The story of Grace Lutheran Church begins in the years following World War II. First Lutheran Church (Albert Lea), with a membership of 5,000 people, decided that the satellite Sunday School which they had been conducting in Northside School might be a good springboard for the start of a new congregation. They called Rev. A.R. Herbert Johnson to join their staff, and charged him with beginning a new mission church on the north side of Albert Lea.
On November 17, 1946 Pastor Johnson conducted the first services in the basement of Security State Bank. The church was then organized and officially begun on Easter Sunday, April 13, 1947. That morning they met at First Lutheran, and after a brief service there, marched across town to Security Bank and began the new Grace Lutheran Church with 439 members.
Within two months, they had outgrown the space at the bank and moved to the gymnasium at Northside School. Soon plans were made for a new building of their own, and on November 16, 1947 they dedicated a new Quonset building at the present location of Grace. The church was now one year old, but with over 1,000 members the Quonset also became too small. On October 24, 1954, the first worship services were held in the new church building, designed by architect LeRoy Gaarder. The Albert Lea-based architect designed many churches in the area, including Salem Lutheran, First Presbyterian, and Zion Lutheran (all in Albert Lea), Queen of Angels (Austin) and Trinity Lutheran (Owatonna).
The years that followed saw the continued growth of the congregation, and the development of new ministries. A lightning strike in August 1966 caused a fire impacting the offices, balcony, and classrooms. Members of the congregation were able to rescue pews, alter vessels, and furniture while firefighters fought the blaze. In 1971 a new Schlicker pipe organ was installed. In 1977 the women of Grace began an annual Salad Luncheon which continues to this day. In 1982, after receiving a gift of 160 acres of farmland from a member, the Grace Foundation was formed to support special ministries and provide scholarships for students. Since the early 1990’s the congregation has joined in the ministry of a sister congregation, St. Catherine’s, in Valka Latvia, as well as supporting Novosaratovka Lutheran seminary located near St. Petersburg, Russia.
For over six decades, God has used the people and ministries of this congregation to touch the lives of thousands of people here and around the world with the good news of Christ’s love. Today, our mission statement is “Bringing people together and becoming disciples for Christ!” We invite you to come and experience Grace, and see how God is inviting you into a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ!
History adapted from “History of Grace Lutheran Church” written by Pastor Milton Ost, previously published in “Stone Theologians: The Story Behind the Stones of Grace,” 2002.