Summer 2012

The Red Door Special Anniversary Edition Spring/Summer 2012 Missouri Synod’s Mother Church in Georgia Organized in 1922, Grace Lutheran Church is t...
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Red Door Special Anniversary Edition

Spring/Summer 2012

Missouri Synod’s Mother Church in Georgia Organized in 1922, Grace Lutheran Church is the oldest congregation of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod not only in Atlanta but also in the entire state of Georgia. For this reason, among Missouri Synod Lutherans Grace is sometimes affectionately called “the Mother Church.” In fact, the oldest Lutheran congregation in Georgia was founded over 150 years earlier, not in Atlanta but near Savannah. Under the direction of German baron Philip Georg Friedrich von Reck, a group of forty-six Lutherans arrived in Georgia in 1734, a year after James Oglethorpe founded the colony. The group of religious expatriates eventually settled in 1736 at a site they named New Ebenezer, located twenty miles northwest of Savannah. Over the next ten years, approximately 1,000 Lutherans from Salzburg came to Georgia. Jerusalem Lutheran Church was organized in Ebenezer in 1769 and is believed to be the oldest continuing congregation of any denomination in the state. Atlanta’s oldest Lutheran congregation is St. John’s Lutheran Church on Ponce de Leon Avenue, which was organized in 1869. With the urban boom in the late nineteenth and early twentieth

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centuries, the number of churches in Atlanta, Macon, Augusta and Savannah also increased rapidly. The boom brought Missouri Synod Lutherans to Atlanta. On March 23, 1922, a congregation of nine LCMS Lutherans met in the home of Mr. O.G. Herfurth at 62 Boulevard Terrace N.E. in Atlanta and officially organized Grace

Evangelical Lutheran Church. They organized for two stated purposes: “worshiping according to the dictates of our consciences and the spreading of God’s kingdom.” Ninety years later, Grace is still alive and well, showing few signs of age. Grace is also known as the mother church because of the initial impetus, financial support and people resources it provided for the founding of many

LCMS congregations in the region. Led by Rev. Theodore Ahrendt, Grace was involved to a greater or lesser extent in the formation of the following congregations: Trinity, Athens (1953); Ascension, Atlanta (1954); Faith, Marietta (1955); Peace, Decatur (1955); St. Michael, Doraville (1956); Atonement, Atlanta (1958); St. Mark, Tucker (1965); Holy Cross, Riverdale (1965); Zion, Newnan (1968); Rivercliff, Dunwoody (1968); Prince of Peace, Douglasville (1970); and Our Savior, Conyers (1973). Under the leadership of Rev. Tom King, a revitalized Grace provided the initial impetus to start new missions in Woodstock (Timothy, 1981); and Morrow (Lord of Life, 1981). By God’s design, no one comes to faith in Jesus Christ except by the Holy Spirit working through the church’s witness. The church is indeed the mother of all Christians. For Christians in the Atlanta area, Grace is a dear mother who, like all earthly mothers, deserves to be honored and cherished. What better way to honor Grace’s legacy than to reclaim the missionary vision for church planting in the twenty-first century?

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Building Grace When people hear the word “church” they often think of buildings, but when the Biblical writers use the word “church” they are referring to people. “Wherever two or three gather in my name, there I am among them,” Jesus once said (Matthew 18:20).

there was no shower, so Pastor Ahrendt, single at the time, would use the facilities at the local YMCA. In the 1930s, synodical mission executives visited Atlanta two times and recommended that Grace change locations, citing less than favorable prospects for development in the area around the church. Convinced by the recommendation, the congregation went to work to pay off the existing debt and started another building fund.

But God’s people have to gather somewhere, and we call our holy gathering places “churches.” The earliest churches met in homes, and it was the same for Grace Lutheran. Nine Lutheran Christians met in the home of Mr. O.G. Herfurth at 62 Boulevard Terrace N.E. in Atlanta and officially organized Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church. Ninety years later there is still an intimacy and warmth that comes with meeting as Christians in homes.

After World War II, the congregation decided to relocate to the north side of the city, and in 1946 Grace purchased three lots at the corner of North Highland and Bellevue. The architectural firm of Sayward, Logan and Williams submitted a proposal for a beautiful gothic-style sanctuary that would have extended west toward North Highland, but the plans were revised for the sake of affordability. The cornerstone was laid on February 27, 1949, and the building was dedicated on July 10.

