Celebrating 50 Years of Grace Lutheran Church in Hockessin, DE
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)
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.
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)
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
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.
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.
Memories of the Beginnings of Grace
Moving from a small town in North Dakota to the bustling state of Delaware was culture shock. My church in Langdon had recently moved into a new, large building and my dad Pastor Dave Wasgatt left that ministry to start up Grace Lutheran. I fondly remember Sunday mornings setting up in the Odd Fellows Building--opening folding chairs, putting out hymnals and waiting for the handful of congregants. But a number of people put their hearts and souls into building this church community. As a teen, I was honored to serve on Grace Lutheran's Church Council which helped when I served as president of Reformation Lutheran Church's council. Grace Lutheran gave me appreciation for being involved in a church community. Even though I moved to New Jersey at eighteen, the people at Grace have been there at pivotal times, whether it's providing a lovely wedding reception before I left or praying for me and my family during difficult times.
Especially thank you for all the lovely ways you've blessed my parents through the years. My family is touched by your loving eternal send-off to my beloved father. Grace is truly demonstrating Jesus Christ's love. May you have many more years!
Submitted by Pamela W. M.
Memories from Marcia S.
Q: What is a fun fact about how Pastor Dave was known in the area? A: That he beat the Welcome Wagon lady when it came to meeting new people in the area. He followed the property transactions page from the newspaper.
Q: Pastor Paul was very musical and wanted to encourage music in the area - especially for kids. How did he encourage music? A: We hosted recitals of music teachers and their pupils - piano, instrumental, vocal, etc. (Only stipulation, if a teacher wanted a special piano tuning - they hired the tuner.)
Q: What unusual item can be found in Grace’s kitchen? A: A box of crab mallets. (Crab feast chairpersons were given the crab box along with the softball equipment, etc., for the feasts.)
Submitted by Marcia S.
Angel Tree Ministry
There are so many memories I could relay but one that stands out is our Angel Tree ministry. The origin of that ministry began when I worked at the Lighthouse Bookstore and met Chuck Colson, who founded Prison Fellowship and Angel Tree ministry. I asked Pastor Dave if we could offer that to Grace and, of course, he said “go for it”.
The first tree was cut from fabric and hung on the wall with angels attached. Sue A. and Joyce C. were part of my team. but many other members helped make it happen. It progressed as the years flew by and we had actual Christmas trees in the Narthex and parties for the angels at Silverwood Methodist church in Wilmington and then at Grace. Margie Y. took on leadership of the program and Carol J. was the most recent leader.
So many families were helped each Christmas with gifts that their incarcerated parent was not able to provide but our family at Grace shared their love to hundreds of kids over the years. It was a ministry that indeed showed the spirit of our Grace family.
Submitted by Merrily S.
Our Newsletter's Name
The name of the newsletter Grace used to print pre-COVID was “Scoop d’Grace.” Blame Elane D. and me for the name. A crazy little mission church needed a newsletter that invited reading. On a visit to Grace, one of the Synod officials told us he disapproved of the name saying it was a bad pun and in poor taste. We commented that our second choice for a name was Babble-On. He just turned and walked away.
Submitted by Marcia S.
When COVID-19 hit in spring 2020, Laura M. and I were in the early stages of planning that summer’s Vacation Bible School. We were faced with the options of canceling VBS or taking it virtual. Fortunately, God had provided us with a curriculum that made it easy to pivot to virtual, so we made that leap of faith, hoping that, despite the stress and uncertainty of the times, we would be able to find the volunteers we needed to make it happen. And Grace certainly delivered on volunteers! We had more volunteers that year than we had the previous year. Our Grace family, along with some friends from other churches, enthusiastically stepped up to design four activities for each day, record demonstration videos for those activities, donate supplies, assemble the envelopes containing each day’s instructions and materials, pack the boxes of supplies, deliver a box to each child, lead and assist with Zoom small groups, lead music during Zoom large group, help with tech in the background, and more. The theme that summer was “FOCUS” and VBS gave so many of us the opportunity to do that - to focus on God and watch Him at work, overcoming obstacles and helping us share the Good News with more children than we had reached in person in 2019!
Submitted by Audrey D.
The History of Grace’s Memorial Garden
Grace has a lovely Memorial Garden up the hill across the parking lot. In 1986, around the time the first addition to the church building was made, an Eagle Scout named Josh Perry designed and planted the original Memorial Garden at its current location. That year a family donated a memorial plaque for inside the church that has since been replaced with the larger one currently located on the back wall of the sanctuary. The Memorial Garden was later renovated by another Scout as an Eagle Project, who added additional trees and a wood chip pathway from the parking lot.
Helen and Charles Sanford were the first to have their ashes scattered in the garden, in 1991 and 1992. Over the next decade, the ashes of seven more people were either scattered or buried in the garden. Meticulous records were (and still are) kept so that spouses would end up next to each other and the same space would not be dug twice.
