125 Years of Grace
The history of Grace Church reaches back to Lutheran groups that were formed in Green County by the Synod of Northern Illinois. As early as 1859, a group of Lutherans formed the Richland Lutheran Church in Jefferson Township, about three miles east of Monroe. The group dissolved in 1890 when the church building was moved to Monroe to become the first home for Grace Church. Two congregations, Twin Grove and Clarno, formed part of the three-point parish for many years, of which Grace Church participated. Salem Lutheran Church gathered together in 1868 at Shueyville, one-half mile east of Clarno, and erected a building in that year that was used until the congregation disbanded in 1938. Salem Church in its earliest years shared the building with the Reformed Congregation until the Reformed Church eventually died off at the turn of the century.
One of the outstanding events of the era were the evangelistic efforts conducted by the Rev. F. “Grandpa” Bright, who reorganized and strengthened the area Lutherans in 1904. Many of our members became part of the fellowship during that time.
The Twin Grove Lutheran Church began in 1873 with the erection of their church building in 1877. The members were closely related to the Oakley Union Church, in which both Lutherans and Reformed congregations co-operate.
In 1874 the Oakley Lutheran congregation joined the Rock Grove parish in a re-alignment of the three churches. The Twin Grove parish functioned until the 1930s. 
On March 10, 1890 a group of Lutherans met in the home of Mr. Peter Lichtenwalner to talk about starting a Lutheran Church in Monroe. By the next week the congregation was officially organized with 36 persons signing the charter.
Differences between the Pastor and the Synod created many problems, and for a while the controversy caused the church to be called the “Dead Church” by the community. The congregation at that time had taken the name of the Pilgrim’s Home Evangelical Lutheran Church. In May, 1892, there were 23 members, with a new pastor to lead the congregation. In 1894 the church building, which was the Richland Lutheran Church, was moved from 9th Street and 20th Avenue to its present location. In 1896 the congregation took the name of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church. In 1898 there were 63 listed members.
By 1905 the church had become self-supporting and was removed from the status of a mission congregation.
During the early years of the history of the congregation, most of the meetings of the council were taken up with issues such as  buying wood in the fall and raising money for the pastor’s salary. A motion picture shown in the church in 1908 netted $17. The trustees were responsible for mowing the church lawn. During this time of horse and buggy, it was not unusual for the pastor to walk the railroad tracks to Clarno over the packed snow, to preach on alternate Sunday afternoons. The pastor then would stay overnight. Rev. Hartman is remembered by some for his bedtime stories from those days.
The church building was moved in 1910 to make room for the parsonage, which was constructed for the cost of $4,365.86. The parsonage remained in use until the 1960s when it was torn down to allow for the construction of an addition that housed Sunday School rooms and offices.
During 1917 a congregational meeting was called to accept plans for remodeling the church. This was turned down, and instead plans were made for a new church building.  A year later the envelope system was started and they began an every member canvass to raise funds.
It was voted to accept the plans for a new church during the year of 1919, and work was begun in the fall. It was finally completed in 1920 and a formal dedication was made in December of that year. Total cost including organ, speakers, pews, folding chairs, light fixtures, and architect fees was $29,077.95. At the time of the dedication, there were pledges totaling $19,278.14; the remainder was to be raised through bank notes and cash on hand. But in 1921 the council had to borrow $4,000 to pay operating bills. The building committee turned in their last report in July, showing that $6,600 was still due on the new church building.
In September of 1921 Rev. Gunderman resigned as Pastor and the Rev. A.A. Hahn began as new Pastor on January 1, 1922. He resigned eight months later on September 10th. Rev. George Beiswanger came in October 1923. The congregation paid the building off in the fall of 1922, and they purchased a car for the pastor to use in serving the three congregations. The cost of the car was $655, which also included the cost of the license. In 1922 there were 205 pupils, an all-time high attendance, which was not reached again until the 1950s.
The church had a stand at the Green County Fair to raise money and records of 1925 showed the stand netted $850. That year, a garage for the car was added to the church building.
Consideration was made in 1926 to purchase the property to the west of the church for the sum of $6,000, but the matter was dropped. This property was finally purchased in 1956 at a cost of $13,000.
A new pipe organ was purchased for $4,300 in 1930 and special recitals were given. During the preceding years, pianos and 50 song books had been purchased. Trouble was had in maintaining a regular choir director. Sunday evening services were not well attended,  and not even held during the summer months. Rev. Beiswanger left in 1931 and Rev. Carl Walter came in September as the new pastor. A picture of Christ “Come Unto Me” was painted for the congregation by Dr. Guy Shewman during that year.