Grace quickly outgrew individual homes, however, and began to hold worship services in North Avenue School while they made plans to build.

The post-war years were years of growth for American churches, and Grace was no exception. To accommodate the growth, Grace purchased the three lots adjacent to the property and built an education wing (the current bathrooms and Sunday school rooms). During this time , Sunday school attendance peaked at 15 teachers and 132 students. In 1961, two years after retiring the previous building debt, Grace added a new room for a kitchen (the current kitchen) and turned the old kitchen into office space. Air conditioning was installed in 1966.

In 1924 Grace purchased three lots in the Grant Park neighborhood on the corners of Cherokee and Vanira

During the 1970s, membership at Grace declined, due in part to the growing number of new LCMS congregations in the Atlanta area, as well as changing demographics around the church. In 1983 the congregation conducted a study to determine whether to move to another location, disband or attempt to revitalize. Happily, the congregation decided to stay at the current location.

Avenues for $1,500, and on May 29, 1927 they dedicated a new frame structure which cost $5,000 to build and had a seating capacity of 125. It was a humble dwelling. Those who are old enough to remember the building talk about how worshipers had “to go down [into a ditch], across a bridge and then go back up to get to the front door.” The building’s basement also served as a parsonage, but

Part of the revitalization would require a major renovation of the facilities. So, a loan was obtained, the Florida-Georgia District subsidized the congregation,

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and major renovations started in 1985 and finished in March 1986. (The layout of the church as it exists today is a result of that renovation.) A smaller renovation to expand the parking lot (the current back parking lot) and create a playground was completed one year later. The playground was renovated again in 2003.

While buildings are not the church, buildings serve the mission of the church. Many chapters of the Old Testament consist of instructions for building places for God’s people to worship. Today, God’s people have freedom to build according to the needs of the church’s mission, but sound principles should inform our church building projects, such as beauty, meaning, quality, endurance, functionality and good stewardship.

In October 2006 the congregation took out a Lutheran Church Extension Fund loan to purchase a triplex in the neighborhood of the church to serve as a parsonage. The triplex was converted into a singlefamily home in 2007 and is now a comfortable home near the church for the pastor and his family.

We give thanks for the buildings that the people of Grace have handed down to us for the Lord’s use and for all the hard work and financial resources these buildings represent. As we continue to care for the property entrusted to us and improve it, we pray it would continue to be used by God to build his church on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).

Most recently, the congregation has been busy with major capital improvements to the church properties, including new roofs for the church and parsonage, exterior paint and repairs for the church, and new HVAC systems for the church. Plans are being made for an interior renovation as well.

The Missouri Synod Grace is a member of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Here’s some helpful information about the Missouri Synod taken from the synodical website: The roots of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod run deep, tracing back to 1847 when Saxon and other German immigrants established a new church body in America, seeking the freedom to practice and follow confessional Lutheranism. Initial members, which included 12 pastors representing 14 congregations from Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, New York and Ohio, signed the church body’s constitution on April 26, 1847, at First Saint Paul Lutheran Church in Chicago, Ill. Originally named The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States, the name was shortened to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in 1947 on the occasion of our 100th anniversary. The word “Synod” in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod comes from Greek words that mean "walking together." The term has rich meaning in our church body, because congregations voluntarily choose to belong to the Synod. Though diverse in their service, our congregations hold to a shared confession of Jesus Christ as taught in Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. Today, the LCMS has more than 2.3 million baptized members in some 6,200 congregations and more than 9,000 pastors. Two seminaries and 10 colleges and universities operate under the auspices of the LCMS, and its congregations operate the largest Protestant parochial school system in America. The church broadcasts the saving message of Jesus Christ over KFUO Radio, and it has relationships and active mission work in nearly 90 countries around the world. In the last five years, the LCMS has awarded more than $35 million through more than 900 domestic and international grants for emergency response and disaster response. Today, the LCMS is in full doctrinal fellowship with 33 other confessional Lutheran church bodies worldwide.