The wood chip pathway was replaced with a brick one in the late 1990s or early 2000s, and soon afterwards John Dries, Bob Sandberg, and Lisa Scheetz led an effort to further upgrade and beautify the space. Dave Thompson researched the county and state zoning requirements, which were murky and unclear. Marcia Seehausen recalls that eventually they found a contact who told them that there were not any legal restrictions since no actual bodies would be buried there. Improvements began in fall 2002 and were completed in 2003. The project was funded by the Haines and Sandberg families, who had loved ones buried there. Bob Ench was instrumental in this renovation, donating time, labor, and materials from his landscape company. A granite cross, donated by Molly Haines in memory of her husband Charles, replaced the wooden cross. Two maintenance-free benches replaced the wood and concrete benches that had been there before. A brick paver walkway and a crushed stone circular walk were installed, along with large pine trees and some smaller flowering trees and shrubs, including the red maples that line the walkway. That year a stone marker was also placed across from the cross to commemorate loved ones, with engraving done by Connie Cecil.
The most recent improvements to the Memorial Garden were made in 2021 thanks to David H.’s Eagle Scout project. He replaced the crushed stone in the circular walkway with bricks, installed solar lights along the pathway and illuminating the cross, and added two additional benches. Beautification and improvements continue; look for two more benches to be installed this upcoming year. To date the ashes of 24 people have been sprinkled or buried in the Memorial Garden. Next time you are at Grace, take a moment to visit this beautiful sacred space!
Compiled from contributions of memories and historical documents made by Dave and Mary Alice Thompson, Dick Sanford, Marcia Seehausen, Susan Allen, Jim and Jane Foskett, and Toni Durandetta. Thank you to them and the many others who helped point us to the right sources!
The annual Women’s Retreat has a theme each year and offers participants the opportunity to enjoy a peaceful and serene setting to relax and reflect on their spiritual gifts and God’s love. Here are a couple pictures from past retreats.
Thanksgiving Day Food for Hilltop
I am not sure how far back this annual effort goes, but when I came to Grace in 2007 it was a collection done just among the Children’s Sunday School families. I think we used to end up with somewhere around 8-10 meals. Later it became a whole congregation effort, getting everyone involved in not just donating the items, but also packing up the food.
Some years we had help from the Cub Scout pack, with the Pack families taking up a collection of food items to contribute. There were several years we were providing 30-35 complete meals. Recent years have resulted in somewhere around 20 meals provided.
This is an area where Grace typically shines – when folks are aware of a need, they step up to fill that need. Many of us don’t give a second thought to shopping for a special holiday meal, but for so many families that is a truly stressful burden. To be able to lift that burden for families, and perhaps increase their joy on a holiday is a gift.
Submitted by Amy Z.
Grace Alternative Gift Market
Thirty-two years ago, I was the director of a child care center and received a gift at Christmas that significantly changed my thoughts about giving. It also brought a change to Christmas at Grace. The gift was a warm sweater given in my name to a child in the mountains of Peru. It was a welcome change after years of getting appreciated, but not needed, gifts of mugs, cookies and handmade ornaments.
When I thanked the parent, whose child was an infant, I asked where she had gotten the gift. It seems that her church had sponsored some sort of alternative gift market. Coincidentally, it happened to be the church my next-door neighbors attended. After the Christmas holidays were over, I asked my neighbor about this market. Not only did he know about it, he was the person in charge of it. So, I plunged forward with the project and in 1993 the first Alternative Gift Market appeared during Advent at Grace. It featured an international shopping list and an additional list for local charities. That year we collected $1,423.
This Christmas is the 50th Anniversary of Grace and the 30th Anniversary of the Alternative Market. Over the last 29 years we have distributed over $150,000 to those in need.
The needs of the world grow ever greater. The commercial Christmas hype grows ever louder. This year, when making out your gift list, consider an Alternative Gift for those on your list. Don’t forget the teachers - my receiving one gift many years ago grew to thousands of gifts and money for those in need.
Holiday time is filled with traditions at Grace. In addition to filling Thanksgiving food baskets for the families of Hilltop, another annual effort is providing Christmas gifts for the children attending Hilltop Lutheran Neighborhood Center – known as HLNC. Like the tradition of filling the Thanksgiving baskets, I am not sure how long the Christmas gift project has been happening.
I spoke with Michelle Williams, the executive director at Hilltop. She has been involved with the Center for 22 years and said gifts were being donated when she began – so before 2000! I have been a member of the Hilltop Board representing Grace for at least 15 years. Back then volunteers at Hilltop made a hand written, hand decorated poster for each church with the names of the Hilltop kids, items requested, date due. These posters were hand delivered to the churches. Now with technology the information is emailed to each church rep so we can post it.
