edgars O. Kiploks, 1950-1951; Kenneth E. Christopherson, 1950-1951; Harris E. Kaasa, 1956-1957; 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 Douenmuehler, 1984; Gary Hanson, 1985-1986; Suzanne Benidt, 1987; Robert Waite, 1990-1991; Tedd Reike, 1992-1995; John Sandstrom, 1996-1999; Del Oliver, 1997-2000; William Hamill, 2000-2005.
Visitation Pastors
Edward O. Erickson, 1951-1957; John B. Rockne, 1957-1963; Joel E. Nelson, 1963-1972; Arthus H. Johnshoy, 1973-
Former Interims
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, 9154-1955; Richard J. Borrud, 1955-1956; Wilmer C. Frieseth, 1956-1957; Jay Spoonheim, 1964-1965, Bill Loughmiller, 1994-1995; Gene Peterson, 2004-2005; Dennis Hansen, 2012-2014
Pastors Ordained at Grace Lutheran
Arthur Wigdahl, 1945; Cecil Tellekson, 1946; Merlin I. Seal, 1949; Robert Henriksen, 1953; Gary E. Clark, 1963; H. Allen Vik, 1963; Bruce Williams, 1967; Keith Hanson, 1972; and Stephen Douglas Swenson, 1975. Jim Pollard, 1981; Roger Berner, 1982; Kathy Boadwine and Jared Rakness, 2006.
Pastors Who Are Sons of Grace but Ordained Elsewhere
Gene Sikkink, 1960; Willard L. Olsen, 1965; Walter J. Rasmussen, 1968; and David Geo. Larson, 1974.
Grace Lutheran and the 2020 Pandemic
I began as the called pastor on January 16, 2020, determined to watch and see who and what was Grace Lutheran. I did not want to change a thing but learn the way things were done at Grace. The services remained the same. Confirmation remained under the same instructor and would finish their year while I would start in the fall of 2020.
Two months into my call, COVID shut us down for the safety of our members and everything changed. We were thankful we already had a weekly radio broadcast on KWAT and already purchased a portable camera with plans to video services.
With a faithful team of musician and technology people, we recorded service for radio broadcast and video upload to YouTube and Facebook for the remainder of the Lenten services, Holy Week and Sunday worship.
As the pandemic continued and spring around the corner, arrangements were made with the crew at KWAT for a live broadcast from the Grace parking lot for Mother’s Day. The day was a success, emotions were high just being together, and the council approved purchasing our own FM transmitter to continue drive up services through the summer.
I began meeting with the confirmation students through ZOOM and the Affirmation of Baptism service was held outside in our parking lot on June 28, 2020.
As the fall approached and the pandemic was still a threat, Sunday and Wednesday school began outside in September and following CDC recommendation, our first service in the sanctuary was held spacing ourselves 6 feet apart, masked, without passing of the offering plate or congregational singing, and bulletins and communion packets left in the pew. The last Sunday of October, with snow on the ground, the outside service moved into Fellowship Hall, continuing to separate those attending each service.
On Christmas Eve, both services were held in the sanctuary having every other pew decorated, then moved to the opposite pew between services. By Easter of 2021, the hymnals were returned, and the congregation was given the okay to sing through their mask if they so desired. Those attending communion were offered the opportunity to come forward for any who chose to do so but communion packets remained in their pews for those who were not ready by June.
Today, as we celebrate our 100th anniversary of the dedication of the sanctuary, we thank God for all who have worked hard to keep us safe, continue to be the church and come together to worship our Lord and Savior. We know that this sanctuary is just a building, and we are the church whether inside or out, in-person service or recorded and we thank God for His guidance and mercy through this time.
Today we are not completely back to “normal” but we have developed a new normal. We rededicate our sanctuary and ourselves to being the church together, in whatever situation we encounter and through all the days to come that God has planned for us.
Pastor Cheryl Rondeau-Bassett

Visioning Exercises set for July 28th 

The church council will hold visioning exercises beginning on Wednesday evening July 28th from 6 to 8 pm to discuss our future mission and ministry of Grace Lutheran Church.
Visioning is an activity to engage the whole diverse and varied community of Grace in dialogue to exchange ideas and dreams of the church for the next 5 years.
By bringing together community-wide voices with various backgrounds and unique contributions everyone has an opportunity to contribute. Common ground is often found where they can build on each others strengths for the good of the whole community.
Everyone is encouraged to participate in these exercises especially youth and those under 40 who will carry on the vision of Grace for years to come.
We want your voice to be heard as part of the mission and ministry planning for your future at Grace.

Where we are headed...

This block is under construction

Be a part of our story...

Join us every Sunday as we gather to worship together a 8:30 am during the summer.