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Grace Pastors system that kept track of its people during the war years, and which won the hearty approval of our country’s government.… Also, both the Synod and the U.S. Government requested me to conduct services and aid to German war prisoners who were captured by our armed forces and sent to various localities in the south…

Over the ninety years of its existence, nine pastors have been called to serve Grace Lutheran. Here are their names and the years they served: 1923-29 1930-69 1970-76 1978 1980-85 1985-1988 1989-1992 1994-1999 2002-present

Rev. C.F. Broders Rev. Theodore Ahrendt Rev. Roy Craig, Jr. Rev. Donald Kasischke Rev. Tom King Rev. Larry Raudebaugh Rev. David Raetz Rev. Jack Bauer Rev. Andrew Fields

The war also gave yours truly an opportunity to establish prospective missions in Macon, Columbus, Rome, Athens and Marietta. We usually borrowed the Episcopal Church for the services, and my faithful wife, Martha, played the organ. Once the local rector asked her, “Do you preach, too?” She responded, “No, I leave that to Ted on Sunday, but I do it during the rest of the week.”

In addition, several pastors have served faithfully in an interim capacity between regular calls, including Rev. Marty Platzer and Rev. James Brooks.

When the war was over we could relocate and build, moving to several lots on North Highland Avenue and Bellevue Drive. It was a great celebration.… The church continued to be blessed and grow, at times having three choirs. The post-war years displayed a wonderful spirit of love.

Pastor Ted Ahrendt deserves special mention. He served Grace faithfully for thirty-nine years, nearly his entire career in the ministry. The following excerpt is taken from Ahrendt’s book High Cotton for a Georgia Preacher, which summarizes Pastor Ahrendt’s ministry at Grace in his own words:

From 1950 to 1957 the Southern District of the Missouri Synod honored me in the appointment [to] Counselor for the North Alabama and Georgia Circuit…. Later I also served briefly on the Board of Directors of the District and Chairman of the Gulf States Pastoral Conference. When our congregation joined the Florida-Georgia District in 1958 it was also my honor to serve on the Board of Directors of that district, as well as be elected variously as third, second and first vice-president.

I came to Atlanta in 1930 and saw a wooden church set on brick pillars in a dirt hole on Cherokee Avenue, S.E., near Grant Park. When a fellow clergyman saw the site a few years later he took off his hat and threw it emphatically down in the front of the edifice and cried out, “Is this the church of the Missouri Synod in Atlanta?” As for myself, I was amazed as he but secretly thought, “Surely something can be done to uphold the honor of this synod of Lutheranism in the southeast!” When a few years passed, the Synod’s executive secretary of missions in the U.S., Dr. Fred C. Streufert, certainly agreed… that a relocation was necessary if the church was to progress in this area. But what could be done? The thirties were depression years, and the Missouri Synod was not only broke but heavily in debt.

The foregoing may be called a thumbnail sketch of my activities for God and country which created my joy in the Kingdom. On the 90th anniversary of Grace, we give hearty thanks to God for all the under-shepherds of the Good Shepherd, who have faithfully preached the Word, administered the Sacraments, cared for God’s people and led them in mission to seek and save the lost.

Despite obstacles the congregation grew…. In certain respects World War II was a bonanza to our small flock of some 70 communicants and about 100 souls. Atlanta was very active in the war effort, particularly with the General Motors plant being converted to munitions and the Bell bomber plant producing planes. It brought Lutherans from the north to Atlanta… So the church grew. It was impossible for the church to relocate in the economy of war, but this did not discourage the brave Atlanta congregation. It opened hearts and lives to the men and women stationed in the area…. I, as pastor, became Contact Key Representative for the synodical Armed Services Commission, a unique denominational

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Grace Walther Leaguers In May of 1893 the Walther League was organized in Buffalo, New York. Named for C. F. W. Walther, the first president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the youth league emphasized worship, education, service, recreation, and fellowship among young people of Missouri Synod congregations. In the early part of the 20th century, many Lutheran high school and college students were members of this grassroots auxiliary.

The Walther League was also an effective way to bring Lutheran young people together. Many Lutherans of the Builder Generation met their future spouses at Walther League functions. It was also a good way to give young Lutherans responsibility and leadership experience in the church, thereby preparing the next generation of churchmen and women. By the 1960s the Walther League was losing its influence and membership declined. In 1967-1968 much of the administrative functions of the Walther League were transferred to the Syndical Board for Youth Ministry. In 1977 the Lutheran Walther League closed its office. In recent years, Grace has been blessed with a new generation of children. It is not too soon to ask how Grace might help provide this rising group of Christian youths with opportunities for learning, leadership, fellowship, and service in the church.

