Our Story

Grace Lutheran Church Through the Years

140th Anniversary Briefs

Sept. 6, 1883                       Pastor Anders Nilsen ordained.
Sept. 19, 1883                     Seven men met to organize a Lutheran Church in Watertown.
Oct 23, 1883                        Ladies Aid was organized with 8 members. Miss Sarah Bodtker first  president.
Dec. 22, 1883                      First Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church organized in a room   over the Merchants Bank of Watertown.
Hans Mathiesen elected   chairman of congregation.
Jan. 8, 1884                         Congregation held first annual meeting.
July, 1885                            Congregation acquired title to present site for church property.
Aug. 1885                           Sunday School was organized. Six pupils.
Sept. 26, 1886                     Dedication of first church building, Professor Sven Oftedal officiated.                                                    
Building Was 30x40 with no basement-cost $2000.00.
Altar cloth and altar decorations purchased.
1887                                     Organ purchased for $50.00. “Pigeforening” (young girls) organized by Caroline Nilsen.
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. He 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.”
1909                                     Idea of Luther Hospital was developed which later became Memorial Hospital later merging into St Anne’s Hospital and
then became Prairie Lakes Hospital.
Dec. 6, 1915                       Discussion held on building new church.
Dec. 1, 1916                        Due to poor crops, decision was made to wait one more year before                                                     building new church.
Mar, 7, 1916                        Decided to give 1/3 of “ingathering money” to Augustana College.
June 3, 1919                        Congregation voted to build new church.
April 15, 1920                      Constitution and by-laws were read in Norwegian and English. Decision was made that English was to be used at all
Aug. 1, 1920                        Cornerstone laid for new church. Official act performed by Rev. George Wigdahl.
May 9, 1921                         Name of church changed to Grace Lutheran church.
July 10, 1921                       Present brick building was dedicated. Dedication sermon given by Dr. H.G. Stub.
June 24, 1922                      Women 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.
Dec. 2, 1932                        Boy scout Troop No. 65 organized. Scoutmaster Leland H. Rhodes.
Oct. 22, 1933                       Fiftieth Anniversary observed. Dr. O.J. Aasgaard guest speaker.
Dec. 1, 1935                        First radio broadcast of church services on KWTN, now radio station KWAT. Fee was paid by Rev. Okdale.
Dec. 31, 1936                      Grace Lutheran Aid began following union of Grace Ladies Aid and Grace Circle.
March, 1937                         Bylaws and Constitution of` Grace Lutheran Aid adopted.
March 2, 1937                     Congregation took over sponsorship of radio broadcasts.
Dec. 3, 1940                        Adoption of Ministers Pension Plan approved.
Jan. 11, 1943                       Burning of church mortgage of the church we now use.
                                             Nine stained glass windows contributed by members and church organizations.
Sept., 1943                          Sixtieth Anniversary celebrated.
Oct. 12, 1943                       Luther Hospital Association report notes $3000 mortgage had been paid off, discusses staff intact but for one called to
military service, and the directors had authorized the sending of ten students to Augustana college in Sioux Falls as part
of the School of Nursing training.
Jan., 1944                            Action taken to set up fund to beautify church.
May 6, 1945                         Grace conducted 500th radio broadcast.
                                             Congregation approved sponsorship and support for full time missionary.
1946                                     Approval given for purchase of pipe organ.
Sept.,1948                            65TH Anniversary observed. Dedication of chancel and pipe organ.
1948                                     Remodeling of church. Statue placed in altar.
1949                                     Forty One Luther Leaguers off to Saskatoon, Canada for International Convention. Last minute Greyhound bus driver
strike cause need to find buses from Yankton to provide rides.
1951                                     Hymn request program started.
Dec. 9, 1951                        Congregation voted to buy a parsonage.
June 12, 1953                     Study began on parish education addition.
Jan 11, 1954                        Gift subscription to Lutheran Herald for all members approved.
June 19, 1955                      First drive-in service held at Melody Drive-In Theater.
                                             Farl property acquired- to be used for Sunday School.
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/education addition.
Jan. 18, 1956                       “Through the Porthole,” a children’s program featuring Captain Dick (Pastor Richard Borrud) first 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.
Sept., 23, 1956                   “Every member Visit” plan started.
May 19, 1957                       Ground breaking for Parish Hall.
April 20-27, 1958          Dedication week for the Parish Education Annex which cost approximately $350,000.
Dec., 7 1958                        25th presentation of “The Messiah.”
Sept.,2 1959                        Special congregational meeting discussed to start of a new congregation on the north side of Watertown.
Oct. 26, 1959                       Congregation voted to extend credit up to $65,000 to the new congregation.
Nov 6, 1960                         Godspeed Service was held for 212 members and 50 families transferred to daughter church, Lutheran Church of Our
Redeemer on north side of Watertown
1961                                     Drive-In services moved to East Park Drive-In Theater.
                                             New Public Address system installed in sanctuary, six hearing aid units provided.
