Stories from past to present.

To celebrate Grace's 50th anniversary, members and friends of Grace are sharing their favorite memories of Grace Lutheran Church. Check back each week during Grace's 50th year to find the latest story added at the bottom of this page.

Angie Wasgatt on the Birth of Grace Lutheran Church

Grace, the Early Years

Ever wonder why someone has to cross the road to get Grace’s mail? Wonder no more. The north side of Graves Road is Hockessin, the south side of Graves Road is Wilmington. We wanted a Hockessin address so we would not become just “one of the Lutheran Churches” in Wilmington.

Submitted by Marcia S. (former church secretary)

Church Building Expansion

In the early to mid 1990s, it was becoming obvious that our building was not big enough to support our growing ministry. What had started as a mission start congregation with limited space was now beginning to need some more room. For those of you that remember the old, cramped narthex and the elbow to elbow coffee hour between services and the Sunday School trailer out back, there was an obvious, desperate need for more space. During that time the Holy Spirit, moved us as a congregation, to discern that we needed a building expansion that included a new narthex, more classrooms, an expanded office area and a choir room. It was amazing as the project took shape and the fund raising got into high gear. Once the first ground was broken it took about a year to finish the expansion. To save money we painted the walls ourselves. There were many Saturday painting parties that did that great work and built community as we got to know each other better. Looking back it was yet another evidence of God’s blessings on our congregation. One that would serve us well long into the future.

Submitted by John A.

Funny Driveway Story

Grace's parking lot originally had two entrances, one from Graves Road and another from Route 41. When the traffic light was installed at the corner, we closed off the entrance to the highway, keeping the driveway off of Graves Road. One day a Delmarva Light-Power Company truck, towing a new long wooden power pole, got stuck crosswise in the ditch along the highway as he tried to pull into the parking lot where the entrance had been. The pole of course closed both lanes of the road in the process. Driver's comment - "There was a driveway there the last time I came this way."

Submitted by Marcia S. (former church secretary)

Sacred Dance

Gift of Finest Wheat was a wonderful processional. You could use as many or as few people as you wanted... We did it during the offertory during Thanksgiving, and then we did it more often during the service during the year. As the years went by, the daughters were growing up and we'd have the daughters and the mothers being part of that processional, it was really wonderful.

Submitted by Kathy L.

Jr. Communion Assistants

Grace used to have Junior Communion Assistants whose duty was to hold the trays for people to put their used cups in. Jonathan L. took the job very seriously when he was old enough to take on this responsibility. It also was fun for those of us who sat on the right side of the sanctuary to see him working. He liked to have the cups all in a row, not randomly placed. He would balance the wooden tray on one knee while he put the cups in the order he wanted it with his other hand. We also observed Jonathan’s dad, Joe, purposely placing his cup far from the organized ones. Jonathan also would use this balance technique when someone left some wine in their cup and he would empty them into just one cup. I am sure the altar guild appreciated his work.

Submitted by Diane T.

Good Friday Sacred Dance

During the Maundy Thursday service, we played part of a Good Friday sacred dance from 1989. Kathy L. choreographed the dance to the tune “Too Wounded”* and she, Dale C., and Jeanne S. performed it.

Submitted by Kathy L.

*Original music adaption of "Too Wounded" by Ray Lynch from the album The Sky of Mind. Used with permission.
Too Wounded - Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000QPWDHM/raylyn-20)
Too Wounded – iTunes (https://music.apple.com/us/album/the-sky-of-mind/3242417)

Rejoicing Spirits 10th Anniversary

This past September was the tenth anniversary of Rejoicing Spirits’ monthly worship services at Grace. Rejoicing Spirits is an inclusive worship service for people of all ages and faiths, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and services have continued via Zoom during the pandemic. To celebrate the anniversary, Grace volunteers packed Rejoicing Spirits boxes with musical instruments, crafts to make and butterfly coloring pages for the 29 group homes that worship with us. The Grace cookie bakers also provided more than 56 dozen homemade cookies that were delivered to each home for the Direct Support Professionals to enjoy. The delivery also included a pop-up butterfly card expressing thanks for all that they do to be part of the Rejoicing Spirits community.