In November 1940 a chapter of the Walther League was organized at Grace, with 17 seniors and eight juniors. All confirmed members of Grace were eligible for membership; dues were 50 cents a month. The chapter also had elected officers. Through the years this small group of young people gave an enormous amount time and effort in service to and for the church. They raised money to give to charitable organizations and the church. They also participated in many work parties to help build Camp Lutherwood on Lake Allatoona. They would remember pastors, Christian workers and missionaries in foreign countries with cards and gifts. They organized clothing and food drives for war-torn Europe. Locally the Walther Leaguers promoted Lutheranism in Atlanta, distributing Lutheran books and booklets to the Atlanta Library, prisoner-of-war camps, military hospitals, and the USO.

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Grace Lutheran Church Timeline 30s

Congregation organized; Rev. C.F. Broders called as Grace’s first pastor; Grace becomes member of the Missouri Synod; purchases three lots at intersection of Cherokee and Vanira Avenues near Grant Park and moves into its first building; the Lydia Guild, Grace’s first women’s society, is organized.

Rev. Theodore G. Ahrendt begins to serve as pastor; first Sunday school Rally Day & VBS are held; men’s club and young people’s society organized; new constitution adopted; congregation investigates relocation.


“Fifty Years In Grace” is celebrated, LCMS President J.A.O. Preus preaches at anniversary service; Sunday school attendance drops with the transfer of communicants to new suburban LCMS churches; congregation holds discussions over synodical controversy; Rev. Roy Craig accepts call to Florida, Rex Hussman, Donald Kasischke, and Martin Platzer serve as vacancy pastors; Atlanta Day Spring School leases church facilities; membership continues to decline, but self-study indicates there is still a viable ministry for Grace in the VirginiaHighland neighborhood; Grace begins to receive mission subsidy from FloridaGeorgia District.

80s Rev. D Thomas King installed in 1980; Lutheran Book of Worship dedicated; church enjoys a period of renewal and revitalization, with increase in membership, worship and Bible study attendance, reorganization of choirs and societies, etc.; church facilities undergo major renovation; Rev. Larry Raudebaugh installed in 1985; Christmas tree sale is started; “Crossways” study a big success; Rev. David Raetz installed in 1989.

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Christ East Point, the second LCMS church in Atlanta, is established; Camp Lutherwood (on Lake Allatoona) is acquired and developed; an education wing is added; Sunday school attendance peaks at 132 students; LWML chapter started; congregation becomes a member of the new Florida-Georgia District; church property debt retired.

Walther League, junior and senior choirs, couples club organized; The Lutheran Hymnal is dedicated; WW II service men are welcomed; first Lutheran Hour broadcast received in Atlanta; congregation purchases new church site on North Highland & Bellevue; cornerstone is laid and new building dedicated.



Kitchen addition; Pastor Ahrendt retires after 39 years of service (see article for more information); constitutional revision grants women the franchise and the right to hold any congregational office except pastor or elder; Reverend Roy D. Craig is installed as pastor.


Rev. Jack Bauer installed in 1993; Social Ministry Committee, women’s Circle of Concern remain active; congregation raises apx. $75,000 to support Ripko family during Chuck’s battle with cancer; new organ purchased for sanctuary; Grace hosts LCMS National Youth Gathering communion service; Grace opens facilities to community support groups; Rev. Jim Brooks begins in 1999 as interim pastor after Pastor Bauer’s retirement.

Outreach to Chinese people results in conversions & baptisms, Christian nurture & fellowship; Rev. Andrew Fields installed in 2002; Christmas tree sale restarts; after thirty years of mission subsidy, Grace becomes financially self-supporting; sanctuary improvements include Lutheran Worship, quilted banners, Yamaha piano and new communion ware; 2006 purchase and interior renovation of parsonage home on Marstevan Drive; First Fridays foster fellowship and friendship; Pastor and Heidi participate in Pastoral Leadership Institute; youth confirmations (first in several decades); spring yard sales promote good stewardship; publication of The Red Door; Grace supports Stepping Stone Mission, a Lutheran outreach to Atlanta homeless; Sunday worship & education attendance doubles; major capital improvements include church roof, exterior paint; Grace celebrates 90 year anniversary.

