Grace Lutheran Church of Rockdale, Texas is a member church of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Grace Lutheran Church was started by some concerned Lutheran laymen who wanted to express their witness and worship to the Rockdale community. Under God’s guidance they officially organized in September of 1955. The building in which Grace congregation worships in has a much greater history within the community of Rockdale being previously owned by Peace Lutheran Church (which is a member of The American Lutheran Church) and The Church of Christ. The church building indeed has been a center of witness and worship for a few denominations within The City of Rockdale.
The history of the building which stands on the corner of Wilcox and Bell is probably one which can be described as a historic landmark for the place of worshipping Christians. It was originally built by Peace Lutheran Church who originally organized in 1883 out in the Bushdale area and who built the building, which Grace resides in today, back in 1909. The lot was originally part of the Isaacs and Lockett addition to Rockdale.
From 1909 until August of 1939, Peace Lutheran Church worshipped on the corner of Wilcox and Bell. Finally Peace decided to by the old Presbyterian Church on San Gabriel Street. In the early part of 1940 The Church of Christ brought the building from Peace Lutheran Church and they worshipped in it until August of 1955 when they moved to their new place of worship on Murray Street. In August of 1955 they sold it to H. H. Coffield, Milam County and it was approved and Mr. Coffield sold it to Grace on September 24, 1955. Grace Lutheran Church remodeled the building during 1965 and finished it with a Perma Stone outside, and panel, carpeting, new windows and lighting fixtures which is the way the building stands and looks today.
The congregation was officially organized in September of 1955 when its charter was approved. The charter was signed by Mr. Ralph Walthers, Sr., Fred Weiser, L. H. Schoeder, Henry H. Bage, John Frock, and Louis G. Gest. The membership consisted of 21 members which included children. The congregation was served Pastor Paul Stegle Jr., who also served St. James in Lexington, in a dual parish setting. Originally Grace Lutheran Church had asked The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod for funds to start as a mission church, but they were turned down. But God didn’t turn them down, he let them grow and prosper in His Word and guidance.
Pastor Stengle served Grace and St. James from 1955 until late 1966. Pastor John Siemsglusz then served Grace and St. James from 1966 to 1968. And the Lord continued to shower His blessings on the congregation so that 131 adult members were part of the congregation in 1969. Membership has had its ups and downs, but they were active members who believed in the Lord Jesus and continued to grow in His mercy. There were funerals, baptisms, marriages, talent shows, youth retreats, even a party for other young people in the area Lutheran Churches on Halloween, when the Legion Hall was rented and fixed up and a 100 young people were expected, but only three showed up. This didn’t spoil the fun for the members where roused out of home and even bed to celebrate the party anyway I Christian fellowship and fun. After Pastor Siemsgluz left Pastor Theodore Schukegel served Grace in the dual parish setting and finally he moved to another calling in 1972.
The congregation then had a decision to make. Did they want to stay in the dual parish setting with St. James or did they want their own resident pastor. After a congregational meeting, they decided to call their own resident Pastor. After a few calls were sent out and retuned with no results they finally applied for a graduate out of the seminary. In the meantime they were served by a vacancy pastor from Taylor, Pastor Norman Stoppenhagen, until July of 1973.
They received their graduate from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, Pastor Wayne Jon Pafk, who graduated in May of 1973. Pastor Pafk was ordained on Trinity Sunday, June 17th, in his home church, St. Michael Lutheran Church in Akron, New York and was installed in Grace Lutheran Church of Rockdale, Texas on July 15, 1973 as their first resident pastor.
The church today has a 135 members both adult and children and has recently acquired a parish on Hazel Street. The congregation hoped in the Lord and He continues to reassure them of His promises. Grace Lutheran Church belongs to the Missouri Synod and gives its support to its missions here in the United States and through out the world.
It is the church of The Lutheran Hour and This IS The Life. It also sponsors other programs such as Christmas IS and Easter IS featuring Benji and Waldo. For the members of Grace Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod are convinced that Jesus Christ is real; that His birth, death, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension are for them; and that, when Christ will return for judgment, heaven will become their eternal home. This is what Grace lives and grows by.
Many times it is asked, What does a Lutheran Believe? Our history as a congregation is very much tied to what we believe. A brief summary of what we hold to be true as members of Grace Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is as follows:
We believe in the inspired Word of God, the Old and the New Testaments of Scripture, to be the only rule and norm of our faith. As Lutherans we are a Confessional Church by which we publicly teach, confess, and live the main doctrines of faith as found in the Bible. Our Confessions are found in the Book of concord written in 1580 under the influence and guidance of Dr. Martin Luther, the great Reformation Reformer. Our Confessions are taken from the Bible for we believe they clearly show what is necessary for one to be saved. We confess our beliefs in the Three Ecumenical Creeds, The Apostles Creed, The Nicene Creed, and the Athansian Creed. The central basis of our faith is found in Jesus Christ. In fact we would call John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life,? The focus of our faith. God’s Grace and the faith that He has given us in Jesus Christ is central in our worship and lives. We believe that man is sinful by nature (Original Sin) and that God alone by His Mercy sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world. Jesus taught, healed, lived, suffered, died, and arose again “For US.”