Jan., 10, 1962                      Training for Bethel Bible Study teacher begun.
1963                                     Easter Services begun at Watertown Civic Arena.      
                                             Average attendance at services in 1963-1,170.
Dec., 22, 1963                     80th Anniversary. Congregation had a membership of 3,154 baptized, 2,083 confirmed.
                                             Theme for sermon – “Hold Not Back”
                                             1480th radio broadcast.
1963                                     Start of congregational phase of the Bethel Study Program. 210 adults took part.
1964                                     Grace Lutheran Foundation established.
1964                                     Sharon Vik leaves to serve as a nurse in Ethiopia under World Brotherhood Exchange.
1965                                     Parsonage on 18th 4th St. SE sold. Purchased home at 315 7th Ave. NE.
                                            Shore Acres purchased as future site of Drive-In services.
1971                                     Lenten Service theme-“What I Did with Jesus”-a series of impersonations of people who met or lived with Jesus.
1971                                     Congregation voted support for Rev. and Mrs. Kenneth Mesplay in New Guinea.
                                             Plans to remodel sanctuary and enlarge church entry approved. Congregation did not approve loan for project.
1971                                     Saw beginning of new concept for Confirmation and First Communion. Introduction of Children’s Sermon.
                                             Organization of a “Couples Club.”
1972                                     Remodeling work done in church basement for classrooms.
                                             Purchase of Born house.
Sept. 15, 1973                     90th Anniversary celebrated. Congregation included 3,0078 baptized members, 2,209 confirmed members.
Average attendance 958.
Dec. 7, 1973                         The Final Payment of the Mortgage on the Educational Annex was paid.
Dec. 9, 1973                         Celebrated 20000th consecutive broadcast of Grace Lutheran Hour on                                                  KWAT.
1974                                     Sale of parsonage approved by congregation.
                                             Congregation approves 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 $49,587
April 25, 1975                        pledged on a basis of 3 years with 262 families pledging towards the appeal.
1975                                     Bids let for remodeling of church narthex.
                                             Groundbreaking for remodeling of church narthex.
Sept. 28, 1975                     Laying of cornerstone for new narthex.
Nov. 30, 1975                       Dedication of new narthex and remodeled sanctuary, and Fellowship Hall. Project cost approximately $350,000.
Dec. 25, 1976                      Annual Community Christmas Supper began with Kermit and Buff Johnson organizing.
1977                                     New Articles of Incorporation and a new Constitution approved by  congregation.
                                             Pony Express Program for stewardship project approved.
1978                                     Grace Lutheran sponsored two refugee families from Viet Nam.
Sept. 24, 1978                     Celebration of 95th Anniversary.
1978                                     Women’s fall church bazaar started later renamed Nordefest.
1979                                     Board of Deacons recommend adoption of new Lutheran Book of  Worship.
1980                                     Lexon Covering on stained glass windows.
                                             Introduction of new (Green hymnal) Lutheran Book of Worship.
1981                                     Purchase of bus for church use.
                                            New system for hard of hearing installed as memorial to Les Mathiesen
1982                                     Purchase of land in old school block for parking space.
1983                                     Adoption of Biblical Stewardship program.
Sept. 18, 1983                     CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION-100 Years of Grace.                  
Radio Broadcast from Grace Lutheran Church, number 2500, will be part of the Centennial Festival on Sunday,
September 18.
1983                                     Education committee approves Marcia Jelsma to train as a Parish Education Associate at Augustana College as per
Synod guidelines.
1983                                     Individualized confirmation program adopted.
1983                                     Search Bible Study introduced.
1984-1989                            Rev. Bob and Susie Waite serve as missionaries to Central African Republic.
1985                                     Stephen Ministry begun.
1987                                     Vote to merge ALC to become ELCA approved by congregation.
1989                                     Launching of “Keeping Faith” fund drive.
1990                                     Grace Lutheran Sponsored a Polish refugee family.
1990                                     Divine Drama and Crossways Bible Study introduced.
1992                                     Installation of elevator to the Sanctuary and basement.
1993                                     Grace Lutheran Preschool started with Sylvia Lehman and Kay Yackley.
1995                                     GLCW financed new carpeting and wallpaper in the church offices.
1998                                     Established a maintenance fund for emergency maintenance from Clara  Mathiesen Estate.
1999                                     Installation of the internet to Grace Lutheran.
West parking lot paved from donation by Carl Nelson.
                                             Wednesday School added as part of the Education Program.
                                             Watertown Christian School began leasing classroom spaces for their                                                  school classrooms.