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The Story of Our Christmas Trees In the years 1985 and 1986, the members of Grace Lutheran Church undertook a self-study as to whether they should (a) disband, (b) relocate or (c) renovate completely and then become visible in the community. They chose to proceed with the renovation and did a beautiful job. In the summer of 1987, they were ready to go ahead with the second phase—to become a visible entity in the community. One of the elders, Mr. Chris Noah, suggested selling Christmas trees and using the proceeds to minister to the homeless and needy in our community. This idea was immediately implemented and was a complete success. Grace sold 265 trees and netted $3,011.68. Over $400 was added to the above sum from contributions made on a card tree. The proceeds were budgeted to feed the homeless at Redeemer Lutheran Church; to make health kits for the Georgia Nurses Foundation homeless clinics; bus tokens for Emergency Relief at Christian Council; to assist the Druid Hills Churches Community Center; and to help the night shelter at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. The sale grew. The next year $5,480 was cleared. In 1989 Grace earned $6,680; in 1990 they earned $6,888; in 1991, they earned $7,600; and in 1992 they totaled $7,340.75. The Lutheran Food Ministry at Redeemer almost always got $2,000 off the top. In 1990 Jerusalem House received $2,300 toward renovating its home for AIDS patients. Other important projects were assisted, too. Instead of that cold stone church on the hill, Grace had become known as the little church on the hill doing so much for the community.

they earned $7,600; and in 1992 they totaled $7,340.75. The Lutheran Food Ministry at Redeemer almost always got $2,000 off the top. In 1990 Jerusalem House received $2,300 toward renovating its home for AIDS patients. Other important projects were assisted, too. Instead of that cold stone church on the hill, Grace had become known as the little church on the hill doing so much for the community.

The sale continued each year until 2001 when, for lack of manpower, Grace could no longer make it work. However, in 2003 the council resurrected the sale. It has been going strong ever since thanks to a very loyal customer base and despite increased competition and usage of artificial trees.

The sale continued each year until 2001 when, for lack of manpower, Grace could no longer make it work. However, in 2003 the council resurrected the sale. It has been going strong ever since thanks to a very loyal customer base and despite increased competition and usage of artificial trees.

Over the twenty-four-year history of the sale, Grace has raised nearly $140,000 for local charities, a portion of which has come via matching funds from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. In recent years the proceeds have gone to support Lutheran Services of Georgia, Intown Collaborative Ministries and Stepping Stone Mission.

Over the twenty-four-year history of the sale, Grace has raised nearly $140,000 for local charities, a portion of which has come via matching funds from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. In recent years the proceeds have gone to support Lutheran Services of Georgia, Intown Collaborative Ministries and Stepping Stone Mission.

The Christmas tree sale continues to be one of Grace’s signature events in the community. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun, too. It is certainly a great way to enjoy the spirit of Christmas together as a congregation and a great way to reconnect with our neighbors. We do it all remembering the words of our Lord: “Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, my brothers, you have done it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

The Christmas tree sale continues to be one of Grace’s signature events in the community. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun, too. It is certainly a great way to enjoy the spirit of Christmas together as a congregation and a great way to reconnect with our neighbors. We do it all remembering the words of our Lord: “Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, my brothers, you have done it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

The sale grew. The next year $5,480 was cleared. In 1989 Grace earned $6,680; in 1990 they earned $6,888; in 1991,

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Interview with Lucien Lane Christ isn't proclaimed very much here. When Grace got down to just fifteen members in the mid-1990s, the board of elders still felt very strongly that our neighborhood needed at least one place where people could come to hear the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ proclaimed every Sunday and that that’s why we were here and needed to continue to be here. We used to call ourselves "the hope on the hilltop”!

Ninety percent of the current membership of Grace has joined within the last ten years. However, Grace still has a handful of beloved members whose memory of Grace extends back into the twentieth century. The Red Door sat down with one of those members, Lucien Lane, and asked him to comment on his experiences at Grace over the years.

How long have you been a member at Grace?

Thirty years, almost to the day. I joined the church in April 1982.

How has Grace been a blessing to you over the years?