Our Confessions and witness can be summed up by saying that man is justified by grace, through faith without the works of the law (good works). From this central fact comes the realization that man cannot save himself, but it lays only in God’s power. Our worship, witness, and lives are Christ-centered. We believe in the Trinity that God the Father is the Creator, that God the Son is our Saviour, and that God the Holy Spirit sanctifies us.
As Lutherans we believe in Sacraments of which we believe there is only two, Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. In order to say they are a sacrament they have to be commanded by Christ, have visible means, and offer forgiveness of sins and impart God’s Grace. We as Lutherans believe in Infant Baptism, since we believe that Christ’s activity extends also to infants. It means to us that God takes action to save us and put faith into our hearts for man surely cannot come to God through his own reason or strength. Lather on in a child’s life we have confirmation whereby the child renews his baptismal vow.
Our other sacrament is the Lord’s Supper, which is and act of Grace, using visible means (bread and wine) and connected with the Word of God, whereby God the Son, Jesus Christ, offers us His body and His blood to us. This means that we take literally what Christ says, When he says, “This IS My Body,” and “This Is My Blood.” IN summation our belief in Jesus Christ as presented in the Bible is very much a part of Grace’s history and faith.
Prelude - Now Thank We All Our God-Shari Seifert, Trumpeter
Processional - Now Thank We All Our God - Hymn 36
AN ACT OF PRAISE AND ADORATION
Pastor - Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts; heaven and earth are full of your glory.Glory be to You, O Lord most high.
People - BLESSED IS HE WHO HAS COME AND IS TO COME IN THE NAME OF THE LORD. HOSSANNA IN THE HIGHEST.
Pastor - To You all Your people, from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, cry aloud with joyful voice and say:
People - GLORY BE TO YOU, O GOD, THE SAVIOR OF ALL, FOREVER AND EVER. AMEN
People - THE GLORIA PATRI
THE PSALMODY (Psalm 118:15-29)
Pastor - Listen to the glad shouts of victory in the tents of God’s people.
People - “THE LORD’S MIGHTY POWER HAS DONE IT! HIS POWER HAS BROUGHT US VICTORY, HIS MIGHTY POWER IN BATTLE!”
Pastor - I will not die, but I will live, and tell what the Lord has done.
People - HE HAS PUNISHED ME SEVERELY, BUT HE HAS NOT LET ME DIE.
Pastor - Open the gates of the temple for me; I will go in and praise the Lord!
People - THIS IS THE GATE OF THE LORD; ONLY THE RIGHTEOUS CAN COME IN!
Pastor - I praise You, Lord, because You heard me, because You have given me victory!
People - THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED AS WORTHLESS, TURNED OUT TO BE THE MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL.
Pastor - This was done by the Lord; what a wonderful sight it is!
People - WHAT A WONDERFUL DAY THE LORD HAS GIVEN US; LET US BE HAPPY, LET US CELEBRATE!
Pastor - Save us, Lord. Save us! Give us success, Lord!
People - GOD BLESS HIM WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD! FROM THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD WE BLESS YOU!
Pastor - The Lord is God; He has been good to us. With branches in your hands start the festival and march around the altar.
People - YOU ARE MY GOD, AND I GIVE YOU THHANKS; I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR GREATNESS.
Pastor - Give thanks to the Lord, because He is good, and His love is eternal.
Hymn of Praise - Praise To The Lord - Hymn 39
Old Testament Lesson - Psalm 118:22-24
Epistle Lesson - Ephesians 1:10, 22-23
Anthem – Children of the Heavenly Father - Sunday School
Gospel Lesson - John 15:1-8
The Confession of Faith - The Apostles’ Creed
Sermon Hymn - Christ, Thou Art the Sure Foundation - Hymn 466
Sermon - Ephesians 2:19-22 - Building for Eternity - Ralph Walters, Sr.
Gathering of offerings for Grace’s Building Fund
The Jubilee Prayer and Lord’s Prayer
Pastor - The Lord be with you.
People - AND WITH THAY SPIRIT.
THE COLLECT FOR THE CHURCH
Pastor - Bless be the Lord.
People - THANKS BE TO GOD.
Recessional Hymn - For Many Years, O God of Grace - Hymn 639
Postlude - A Mighty Fortress-Shari Seifert, Trumpeter
Officiant – Arthur E. Lyons, Jr.
Preacher – Ralph M. Walters, Sr.
Organist – Sandra Wolf
Welcome - Welcome to all our members, friends, and guest. A supper meal will be served about one-half hour after the close of the service. We are happy that you are able to join us in rejoicing with us on this festive day.