During the depression the church was in debt most of the time. The pastor was not always paid in full every month, and the Ladies Aid paid the organist’s salary. During the depression it was voted not to have a janitor or pay benevolences. The pastor’s salary amounted to $100 per month. Dr. Armin Wang, President of the Illinois Synod, visited with the church council to try to formulate a plan to raise more money to pay up back obligations. “Catch-Up” envelopes were sent out.
In February of the next year it was decided to hire an organist and janitor for $1.50 per month. In 1934 benevolences were paid again, in amounts ranging from almost nothing up to 50%.
Trouble arose in 1935 between the congregation members and the pastor. In June of that year the President of the Synod was called to talk with the council. Rev. Walter resigned in April of 1936. Rev. C.R. Lowe was elected pastor and took charge in June 1936.
In 1940 when the pastor was absent at a church council meeting, it was moved to limit the church sermons to 20 minutes. The church at that time was in debt $700. By action of the church council and the congregation Rev. Lowe was asked to resign, and he did so in September 1941.
For a time the church was supplied by students. Mr. Dwight Filkins spent the summer in supply. During the time the congregation was without a pastor, the parsonage was rented for $25 per month.
Three feet of property to the west of the church was purchased in 1942.
Rev. Newell Mendenhall was called and became pastor in November of 1942. One of the first changes Rev. Mendenhall initiated was the rotation of council member terms. Sunday school attendance had dropped during the 1930s to around 60, but were beginning to climb. Boy Scout Troop 101 began their charter meetings in the church.  The financial condition of the church improved. There were 233 communing members who celebrated the 60th Anniversary in 1950. Rev. Mendenhall resigned and left in November of 1951.
In 1955 a proposed budget of $16,985 was almost reached with about a 60% increase in pledges. Rev. Clarence Warfel served from 1952 until 1962. In 1953 the kitchen was remodeled and new sidewalks on each side of the church were created. In 1956 a building fund was started, when the property to the west of the church was purchased. Sunday School began using the house and eventually the kindergarten and primary classes also were held there. Discussion concerning remodeling the church continued until 1960 when plans began to be formulated. At the annual meeting in 1960 the use of wine for Communion was voted on, and passed.
Rev. James Plymire was called and became pastor in 1961 and served until 1967. In 1962 a new church cross was dedicated. It was purchased at the conclusion of the final convention of ALC Synod by Pastor Plymire, who transported it to the church. It was carved from solid oak weighing 85 lbs. and was 7 ft. long. With the explosion of the furnace in 1963, the congregation was forced to expand into new educational facilities. A donation from the estate of Vernon Lichtenwalner became the basis of the building campaign. Ground was broken for the 50′ by 100′ addition in 1963, and the dedication was held in June of 1964. The addition housed a Sunday School wing, offices, choir rooms, and conference rooms for meetings. Building costs and fees amounted to $99,750. In June of 1965 the membership reached the all-time high of 1,136 baptized members, The debt on the building was reduced to $37,916.93.
Rev. Larry Pinnow served as pastor at Grace from 1968 until 1993. In 1971 Grace Lutheran started an intern program. Interns came from Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque. They were paid $50 per weekend and 10 cents  per mile. In 1974 the program had full-time interns that were paid $275 per month. Membership at Grace in 1976 grew to 1,436.

The 90th year celebration in 1980 included the dedication of a new carillon. In 1983 the church was remodeled to make room for a larger narthex. The sanctuary was completely rotated. This extensive renovation required worship services to be held at the Monroe Arts & Activities Center until completion.


In 1996 the house at 1015 15th Avenue was purchased, which became the home of Green County Food Pantry and the office for Green County Habitat for Humanity. These entities remained until 2012.

On September 14th, 2005, Grace Lutheran closed on the purchase of the “White House” located at 1009 15th Ave. The White House was first used for storage and an apartment for pastoral interns. In 2012 it became the Day Center for the Green County Family Promise Program, which provides housing and assistance to homeless families and individuals.
In 2008 an elevator was installed in the church, making the building totally handicap accessible. During the summer of 2012 the 1015 15th Avenue house was demolished to make way for a parking lot and street-level handicap accessible entrance.
Pastors that have served Grace Lutheran following Rev. Larry Pinnow are: Rev. Gail Heidtke from 1994- 2001; followed by various interim pastors in  2001-2002; and Rev. Keith Anderson from 2004 -2006.