We just finished studying the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Sunday morning adult Bible Study. In this book, Solomon tries to answer the critical question: "What is the meaning of life?" The Bible teaches that we find the meaning of life in Jesus Christ. If we miss the meaning of life, our lives end up being an eternal waste. So, there are the two stark life choices for a person to consider: a meaningless, wasted life and then eternal death, or faith in Jesus Christ, which leads to a meaningful life now and for eternity. Grace Lutheran Church gives me the latter. This of course is a great blessing.

In what capacities have you served at Grace?

I’ve done just about everything but serve as the treasurer. I’ve been a trustee, head of the board of trustees, elder, head elder, adult Bible study teacher, and president. I am currently a counter and an usher.

What led you to Grace?

Two things. One was its close proximity to where we lived at the time on Highland View; Two, and more importantly, after visiting several churches in the area, I found Grace to be the only one preaching Jesus Christ clearly and consistently. I was a recent convert, and I wanted nothing more than to hear of Jesus Christ. You’ve been here thirty years now. How has Grace changed over the time you’ve been here? How has it stayed the same? Grace used to be what you might call an "old people's congregation.” A congregation that consists only of members of the older generation often tends to be a dying congregation. Today, there are many more young people at Grace. I joke (with some seriousness) that before Pastor Fields, I was about the youngest person in the congregation. Now, thankfully I'm one of the oldest. At almost 65 years of age, that's the way it's supposed to be, at least for a congregation which hopes to have a long-term future. Grace has always taught and proclaimed Jesus Christ. We've had some good pastors, and we’ve had some who struggled. But they all taught and proclaimed Jesus Christ as Lord. Several times during its history Grace nearly closed its doors. You were here during one of those times. When was that? What led to the decision to keep the doors open? As much as I really like the Virginia-Highlands / Morningside neighborhood (I have lived 19 years in Virginia-Highlands and have now been in Morningside for eleven years), unfortunately, the lordship of Jesus

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Women of Grace During the last week of his earthly life, Jesus defends and praises a woman who anoints him with costly perfume, saying, “She did what she could” (Mark 14:8). Over the ninety years of Grace’s history, the women of the congregation have likewise done what they could for the Lord and have found that they could do more and have more fun while doing it together. In 1923, only one year after Grace was founded, the women of Grace organized their first auxiliary society. They called themselves the Lydia Guild, named after a wealthy businesswoman in Philippi who became a Christian as a result of Paul’s missionary activity in the city, and whose hospitality may have provided a home for the Philippian church (see Acts 16:11-15). Following World War II, the women renamed themselves the Dorcas Guild after the woman in Acts 9 who was known for her good works and acts of charity (Acts 9:36-43). A handbook of the Dorcas Guild from 1957 (found in the attic of the church) states the aims and purposes for the organization: to foster Christian fellowship, to do systematic church and charity work, and to do mission work. The working objectives of the guild were many and various, including welfare (the investigation and aid of needy women in the congregation); kitchen management; a greeting card ministry; visitation (new and prospective members of the society); special project planning; guild program planning and scheduling; altar care; and nursery care. The society met monthly and had its own constitution and bylaws, officers, a budget, dues and participation in regular fundraisers to provide ways and means for the guild to do its work. The organizational structure was essential in allowing them to operate as one body, doing work for the Lord together. In the 1950s, an evening division of the guild was organized for mothers of young children and for working women who were not able to meet in the daytime. They organized themselves for the same purposes and called themselves the

Ruth Guild. They disbanded in 1962, but then in the early 1970s working women of the congregation reorganized another evening group called The Starlight Guild. The mission activity of the women of Grace was helped when in 1956 they formed a chapter of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) at Grace. The guilds and the LWML chapter were not mutually exclusive; many of the women were members of both. The LWML encouraged women to collect their mites in mite boxes (Mark 12:41-44). These small contributions were combined to do big things together with other Lutheran women. Since 1942, the grand total of LWML national and district gifts for grants and inreach to women is over $125 million. In keeping with the 1969 convention resolution of the Missouri Synod to grant women’s suffrage and board membership, Grace revised its constitution to allow women to vote and hold congregational offices. With the exception of pastor and elder, women have served ably in every elected and appointed office of the church, including congregational president. Grace experienced a sharp decline in membership during the late 1970s, and with the decline organized guild and LWML activity also began to wane. In the eighties and nineties the Circle of Concern was organized to help the women of Grace accomplish the important work of Christian care and concern within the congregation and beyond. In the last decade, the women of Grace have continued to play vital roles in the life and mission of the congregation. Many individual women of Grace have done what they could and even more for the Lord and his church, contributing generously of their time, talent and treasure. With the recent increase in membership at Grace, it may be time for the women of Grace to revisit the possibility of organizing, that they might be enabled to do what they can for the Lord together.