At the virtual service on September 18, 2021, special guests shared in the milestone anniversary, including Pastor David deFreese from Mosaic and Bishop Bill Gohl (Delaware-Maryland Synod), who both sent celebratory video messages. The newest Grace Rejoicing Spirits member, Joy, the butterfly puppet, made a debut appearance via video and expressed her excitement for Rejoicing Spirits’ commitment to the community for the last 10 years. It was a joyous celebration with lots of singing and fellowship via Zoom.

Submitted by Lynda M.

John Dries (Part 1)

When I think of John a smile always comes to my face. He was a sweet, funny man who wore great bowties and had joy in doing things around the church. It was something he needed to fill his life in, after his wife passed away. Grace gave that to him. It did help if we did things John’s way, especially in putting chairs and tables away in the Social Hall. John was always there to supervise. I remember Bob S. making up a song for John’s 90th birthday to Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way” changing the title to “I Did It John’s Way”. John was moved when Grace celebrated his birthday, and his grandchildren were amazed as to how many people came out to honor John. And when Vicar Scott came up from Virginia for the party in his Hawaiian-print clerical shirt, John was moved to tears. He had good, common sense and I never worried about him climbing ladders, etc. because John knew his limits.

Besides setting up the Social Hall for meetings and events, John was also the one who would change the clocks forward or back depending on daylight savings. Only problem was he would start on Mondays to give him plenty of time to have them all set before Sunday. My problem was he would set the office clock ahead by Thursday which was confusing for me. If I tried to come up with a list of all the things John did at Grace I am sure would forget something. He folded bulletins, did repairs, answered phones, listened to the salespeople who came to church. And together we laughed a lot about crazy things that happen in the office. There were so many things John did before services, it wasn’t until he passed away that the congregation discovered ALL he had done. People would ask why something wasn’t ready for Sunday, or an event and my response was “Because John always did it”. John needed Grace and Grace needed John.

Submitted by Diane T.

John Dries (Part 2)

John Dries often helped out with the lost mobile telephone. It was so easy to take the portable phone with me when I had to work in another room or find something in the storeroom in the basement, etc. But, then when I got back to the office I would find that I had left the portable phone someplace. John would help me find it. He would “call” the phone while I went through the building listening for the ring.

Submitted by Marcia S. (former church secretary)

John Dries (Part 3)

Grace was kind of out of the way. We didn’t get a lot of people coming into the church looking for help. One day three young men came in. They said they were driving home in Pennsylvania but were having car problems and needed money to fix their car. John Dries was at the church office that day. Bless Him! John was an elderly widower who would often drop in to see if anything needed to be done. He was kind of a roving janitor, handyman, errand runner, etc. Before retirement he had managed the motor pool at Westchester College. He had kept the snow blowers, lawn mowers, and small fleet of college owned cars in good repair.

Back to the story of the three men. John was in the office when the men came in and claimed that their water pump was going out and they needed it fixed so they could get home. I explained that we kept no money at church (which was true) but they could use the phone to call for help. They weren’t buying what I said and were pleading for money. John excused himself to “use the bathroom.” He returned a few minutes later and announced that he had a solution to the problem. He said he knew the chief mechanic at Pep Boys. The young men could drive the couple of miles to Pep Boys and John’s friend would telephone the church with a diagnosis of what was needed. After a few awkward moments of confusion, the men left. John chuckled, “Well, that got rid of them.” I was confused. John explained that rather than going to the restroom he had gone outside and checked the cement under their car. There was no wet spot. There was no water pump problem. (This was before the phone was added outside the side door and visitors could call in and the door could remain locked until opened by the office.)

Submitted by Marcia S. (former church secretary)

Jerry Fickes' Death

When we faced the tragedy of Jerry's death, Grace abundantly lived up to its name supporting and caring for our family and extended fire service family. You welcomed many into our church home showing the true love of Jesus. You helped our family grieve and lovingly walk forward. We will never know the extent of all that everyone did for our family, and we are forever grateful.