2000                                     New windows installed in the 1957 addition as a result of many donations from faithful members of the congregation.
2001                                     The creation of a new Chapel completed just off the northeast entrance.
2002                                     Watertown Banquet started using the Grace Fellowship Hall on Monday evenings.
2002                                     Blessing and Dedication of Upper Room-youth meeting room.
                                             Contemporary Worship Services began under direction of Pastor Bill and Karen Hamill and Jerod Jordan.
Large screens, projector and cabinet for power point from Fremont Forsberg.
2003                                     A garage was constructed.
2005                                     The stained glass windows in the sanctuary were restored and thermal glass installed.
2006                                     Major upgrade of audio in sanctuary.
2006                                     Installation of chair lift in education wing and automatic door openers installed.
                                             New sound system and video projector installed in Sanctuary.
2007                                     Carol Bergan hired as part time parish nurse.
                                             Darlene Olson hired as part-time Volunteer Coordinator.
LATI campus ministry began.
                                             Organ in sanctuary rebuilt.
2007                                     Sanctuary remodel. Carpet removed and old wood floors were refurbished. Chair lift installed by pulpit area.
                                             Painting of cross on wall behind pulpit added after removal of red drapes. New blue pew cushions added.
Rededication of remodeled sanctuary.
2008                                     Beautification of the courtyard started as an Eagle Scout project and completed by Tony Bresson, head custodian.
Conference table designed and constructed by Tony Bresson for use in the Conference Room.
Stained glass windows in Narthex, Frosted windows in Chapel.
Sept. 20 & 21, 2008       125th Anniversary noted for Grace Lutheran.
2011                                     Grace web page established.
                                             Entrance enclosures added to Education Wing and Sanctuary.
                                             Kitchen remodeled.  New Stove installed.
2017                                     Larger cross installed on bell tower of church.
                                             Cranberry Hymn Books introduced.
2016                                     Projection screens and TV as well as cameras installed.
2018                                     Removed tiles from floor in Fellowship Hall and asbestos from the 1957  addition.
Fellowship Hall and hall floors rebuffed. Fellowship Hall floor stained and Hallways covered with epoxy.
2018                                     Replaced boiler and water (pipe) lines.
2020                                     New metal roof on Sanctuary.
2020                                     Church closed for Covid 19 Pandemic-Worship changed to recorded  services for radio
with video upload to YouTube and Facebook.
                                             Began uploading video of weekly worship to Grace website at glcwtn.org
2020                                     Spring-Parking lot services were held with staff and musicians using south Fellowship Hall windows and outside staging
with congregation sitting in their cars in the parking lot.
                                             Confirmation held through ZOOM. Service of confirmation held in  parking lot wearing mask and social distancing.
In fall services moved to sanctuary with 6 foot spacing, masking, without passing offering plate, and no singing by the
Apr 4, 2021                          Easter-Services offered in sanctuary with singing through masks, communion allowed to come forward again, with
communion packets still available in pews, offering plates remain in back of sanctuary.
July 18, 2021                       Celebraton-100th Anniversary of laying of cornerstone of Grace building.
Dec. 19. 2021                      First Las Posadas held to celebrate Spanish speaking Christmas Celebration.
2021                                     Floors in Fellowship Hall and hall tile removed and renovated.
                                             BeFriender program start with members visiting members.
2022                                     Roof on 1957 addition replaced.
                                             Many of the sidewalks around the church replaced.
                                             Updated the phone system.
                                             Committee descriptions were updated.
                                             New lightweight tables purchased in fellowship hall (25 long/16 round).
                                             Watertown Fruit was purchased to sell fresh fruit seasonally and dried fruits, nuts and candy as
Watertown Fruit by Grace.
2023                                     Church sign replaced with digital sign.
                                             Updated church management software from PowerChurch to Aplos.
                                             QR codes added to online Giving.
                                             Grace sponsored a Ukrainian Refugee family and a single Ukraine Refugee.
                                             Removing tiers of choir room to single level Multi-purpose room begun.
Sept 10, 2023                      Confirmation students return to Acolyte during service.
                                             Ushers returned to passing the plate then presenting to altar.
Sept. 17, 2023                     Radio broadcast 4587th consecutive regular broadcast over KWAT on our 140th Anniversary celebration
which was live streamed.
                                             140th Anniversary Celebration held on September 17th
                                             Daughter church LCOOR returned with choir and bell choir to combine with Grace in celebration of 140th. Pastor(s)
Dan and Laura Overbo assisted. Bishop Constanze Hagmaier proclaimed the Gospel.