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The Red Door sat down with Pastor Fields and asked him to reflect back on his ten-year tenure at Grace.

How did you come to Grace?

Heidi, Mark and I came to Grace in August 2002. I was fresh out of the seminary. Grace had decided to take a chance on a seminarian with little previous pastoral experience. Gerhard Michael, President of the FloridaGeorgia District at the time, took Heidi and me out to eat during the call process and shared with us some of the exciting things happening at Grace, including the Chinese ministry and the Concordia House of Studies. It seemed like a good fit for us.

What was Grace like when you came in 2002?

I remember my installation service very well. It was on a very hot Saturday afternoon in August. Heidi’s dad preached. There were more area Lutheran pastors who came for the service than there were people in the pews. Eddy Piedra, a young elder who quickly became a very good friend, carried the processional cross, and Jan played the organ. Sunday morning worship attendance averaged around thirty, so we had room to grow. But the people who came were faithful and cheerful. Bev Raymond did breakfast every Sunday. And she was the treasurer, too! Lucien taught a class on Matthew on Sunday mornings, which lasted a couple years. On Sunday afternoons Jim & Shirley Liang and I would host a Chinese ministry, so it was always a full Sunday. From the very beginning, Grace has been very generous with us. The congregation counted my years of volunteer missionary experience in Taiwan when locating me on the pay scale, and they even loaned us a 20% down payment for our first home in Tucker. It was much more than we deserved. I remember the first council—Dale Raymond was the head elder, Karl Koppe was the head trustee, Al Drescher was the president. All of them are members of the church triumphant now. One of our first projects was to build a new playground with money given in memory of Chet Kramer.

What have been some of the highlights of your ministry at Grace?

Baptisms, especially the baptisms of Joanna, Elizabeth and Timothy, and the adult baptisms—I think of Cai Wen, James Smith, Jill Martin, Auburn Rea and John Call; teaching the Lutheran information class; Easter preaching and worship; participation in Pastoral Leadership Institute; the Christmas tree sale; confirmations; First Friday fellowship; watching as people grow in their faith and their love for the Lord and their commitment to his church; the friendships.

How is Grace different ten years later?

The membership has roughly doubled and is younger than it was ten years ago. I’d guess the average age is somewhere around thirty. There are more kids and more young adults. Roughly half of the current congregation did not grow up Lutheran, which compared to 90 years ago is a very big change. Significantly, around 90% of the current congregation was not here ten years ago; a lot of good people have moved away (it has been hard to see good people go) but the Lord has sent us a lot of new people, too. There has always been a lot of transition at Grace. It seems like a new congregation every few years. I attribute that mostly to the mobility of our society, especially in our neighborhood. Despite the ongoing changes, Grace feels more like a congregation today; ten years ago it seemed more like a weekly gathering of individuals. When people ask me about Grace, I tell them that it is a great group of people. I am most proud of the things that the members do out in the world, beyond the walls of the church, in their vocations. I hope that what we do at Grace equips and empowers them to be Christians in their daily lives.