Submitted by Laura F.

Hilltop Superstars

In the mid to late 1990’s Hilltop Lutheran Neighborhood Center had an annual fundraiser. It was a Superstars competition modeled after the, then popular, pro sports competition for athletics doing “non-traditional” team events. It was held at the Wilmington YMCA. The event was co-ed and pitted churches and ministries in the Wilmington area against each other in friendly competition to raise money for a great cause. Needless to say, this competition favored those that were young and athletic. Swimming, basketball shooting, wallyball (volleyball in a racquetball court) and a gym relay event. Grace was always able to field a very strong team that included – Janice and Don B., Beth and Bob H., Doug R., Brook E. and John A. along with others that memory has denied to me. At the time our team’s average age was somewhere in mid-thirties to mid-40s. To our competition, which included a team of talented teenage athletes from Hilltop, we appeared to be a laughable pushover. What these young, and naïve teams neglected to take into account was that with age comes wisdom! Don’t work harder, work smarter and work as a team. Well, needless to say the Grace team won several of these competitions to the amazement of our competition. For us “old timer” athletes it was certainly the most fun of the year to win and to support Hilltop at the same time!

Submitted by John A.

Andy and Margie B.

They were married at Grace on Sunday, February 18, 2007 and they both said they thought their wedding day exemplified the heart of Grace. This was the thank you that they put in the Scoop at the time:

"We have been so blessed by God and by all of you - our Grace family. The outpouring of love for the celebration of our marriage was beyond belief and our hearts are filled to overflowing. From the ceremony to the music offered, the efforts of Lynne Luettgen and her ARMY of volunteers, the behind the scenes work of Diane T. We could go on and on. Quilt makers, ice choppers, punch makers, flower arrangers, table movers, decorators, cooks, cake cutters and clean up crew; you have done it all and done it well. The warmth of the greetings offered to guests who visited reflected our Lord’s love and our welcoming spirit. God bless you each and every one."

  

In Memory of Ellis Schmidt

In memory of the recent passing of long-time member of Grace, Ellis Schmidt, one of the favorite memories of our family is the tradition Ellis and Joan started years ago of having a Christmas breakfast and tree cutting for Grace members on their Christmas Tree Farm in Landenberg, PA. It was held on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving before they opened to the public. In the beginning the breakfast was held in their home and we all brought tables and chairs from church and helped them make breakfast casseroles. Then everyone took their hatchets and saws and trekked out to their tree fields to pick the best tree to decorate their home for the holidays.

As the years went by, the tradition grew too big for their home, so they built a loft in their barn to accommodate all the Grace folks who looked forward to this special day. Eric, their son, became the breakfast chef and Joan, who kept bees, offered homemade candles along with other crafts for sale. This tradition grew even more over the years and Ellis and Joan added a wagon ride to another tree field as well as pet reindeer for the kids to enjoy. We will always remember our first Saturdays in December as the Schmidt’s Tree Farm breakfast and Christmas tree hunt and the fun shared with all our Grace family friends. Thank you Ellis, Joan and Eric.

Submitted by Merrily and Anthony S.

Grace & Habitat For Humanity

For 10+ years in the late 1990s-2000s, Father’s Day at Grace Lutheran meant the departure of high school youth and adult chaperones for 6-day long Habitat for Humanity projects in Garret County, WV or Greene County, PA. Following Sunday services, youth and adults would load cars and rented 15-passenger vans for the 6-hour drive (for some, the longest drives of their lives!) Local host churches would open their kitchens for meal prep and classrooms for air mattresses and sleeping bags. Local Habitat volunteers and future homeowners would work alongside on various construction or demolition projects as needed. It was a matter of significant personal pride for the young men and especially the young women that no job was too physical or menial for them to take on. (None, however, relished installing fiberglass insulation in the summer heat!) Adults and youth alike learned new practical skills and developed confidence in their DIY abilities. The workday was typically exhausting; Advil and showers at the local high school gym at the end of the workday were much needed. But the tougher the job, the greater the satisfaction. Somehow the youth seemed to recharge after dinner for some “playtime” before evening devotions, the preparation of bagged lunches for the next day and “lights-out”.