Thanks be to God for those who have  Blessed the mission and ministry of Grace Lutheran Church Through the Years

Senior Pastors of the 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, 1913-1922; 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, 1954-1059; George P. Larson, 1959-1968; Walter Kirkegaard, 1968-1978; Diedrik A. Nelson, 1978-1989; 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, 1956-1967; 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. Dovenmuehler, 1985-1992; Gary Hanson, 1985-1986; Suzanne Benidt, 1987-1992; Robert Waite, 1990-1992; Tedd Rieke, 1992-1995; John Sandstrom, 1996-1999; Del Oliver, 1997-2000; William “Bill” Hamill, 2000-2005.

Visitation Pastors

Edward O Erickson, 1951-1957; John B Rockne, 1957-1963; Joel E. Nelson, 1963-1972; Arthur H. Johnshoy, 1973-1984.

Lay Visitation Minister

Ray Kierstater, 2003-2006.

Former Interns

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, 1954-1955, Richard J. Borrud, 1955-1956,  Wilmer C. Frieseth, 1956-1957; Jay Spoonheim, 1965-1965; Kathy Waltz 1995-1996, Brenda Handle-Johnson, 2021-2022.

Interim Pastors at Grace

Bill Loughmiller, 1994-1995; Gene Peterson, 2004-2005, Dennis Hansen, 2012-3014.

Pastors Ordained at Grace Lutheran Church

Arthur Wigdahl, 1945; Cecil Tellekson, 1946; Merlin I. Seal 1949; 1; Robert Henriksen, 1953; Gary E. Clark, 1963; H. Allen Vik, 1963; Bruce Williams, 1967; Keith O. Hanson, 1972; Stephen D. Swenson, 1975; Kathy Boadwine, 1979; Jim Pollard, 1981; Roger Berner, 1982; Robert Waite, 1984, Randy Emgarten, 1999; Jared Rakness, 2006.