Rev. John Tabaka accepted a call in 2007 and is the current Pastor at Grace as it celebrates 125 years as the “downtown church”, providing a spiritual presence, helping to serve the needs of the congregation and community, and fulfilling its mission statement of “Know God, Grow in Christ, and Go with the Holy Spirit.”
September “Did You Know”
      The 1930’s were to be difficult for G.L.C.  Pledges were not being fulfilled and at times the Pastor did not receive his full monthly pay.  Rev. Gunderman was Pastor and many pleas to fulfill the pledges went out to the members.  But–they did manage to purchase an organ for $4,300. It was a miniature replica of the world’s greatest.  That organ was in Chicago Stadium-price $250,000.  It was a Maxcy-Barton. Special services were held. 300 friends of Rev. Gunderman attended the celebration from Michigan.  The Sunday School attendance was broken at 187. It was also the 10th Anniversary of the church building and the 40th of the church itself.  In the evening 500 people packed the nave to hear the organ recital.  This was presided over by Prof. Donald Larson of the U.W. School of Music. He played both sacred and classical favorites.  Six ministers from the area assisted Pastor Beiswangler.  Prof. Larson was assisted by Mrs. John Ivey, who was a local piano teacher and the church’s organist (she was hired at $3 per Sunday).  Those who were members of G.L.C. before 1983, when the church was “turned around”, will remember the oil painting “Come Unto Me”. This very large (8 X 13 feet) oil on canvas was on the wall to the right of the Chancel area. This painting was done by Mr. Guy Shewman of Freeport. He was an interior church decorator. No records can be found as to the price of such or who gave it to G.L.C. This was done sometime in 1930. However, in January 1931 notations were made in the Council minutes—that “the Church Council and the congregation are not responsible in any way for the cost of the painting hung in the church by Mr. Shewman. Additional notes read…”The picture is to be removed at the earliest convenience of Mr. Shewman. If corrections are made, they must be satisfactory to the Church Council before the picture is again hung in the church. There is to be no added cost for the corrections and re-hanging.” This oil painting was rehung where it stayed until 1983,  and has never been re-hung as there was, and still is, no area large enough for it. It was rolled up and put in storage where it still remains unfortunately.
August “Did You Know”
      Many companies were involved in the building of the church in 1919-1920. Businesses in Monroe and far off were contracted, and their expertise helped make the church building a reality.  The architects were Brust and Philipp of Milwaukee, along with Wagner and Howe of Monroe.  Their contract price was $26,045.  An electrical company form Campaign Illinois did electrical work of lighting fixtures—lampposts.  The windows for the church were made by the Ford Brothers Glass Co. in Minneapolis.  A contract written by hand to the building committee, listing the windows o be installed was $40—that included 16 windows in the Nave, the 3 large windows ( now behind the chancel), 3 windows in the tower, and transom over a door. These were done in high quality glass with round lead cemented in red lead, with names of people donating the windows.  We received 144 folding chairs for $126.  We purchased church pews, altar, pulpit and lectern from Manitowoc Church Furniture.  Monroe Electric wired the church lamps. Also bought were 3600 post cards from Milwaukee for $28.  Lanz Hardware and Geigle Hardware of Monroe furnished supplies for various jobs.  Will Geigle was a member of GLC.  After the church was built several problems/complaints arose with the general contractors.  These differences were given to several men to act as arbitrators. Robert Rote of Monroe was one of 3 men, to other 2 were from Milwaukee for $38. They received $25 per day for their fees.  This was done in January 1921.  Some complaints were:
  • Heating registers in floors were to be cast iron-pressed steel was used.  Not heavy enough for overweight people.
  • Screens in the Belfry were to be copper—galvanized wire was used.
  • Flashing around tower does not fit properly. 
  • Brick work no properly cleaned.
  • Oil on floors should be removed. 
  • Wall at rear of building allows water thru—destroying plaster inside.
  • Failure to plaster basement walls with cement plaster, not lime plaster.
These were just a few of the problems that were complained about.  All was settled and $114 was awarded to the church. There was even a complaint about the color of the stain used on the front doors.