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Grace in Mission In the original articles of incorporation, the members of Grace formed for two express purposes: worship and mission. Below is a list of missions Grace has been involved with over its 90 year history. Each mission is bracketed by the cross of our Lord. For His sake our missionary labor, however small, is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). + layettes made for babies in war-stricken Europe + Bethlehem orphan asylum + adopted German orphan for a year + grocery assistance for needy families + Sunday school literature to Mexican mission + food and clothes for post-war Europe +Lutheran Hour + Valparaiso University + March of Dimes + CPH + Stamps for Missions + Battey Hospital, Rome GA + get well cards to sick+ Wheat Ridge Ministries + School for the Deaf, New York City + Old Ladies Home in West Atlanta + Post- war Japanese Youth Fund + Southern District Chapel Fund + Lutheran World Relief + Cerebral Palsy School + Walther League Camp, Knoxville + support for servicemen and families + LWML Mites + Indigent Student Fund + Conquest for Christ + AV support for Rev. Missionary Lange + Vicksburg Hospital + Bethesda Home + Alabama Colored Lutheran Academy + China missions + Sylacauga Mission + Redeemer Lutheran Church, Harriman TN + Dimes for Mercy + Christian Radio Broadcast, Manaus Brazil + development of Camp Lutherwood on Lake Allatoona + American Bible Society + East Point Mission Congregation + Gulf Coast District + This Is The Life + Institute Americano Concordia, Mexico City + American

Red Cross + New Guinea Hospital + India Mission +

Peach State Sunday School Institute + Nigeria Mission

+ Hong Kong Tuberculosis Mission + Dekalb County

Welfare + Christian Vocation Fund + catechisms for

adult education + Lutheran Service Volunteer School +

Vacation Bible School + Department of Public Welfare,

Children’s Division + Lutheran World Relief + Doraville

Mission + God’s Bank (for future parochial school) +

Lutheran Deaconess Association + Slavia Lutheran

Home + Lutheran Mission to France + Thanksgiving

and Christmas baskets for needy + hymnals for Lutheran

church in Montreal + chapel in Tema, West Africa +

Transceiver for Lutheran outpost in New Guinea +

School Lunch Program + Metropolitan Atlanta Mental

Health Association + Mrs. Stacey Smith Home of

Atlanta for Retarded Children + YMCA + Girl’s Club

in Grant Park + Amais House + Vietnam care packages

+ Christian Council + F.W. Slaton School + Union

Mission, Women’s Division + Carey Steele Pitts Home +

Grace Scholarship Fund + St. John’s Lutheran Church,

Atlanta + Jamaican tee shirt fund + Jamaica Mission

Trip + Morningside Presbyterian Samaritan Home for

Elderly Women + Lutheran Services of Georgia Refugee

Resettlement + Redeemer Lutheran Soup Kitchen +

Druid Hills Center + Mexico Mission, Mexico City +

Lutheran Food Ministry + Nurses Foundation Clinic

for the Homeless + Concordia Theological Seminary,

Ft. Wayne + Our House (Decatur daycare for homeless

children) + Atlanta Union Mission + St. Bartholomew’s

Family Shelter + Midwest flood relief + Lutheran

Services of Georgia Literacy Coalition + Red Door Café

+ Mountain View Nursing Home + Mental Retardation

Center + Pacific Lutheran earthquake relief + Navajo

Indian Mission + Kurdistan refugee aid + Hunger Walk + Grady Hospital children’s Easter baskets + Inner City Youth Program + Atlanta Hospitality House + St. Joseph Mobile Van + Flag Day Missions to Military Families + Issues Etc. + LCMS Human Care Ministries + Intown Community Assistance + Partnership Against Domestic Violence + The Gideons International + Haven House Hospice + Souper Bowl Lutheran Community Food Ministry + Columbia Place (Peace Lutheran, Decatur) + Aid Atlanta + Prison Ministry for Women + Jerusalem House + Chuck Ripko Fund + Atlanta Care Crisis Pregnancy Center + Atlanta Interfaith AIDS Network + Concordia Gospel Outreach + Dakota Boys Ranch + Interfaith Airport Chaplaincy + Lutheran Braille Workers + LCMS World Relief + Open Door Community + Interfaith Outreach Home + Atlanta Community Food Bank + Concordia House of Studies + LCMS World Mission + Tom & Debi Going, LCMS Missionaries in Indonesia + North Atlanta Circuit Outreach Council + Lutheran Institute for Southeast Asia + East Africa Drought Relief + LWR Baskets of Promise + Silesian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession + Pastoral Leadership Institute + West Georgia Ministries + St. Jude’s Hospital + Mark and Sandi Eisold, LCMS missionaries in Peru + LSG Refugee Resettlement + Concordia Seminary Adopt-A-Student Program + Intown Collaborative Ministries + Stepping Stone Mission +

Grace Lutheran Church

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1155 N Highland Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30306-3453

(404) 875-5411

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