Pastors who are Sons of Grace but Ordained Elsewhere

Gene Sikkink, 1960; Willard L Olsen, 1965; Walter J. Rasmussen, 1968; David Geo. Larson, 1974.

Educational Directors and Associates

Erwin B. Overby, 1960-1961; Willis V. Hanson, 1961-1964; Marcia Jelsma, 1983-2014, Beverly Scriver, 1992-1999; Chris Benson, 2000-2002; Jerod Jordan 2002-2011,2015-2020; Becky Sprouse, 2021-2023; Josh Casper, 2023.

Business Administrators

Miles Nysetwold, 1961-1966; Judy Everson, 1995-2014; Cindy Vander Liest, 2014-2023; Kat Anderson 2023-

Parish Workers

Rev. H.J. Hetien, 1921-1922; Gertrude Larson, 1926-1928; Rev. Geo. Wigdahl, 1927-1937; Viola Stene, 1949-1950; Hulda Simenson, 1951-1955; Betty Ellingboe, 1955-1959; Ruth Harrington (Stadhem), 1957-1960; Shirley Skoglund (Flagstad), 1965-1967; Agnes Syltie, 1967-1968; Marian Herr, 1968-1970; Ardella Hjelle, 1970-1974; Susan Wolf, 1974-1978; Alice Waldow, 1978-1982; Lindsey Miller, 2015; JoAnn Spartz, 2015-2017; Jennifer Landon, 2018-2020.

Parish Secretaries

Mildred Christopherson, 1944-1948; Marlene Megard, 1948-1950; Carol Beglou, 1950; Violet Halse (Field), 1951-1953; Elvira Lee, 1953-1957; Helen Crandall Wareham, 1957-1958; Doris Shaha, 1958-1959; Ruby Hippe, 1959-1961; Marlys Muller, 1961-1970; Ardell Johnson, 1970-1974; Nancy Nehring, 1974-1975; Cindy Haug, 1975-1976; Deb Palucci, 1976-1979; Cindy Erickson, 1979-1980; Julie Jensen, 1978-1971; Buff Johnson, 1980-1997; Shirley Kumm, 81-83;  Linda Rakness, 1983-1987; Charlene Piehl, 1995-1997; Becky Leddy, 1997-1999; Elva Sigurdson, 2000-2003; Renee Ploof,2004 -2009; Mary Beth Lauricella, 2009-2012; Jody Norsworthy, 2012-2014; Kathy Kruiter, 2012-2020; Liz Dunn, 2014-2020; Will Rogers, 2021-20122; Breanna Hemiller, 2022-2023.


Syliva Lehman, Kaye Yackley, Lisa Goens, Bobbie Jenner, Kara Julius, Kalli Green, Dani Dobberpuhl, and Maia Brooks.


Mrs. E.C. Davey, Mrs. Cecil Tellekson, Mrs. Marie Bjornsrud, Mrs. Esther Mikkelson, Mrs. Lucille Billington Evenson, Mrs.s Art Henrikson, Velma Johnshoy, Doris Nelson, Blair Titze, Barb Kirkegaard, Gretchen Rogotzke, Angie Eickmeier, A.J. Sherrill, Mike Stusiak, Judy Everson, Marcia Jelsma, Isaac Montemeyer.

Custodians and Assistants

Ole Gesley, Ole Slostad, Ben Edwards, John Carlson, Rev H.A. Okdale, Rev. G.O. Wigdahl, Oscar Monson, Steve Johnson, Seymour Peterson, Simon Engels, Herb Englund, Arthur Vogt, Ray Ostrander, John Gonzalez, Merle Stark, Lew Fjerstad, Willie Redemske, Al Satter, Don Seim, Charles Schnackenberg, Judy Cordell, Jerry Urban, Judy Gilbertson, Chris Bensen, Myron Namken, Jerod Jordan, Elton Bresson, Dan Brekke, Rich Dunn.

Any additions of corrections should be emailed to Pastor Cheryl for future reference at: cherylgracelc@midconetwork.com Thank you!

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.