Over time, returning Grace volunteers could point out homes that were project sites in earlier years. We were especially blessed to attend the presentation ceremony when one family received the keys to a home we had worked on a previous year. The father spoke of how he had observed the construction of these homes and longed to be able to move his family from their crowded public housing project into one. All were deeply moved by his testimony, and we worked even harder the next day. While the end of the work week was always welcome, we knew that our efforts and indeed just our willingness to come into their community was deeply appreciated. Over the years, successive youth and adult volunteers carried Grace’s caring ministry to Western PA and returned with yet greater blessings.

Submitted by Tim D., Bill B., Don and Toni D., and Karen B.

  

Matthew & Kristin F.'s Wedding

One of our favorite memories at Grace was our wedding on 10/27/2012! We celebrate 10 years as Grace celebrates 50!

Submitted by Matthew and Kristin F.

  

A Wedding Story

NOTE: Grace’s first sanctuary chairs were multi-colored—orange, gold, green and blue. New matching chairs were in place for the 40th anniversary, and the old chairs were sent to Tree of Life Lutheran church in Odessa.

Non-members got married at Grace. In this story, the brides’ parents were getting a tour of the facilities. The mother was very inquisitive about the arrangement of the chairs and if they could be rearranged and if “some” could be removed. I showed her the chair racks for extra chairs and firmly stated that the sanctuary had to be in its normal configuration by Sunday morning. At that time there was no middle aisle and I assumed she was wondering about that. They arranged to be in the church the Thursday evening before the Friday ceremony. I was surprised when I got to work on Friday. Only about 60 chairs were arranged in a rectangle in front of the altar. Of course, there was a central aisle separating the rectangle into two halves. The chairs were also carefully arranged alternating blue and green upholstery. It must have taken them hours to move and sort the chairs! But, as agreed, everything was back in order by Sunday.

Submitted by Marcia S. (former church secretary)

Confirmation Classes

My most memorable moments at Grace Lutheran Church centered on at least 15 years of teaching confirmation at Grace. It was truly a labor of love during that time period when Pastor Wasgatt and I alternated each week to teach the classes. My memory of Pastor Wasgatt teaching confirmation was his soft on discipline approach with the kids, who took advantage of his kind heart. As some of you remember, we were dead opposites when it came to discipline in the classroom. I remember a couple boys who had to hear the lesson in the hallway on occasion because they were too disruptive in class.

The highlight of the confirmation training came at the end of two years of study for each confirmand. We went on a retreat to the scout camp on the Chesapeake. Those graduating had an exam that weekend to see if they were ready to be confirmed. It was a great time to mingle with the kids and enjoy the experience. Pastor and I enjoyed the kids in an environment outside the church classroom. The test asked questions about their faith. We interviewed each confirmand to see where each was on his or her journey of faith. Fortunately, no one flunked, although there were times of doubt for some.

During our confirmation training years, Pastor became extremely ill and the doctors could not determine the cause of his declining health. After a big snow storm, I drove Angie to the hospital in Philadelphia through unplowed streets. Thankfully I had a big car and it plowed through the snow. When we entered the room in the hospital, there was only a shell of a man in the bed. Pastor was as close to death as I had ever witnessed. We stayed the afternoon, even though he was unconscious and then left to go home. It seemed the Lord intervened that day and Pastor started to get well without any help medically. In two months he was back to normal. I also noticed that he took a much harder line with the confirmands. He told me about being much more satisfied teaching confirmation.

My wife and I had the pleasure of visiting Dave and Angie on two occasions in the last three years. It was a trip down memory lane for all of us.

My wife and I have fond memories of the people we came to know at Grace. We will always treasure the relationships of those who came into our life.