Grace Lutheran Church of Rockdale, Texas, was organized in 1955. On August 29, 1955 a meeting was called by the Rev. F. H. Stelzer, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church at Thorndale, Texas. The meeting was called for the purpose of organizing a new congregation at Rockdale. The name of the new congregation was chosen and the following were listed as its members: Mr. and Mrs. Fred Weiser, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Bage and son, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Walters, Sr., and three children, Mr. and Mrs. L. G. Schroeder and son, Mr. John Frock and son, Mrs. Ray Starr and two children, Mrs. J. T. Leech and two daughters, and Mr. and Mrs. Louis G. Gest.
At this August 29, 1955 meeting the purchase of a church building (the present structure) and terms of sale were agreed upon (the building had already been filed on August 13). The purchase was completed on September 24, 1955, the first payment being made on November 10, 1955.
There was a service in the church on September 16, 1955. On this day a charter was adopted and approved. Those signing the charter were: Ralph M. Walters, Fred Weiser, L. G. Schroeder, Henry H. Bage, John Frock, and Louis G. Gest. The offerings gathered on this day were $127.00. During the first week the Taylor Ladies Aid made a gift of $10.00 to the new congregation.
Arrangements were made for the Rev. Paul Stengel, pastor of St James Lutheran Church of Lexington to serve Grace Congregation. This began a dual parish relationship that lasted until 1972.
The official opening service was October 2, 1955. Attendance at this service was 123 and the offering was $131.89.
Interest in the first quarterly report of the treasurer is a special fund called “Organ, stove, and fan fund.” Also of note is an item labeled “Christmas bags,” which along with expenditures for Sunday School materials shows an immediate interest in the children and young people.
Michael Starr was the first person baptized in the new congregation. The most recent to be baptized was Justin Schulz.
Pastors service Grace were the Rev. Paul Stengel, October 2, 1955 – October 15, 1961; the Rev. Jon Siemsglusz, July 15, 1962- August 1, 1968; the Rev. Theodore Schubkegel, October 27, 1968 – 1972. These served Grace, Rockdale, and St. James, Lexington, as a dual parish.
In 1972 Grace made the momentous decision to call its own resident pastor. The Rev. Wayne Jon Pafk was installed on July 15, 1973, and served until July 1978. Pastors serving during vacancies were the Rev. Norman Stoppenhagen from Taylor, Professor Richard J. Dinda and Dr. Milton Reimer from Concordia, Austin.
In late 1974 Grace purchased its own parsonage at 410 Hazel. After Pastor Pafk departed, the Rev. R. H. Wuensche, Jr., from Taylor served as vacancy pastor. The present pastor, the Rev. Arthur E. Lyons, Jr., was installed on Sunday, December 9, 1979. Though the years Grace Congregation has been blessed with the ministry of the Word and Sacraments. The church records reflect the following statistics: 85 baptisms (8 of them adult), 80 confirmations, 18 weddings in the church (6 more at which the pastor officiated), and 8 funerals. Twenty-five years represents 1270 opportunities of Sunday worship. Present membership is 143 souls, 109 communicants, and 11 voters.
Congregation officers for this Jubilee year are: President, James Throckmorton; vice-president, Danny Schulz; secretary, Ernest Schneider; treasurer, Willie Marburger; Board of Elders, Ruben Melcher, Allen Wolf, and L. W Weiss; Board of Education, Herbert Dupre, Myron Schneider, and Ralph Walters, Jr. Ladies Aid officers are: president, Mrs. Dolores Wolf; vice-president, Mrs. Sharon Schulz; secretary, Mrs. Pat Walters; treasurer, Mrs. Lois Rash. Youth officers are: president, Kathy Wallace; vice-president, Annette Dupre; secretary, Clayton Wolf; treasurer, Kelley Haverkamp. The 25th anniversary committee was Allen Wolf, Mrs. Alice Haverkamp, Danny Schulz, Jim Throckmorton, Clayton Wolf, and Pastor Lyons.
The Grace Lutheran Church Building was originally constructed by Peace Lutheran Church, organized in 1883 in the Bushdale area, who built the present building in 1909. The lot was originally part of the Isaacs and Lockett addition to Rockdale. In the early part of 1940 The Church of Christ bought the building from Peace Lutheran Church and they worshipped in it until August of 1955. In August of 1955 they sold it to H. H. Coffield. But on August 13, 1955, Grace Lutheran Church filed for it in Milam County and it was approved and Mr. Coffield sold it to Grace on September 24, 1955. Grace Lutheran Church remodeled the building during 1965 and finished it with a Perma Stone outside, and panel, carpeting, new windows and lighting fixtures, which is the way the building stand and looks today.
We must say a special thank you to Norine Daniel Katich of Jacksonville, FL, for re-typing the above church history for use on the Milam County TXGenWeb site.
Created on 18 May 2004 and last revised on 23 May 2004