July “Did You Know”
     Finally, the congregation in 1919 decided to build a new church building and the “old white church” was torn down. The problem of where to hold services arose.   They found space to rent from the Modern Woodmen of America, a Fraternal Insurance organization who had a hall on the south-side of the square.  This area is now above the dress shop called Lillian’s.  Gunderman again printed up a shall tract entitled THE LAST TIME. June 29, 1919 was the last time for services in the old church.   They had Communion Service at 10:30;Bible School w/Rally Day at 9:30; Christian Endeavor Meeting ( a young people’s society) at 6:30 P.M., and Children’s Day exercises at 8:00 P.M.  The new church was dedicated on September 26, 1920.  The cost of building was nearly $30,000.  Special services were held in the morning with music by the choirs and organ.  At 2:30 P.M> a Community Service was held with Mayor, District Attorney and assemblyman giving short talks.  A Vesper Service was at 7:30 P.M. with the President of Carthage College speaking.  Also planned during the week were special services on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights with area ministers preaching. Rev. Gunderman had 3X5 cards printed for the Dedication Day where members could promise to pay to the Building Fund a sum of _________dollars to be paid in 3 payments for a period of 3 years, each due on December 1   st.
June “Did You Know”
     Louis Gunderman arrived in 1917, and soon after envelopes were started as a way of weekly giving. The congregation turned down the idea of remodeling, improving the current building, and voted instead to start thinking about a new church building. During the teen 1900’s Grace Church was growing.  The Sunday School was doing well with close to 200 children attending.  There were also several classes for the adult and young adults. Rev. Gunderman liked to have little messages—or treats— printed for the church members.  In 1917 he had a small “GREETING” printed for every member wishing all “A Joyous Christmas and A Happy New Year”.  It invited all to be in church at 10:30 Christmas morning for special services.  A short message was printed which ended—“It is my wish to be your true friend—to so minister that Christ may be formed in you in the hope of glory.  In the sunshine and the shadow of the days that are to be, may the angel of God’s presence go with you all the way, then no day can be dark and dreary.” Prayer meetings were also held on Sunday evenings at 6:30.  Committees were formed—with names such as: Lookout; Prayer Meeting; Missionary; Social; Flower; and Program. Meetings were divided up into six-month segments, including men folk.  Topics were: Speech, Wise and Unwise; How do Men Confess Christ?; How to Use the Bible.  Some names in this tract would be familiar to the older members of Grace, such as Holmes, Knoll, Tree, Geigle.  Their object was to: “Promote an earnest Christian life among our members, to increase their mutual acquaintance, and to make them more useful in the service of God”.
May “Did You Know”
     The Rev. Kauffman resigned in 1907 having been at Grace from 1902. Rev. Hartman replaced him and was here for 10 years, leaving in 1917. While Rev. Kauffman was here council meetings were taken up with the concern of getting enough wood for the cold months and paying the Pastor his salary. The trustees mowed the grass. Pastor Hartmann walked the railroad tracks to Clarno every other Sunday to preach. He would then stay overnight. In 1910 there was talk of building a parsonage next to the church, but the church building had to be moved to make room for the house. The cost of building it was $4,365.86! The parsonage was home to pastors serving Grace until 1983.
April “Did You Know”
     In 1901 the congregation of Grace Lutheran Church was without a Pastor, and a call went out to the Synod and to the Board of Missions for support of a Pastor. They asked for $250. Dr. Kauffman came in 1902 from Lena, IL. Another re-organizing of the church was held with 48 members. At the end of the year there were 54 members on the rolls and the benevolence was paid in full. There was a cottonwood tree on the property and it was decided to remove it and chop it up for firewood for the coming winter in 1903. In 1905 the church became self-supporting and was removed from the Mission Church rolls. 
March Did You Know…
     After organizing and preparing to move to Monroe in 1890, the people adopted a constitution, accepted entry into the Northern Illinois Synod. This was agreed upon by 26 communing members. The Rev. Klock resigned in 1891 amid arguments and disagreements with the Synod. The church was then located at the 9th Street and 20th Avenue intersection. he congregation then moved to its present location and by 1895 Twin Grove, Clarno and Monroe made up the church. The salary for Rev. Beidler was $300 from Monroe and $225 from Twin Grove. Other churches had used this location — Baptists, 7th Day Adventists and Christian Church. At a congregational meeting on September 17, 1896 the members chose the name of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church with 63 members.
February “Did You Know”
     In 1874 there was organized in Twin Grove the English Lutheran Church. Sixteen people were present and the R.A. Beidler was called to be Pastor.  A building was built at the cost of @2,775.71 with a tower and a bell.  A parsonages was purchased for $250.  This action took place in 1876 & 1877. By this time the Richland and Spring Grove congregations joined to be one congregation.  This church served the area until 1890 when they prepared to move to Monroe.
January “Did You Know”
     There were three Lutheran Churches back in the mid 1800’s? Many revivals were held in the area with many responding. Know where Austin’s Grove was?  It was there that a revival meeting was held with about 3,000 people attending with their teams of horses. Many orators and ministers spoke and music was provided by the churches!