Submitted by Jim and Barbara H.

VBS 2000: 2000 Ark Avenue Highlights

2015 National Youth Gathering

In Summer 2015 I had the privilege of chaperoning Grace's National Youth Gathering group in Detroit. We prepared for the trip for months, gathering to share a meal and work through planning and devotions. It was an amazing group, and I was amazed by their faith, their ability to convey what was on their minds, and their level of involvement and participation. We drove to Detroit in two vans (Jimmy & Short Stuff) stocked with candy, took over downtown Detroit, helped citizens in need, and grew in our faith.

Submitted by Laura F.

Grace at the Odd Fellows and Beyond

Odd Fellows Building - Where we worshipped before Grace was built Pastor Dave and family
Grace Lutheran's beginnings with our new building The First “News” of Grace 1972
Young Pastor Dave preaching the Children’s Sermon 1977 Groundbreaking ceremonial cross for the newer Grace building addition

Community Outreach

In 1992, my wife Linda left her job with DuPont to focus on raising our three children, all under the age of six, including the youngest at eight months old. As she sought avenues of support within the community, she joined with other mothers of small children, first with Nursing Mothers, and later, with MOMS (Mothers Offering Mothers Support). Several meetings of these groups were held at Grace. She came home enthused with the "community outreach" demonstrated by Grace in providing space for these meetings with no pressure to "belong to the church". As we had been tentatively considering providing a more structured foundation for our children by "going back to church", I agreed to try Grace. I am still here, and still committed to seeing how Grace can support the community in which we reside, impacting one life at a time.

Submitted by Bill B.

Haiti Trip Highlights

Ladies Lunch Bunch

Ladies Lunch Bunch is a wonderful community of women that meet to support one another as we share our stories and grow in our faith. We now meet at Grace Lutheran’s Social Hall usually on the first Thursday of the month for lunch (with some months off during the summer). Through the Grace News we announce the next meeting and list contact information. We ask the attendees to RSVP and bring a sandwich to share and a cold drink.

Two hostesses volunteer each month to set up and bring a salad and chips (and dessert if desired). We have a prayer before we enjoy our food and conversation. This is followed by devotions and time for socialization, and we end with prayer circle and singing our Friendship song.

A little history: We used to be called Ladies Night Out because we met in the evenings once a month at each other’s homes. It was a fun way to meet, get to know and socialize with our church ladies and also friends. And before the LNO met, there was a group formed in the late 80s that met during the day at Grace Lutheran called Women of the ELCA (WELCA).

Here are some memories from past gatherings of the Ladies Lunch Bunch:

Submitted by Toni D.

  

My Baptism

When I was nine years old, my mother passed away with cancer. This left my dad with six children and no mother to care for them. Dad had to make a living and care for his family. While it was a hard decision, dad realized he needed help. He gave up four of his children to the Delaware Foster Care System.

I was sent to live with Pastor George Mueller, his wife Myrtle and their three children, George, David and Ruth. I was from an unchurched family moved to a Christian home where Pastor Mueller was the mission developer for Concordia Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. I did not know who Martin Luther was and had never heard of the Lutheran faith. I had lots to learn.

In 1947 I was confirmed along with a teenaged boy as the first confirmation class of Concordia. I had classes every Saturday mornings 9 – 12 for almost three years studying the Christian faith and learning the Creeds and Sacraments of the Lutheran faith. Was I ever baptized? Didn’t I need to be to enter Heaven? There were no records saying I had been. It’s safer to believe, die and learn you didn’t need it than to not believe, die and learn you did need to be. It caused me concern.

While it was sad that mom was gone, being separated from dad, my three brothers and two younger sisters, it was a blessing for me living with the Mueller family. While there I met this tall, handsome, Christian, heading to the University of Delaware to study Mechanical Engineering, skinny teenager, the Love of my life. This past Father’s day we celebrated our 69th wedding anniversary. We were married at Concordia.

