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Celebrating Grace Lutheran Church's growth and history in Westminster

This Sunday, Grace Lutheran Church will celebrate the recent extensive renovations to its historic 1884 sanctuary with a rededication service at 3 p.m.

As has been reported in past columns, the historic church at 21 Carroll St. in Westminster was chartered Sept. 20 to 23, 1867. But the church's connections to Carroll County, especially Westminster, extends much further back than the years shortly after the Civil War.

To find the early beginnings of the church and Lutheranism in Maryland "we must refer back to the years 1747 and 1748," according to a history published by the church.

According to research for the Historical Society of Carroll County by historian Mary Ann Ashcraft, "After building unpretentious log structures when they first arrived, the congregations began erecting attractive brick churches in the early nineteenth century."

On Nov. 14, 1842, the Rev. Philip Willard, Pastor of Manchester formally organized a Lutheran congregation in Westminster, according to the church history.

At this 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."

The church history further notes that "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 …" when the cornerstone for the church was placed on Aug. 5, 1866."

After setbacks, trials and tribulations, the church building was dedicated on Feb. 23, 1868. Its existence was short-lived, however, as it was destroyed in the Great Westminster Fire on April 9, 1883.

Replacing the church began almost immediately and was completed in 1884 at a cost of $17,000.

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

According to research by past church Council President Karen Ganjon, a "period of 'The Great Renovation,' in the history of Grace Lutheran Church occurred during the pastorate of The Rev. John Rupley who served between July 1, 1920 and September 24, 1929. The interior of the nave was drastically altered … The amount of activity reported could be a reflection of the boom of the 1920s."

On July 30, 2006, the church dedicated a 16,000-square-foot addition to the church. The extensive addition and renovations to the church came after much discussion and debate. The congregation had initially voted to leave downtown Westminster and move outside of town.

The current renovations reaffirm the church's commitment to Westminster — and was, in part, initiated by the husband and wife team of Pastors Martha and Kevin Clementson, who have led the congregation since December 2007.

The rededication service on Sept. 14 will be officiated by the Rev. Wolfgang Herz-Lane, bishop of the Delaware-Maryland Synod.

"Please come and be part of the celebration," said Pastor Martha.

The public is welcome to attend the anniversary services and open house. For more information, go to

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