Eagle Archive: Founded 145 years ago, Grace Lutheran Church has roots in Gettysburg

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church is celebrating its 145th anniversary this weekend. The historic church, at 21 Carroll St., Westminster, was chartered Sept. 20-23, 1867, according to various accounts — including a history of Grace Lutheran published in 1967.

The history traces Lutheranism in Maryland back to the years 1747 and 1748, "when a small number of Lutherans and German Reformers met and held union services at member's homes. ... History relates nothing further of Lutheranism in Westminster (since those late 1740s references) until Nov. 14, 1842, when Rev. Philip Willard, Pastor of Manchester … organized a Lutheran congregation (in Westminster)."

At that time, church services were held in the West End School House. Then, "On May 9th, 1863, a call was extended to Rev. H.C. Holloway, then a student at the Gettysburg Theological Seminary. His salary was $500.00."

"On July 16th, a white canvas-covered spring wagon left Gettysburg" to bring Holloway to Westminster, according to current Grace Lutheran Pastor Kevin Clementson, who serves the church with his wife and partner, Pastor Martha Clementson.

Last Sunday, after church, Pastor Kevin observed that these historical events took place days before and after the Battle of Gettysburg, and all the destruction and tragedy that accompanied the battle which raged from Westminster to Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863.

On July 16, 1863, Westminster was administering to the dead and wounded, the prisoners of war, 10,000 mules, military equipment and munitions and all the accompanying devastation from the battle at Gettysburg.

"What a hopeful thing to do at a time of tribulation," noted Pastor Kevin.

"After two years of agitation and persistent effort in behalf of a fund to erect a church in Westminster, Rev. Holloway's efforts were rewarded," he said.

The cornerstone for the church was placed on Aug. 5, 1866. The church building was dedicated on Feb. 23, 1868, only to be destroyed 15 years later in the Great Westminster Fire of April 9, 1883. Replacing the church began almost immediately and was completed at a cost of $17,000.

In 1905, the steeple at Grace Church was lowered after being struck by lightning. (The second time lightning struck the steeple was when I joined the church Oct. 25, 1998.)

Grace Lutheran will celebrate its 145th anniversary at all four worship services this weekend. And from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, the church will have an open house and conduct tours of the historic church.

"In this day and age when so many congregations are struggling for survival, our congregation truly is blessed with many faithful members of all ages," said Pastor Martha Clementson, who urged guests to "please come and be part of the celebration."

The public is welcome to attend. Bring a friend. For more information, go to http://www.gracelc.org

When is he not hiding in one of the back pews in church with an old book on liturgical history, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com

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