December 7th has memories for us all:

  • Dec 7th, 1787 Delaware became the first state of the United States
  • Dec 7th, 1941 Pearl Harbor was attacked without warning by the Japanese
    President FDR said this date will live in infamy
  • Dec 7th, 1986 at 54 years old, I was baptized by our beloved pastor, Rev. David Wasgatt at Grace Lutheran Church in Hockessin, DE, putting me at PEACE.

I AM BAPTIZED!!

Submitted by Jan H.

Irma Huth's 102nd Birthday

In 2007 we celebrated the 102nd birthday of Irma Huth who must still hold the title of oldest member of Grace! She was born in Baltimore, MD on September 9, 1905. This birthday party was held in the Grace social hall sometime around September 9, 2007 (I didn’t write the date on the pic). We asked to get a picture with people from Grace and you can see some of those who were in attendance: Bus H., Jan and Charlie H., Erika W., Jane and Jim F., Earl and Jean R., Nancy S., and Lynne L. Any idea who the man on the bottom left sitting in the chair is? When the pictures came back - you know it was when we had to get them developed! - I had no idea who he was. Certainly a dapper gentleman and I am glad he could be there to celebrate this incredible milestone for Irma.

The caregivers regularly visited Irma at her house on Schoolhouse Road in Hockessin to visit and take her communion. She had some “toy” cars (they were probably antiques) that she let Daniel play with when he was little and would come with me. One of my fondest memories was taking her communion. As lay leaders there was a small “service” that we would follow which began with confession. When we recited “we have not loved you with our whole heart” Irma stopped me and said “but I do love Jesus with my whole heart”. She did it every time - what a beautiful statement to proclaim. Irma went to be with Jesus on May 9, 2008 and I am sure she was excited to see Him face to face.

Submitted by Lynne L.

  

21 Years of Quilting

Late August 2001, the “Graceful Quilters” met for the first time. We were a group of women and men who came together twice a month to make quilts to assist Lutheran World Relief in their efforts to bring comfort to those in need throughout the world.

Material for the quilts has all been donated. Many people helped the quilters with their time, procuring materials needed. Destinations of the quilts vary: camps, hospitals, orphanages, villages, sites of natural disasters and war. Quilts can be used as warm beds, simple tents or floors. “Each one reflects God’s loving presence in a world rife with suffering “ from LWR. Quilts have been delivered to many places, including India, Beirut, Africa and Ukraine.

Since 2001 the quilters have made over 6,100 quilts. All with donated materials and time. Several quilters work from home to supply us with tops, bottoms or completed quilts.

In honor of Grace's 50th Anniversary, some of the quilters made a “picture” quilt, with many pictures of past events and people. The quilt will be on display September 18 through the end of the 50th year. We apologize if you aren’t included in the pictures, it was hard to cover 50 years on a small quilt!

The quilters meet the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month at Grace, 9-11 am. We welcome any helpers, no experience needed.

Submitted by Pat K.

The first picture is of the earliest group of quilters. The second is of Ilse G. who made over 350 quilts during COVID by herself. We have had all ages of helpers and also people from outside the church too. Currently we have people from Cokesbury and Green Hill Presbyterian Church join us in this ministry!

  

  

The Grace Players

If you were present at that service, you will never forget Jim F. (alias John the Baptist) striding down the aisle toward the altar clad in animal skins and sandals shouting, “Repent, repent!” That Sunday the Grace Players were enacting a story in support of the sermon.

For many years a casual group of actors performed skits, both Biblical and contemporary, as part of the church service at Grace. The large assortment of costumes found in the hall closet near the nursery were mainly made by our former church secretary, Marcia S. Our Live Nativity participants are dressed in them every December.

In the past the Bible lessons at Rejoicing Spirits were enacted by a combination of participants and Grace members. There were rehearsals, costume fittings and props involved. Once the choir and the Grace Players joined forces to present a musical, “Bright New Wings.”

Some scripts are still in our archives should anyone be interested in reviving the group.

Submitted by Nancy G.