Each church designates the number of children for whom they’d like to provide a toy item and articles of clothing. The ages of the children range from 6 weeks to 14 years. For the last few years Grace has asked for 20 children. We do not specify ages. Last year we had the names of 3 and 4 year old children. This year, little ones – 2 months to 2 years.
Currently 133 children will receive a toy item and articles of clothing. If donations from churches and other community agencies do not provide for all the children, then Hilltop has funds and the staff will shop. All children will receive gifts.
The wrapped gifts are delivered to the Hilltop gym either the 2nd or 3rd Sunday in December. From there they will be distributed to the different groups of children. Parents will receive the gifts to be taken home. It is the parents’ choice as to when the gifts will be opened. Some will wait until Christmas morning as these gifts might be the only ones the child will receive.
As Grace’s rep on the HLNC Board, I am very grateful for our congregation’s support of this program. As Amy Z. said in her article about the Thanksgiving food baskets - when folks at Grace are aware of a need, they typically step up to fill that need. It’s a tangible way to share God’s love. Thank you!
Submitted by Jane F.
Live Nativity 2000
It’s December 22, 2000. The forecast is for snow and temperatures in the teens. The threat of canceling Grace’s 1st Live Nativity is looming. But this Chicago-born girl said “the show must go on!” Yes, I recall it was 9 degrees, as our simple live nativity took place in the grass near the memorial garden, with a small open canopy tent practically blowing away, the cast of nativity characters bundled up with lots of warm coats under their thin costumes, along with one donkey, and 1 goat (the other goat died the night before!). About 100 people still showed up on that freezing cold night to hear the traditional nativity story and sing beloved Christmas carols.
For years to come, this became a family tradition for many in the Hockessin and surrounding communities. With improvements each year, our recreated Bethlehem scene moved to the parking lot adorned with a larger 3-sided canopy provided by Boy Scout Troop 959, luminary, palm trees, twinkle lights, hay bales for seating, microphones and speakers, a wooden stable, and propane heaters.
Many members of Grace, young and old, have fond memories acting all the roles. And it took the work of many assisting with set up, costumes, refreshments, crafts, greeters, clean-up crew, etc. Nancy G. was instrumental for years handling the many costumes and props for narrators, Mary, Joseph, 3 kings, shepherds, and angels. One year, we even had three wise women! Some of my family members always had to pitch in, including a real live baby Jesus played by my 4-month-old great niece in 2007. When a live baby wasn’t available, the Hyland's baby doll worked just fine swaddled in cloth.
The children attending always loved visiting with the animals. Rented animals over the years included a cow, donkey, miniature pony, llama, goats, sheep, and rabbits. One year, the tip of the llama’s tail was smoldering a bit as it swished into the propane heater, quickly extinguished without injury to anyone but caused a bit of excitement among the shepherds that year.
After standing in the cold outdoors for the narrations, I have fond memories of moving indoors to hear Grace’s many talented musicians. Entertainment over the years included the brass band, children’s choir, adult choir, women’s choir and solo musicians adding to the ambiance of the evening.
After directing this program for about 10 years, it was passed on to our youth directors, Ed Kay then Josh Kelly. And big thanks to Kim T. and friends, and currently Audrey D. and family for continuing the tradition. With the willingness and support of our congregation, the annual Live Nativity continues to focus on “the reason for the season,” the birth of our Savior, our King, and Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Submitted by Karen B.
On this Live Nativity weekend, we share some memories of past Live Nativities. Look for a Facebook post this week with even more fun memories!
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services have always been special at Grace for us in our years here. I can’t really remember specific services except for the Christmas Day service in 2000 when Daniel was baptized with our visiting family and our Grace family in attendance. What a great day to come into the forever family of Jesus!
Although I don’t remember most of them individually I do remember traditions that helped us focus on the glory of God and the incredible gift of His Son coming among us. One of the first things that comes to mind is the beautiful music of the Grace brass and other talented musicians who shared their gifts of played instruments and voices in worship. We also had a children’s choir some years that added to the joy in the worship services.
Some who played and sang over the years are part of my next favorite thing about those Christmas season services as we saw college students come back home on break! What a joy to see them reconnecting with their friends in conversations in the atrium and the hugs and the smiles that were shared. We saw this with Jonathan and Daniel as they returned back to this place that helped shape their faith journey.
We mostly attended the 7 pm Christmas Eve service but occasionally the family service. What a blessing to have multiple options for people to worship and also have a focus on the children so they can hear the Christmas story in a way that will help them see the reason for the season. I can’t remember what year the 10 am service was added but full transparency I was skeptical and a little grumbly about the praise team singing at that service. But of course from the first one it has been a blessing and I am grateful that it has grown in attendance offering a wonderful service to start Christmas Eve day with the focus being on Jesus.
As I think about more recent services during the COVID years I appreciate the thought that was taken in keeping us connected even when we had to be physically separated. The first year a small group of volunteers recorded Advent and Christmas Eve services early (changing the paraments in-between from Advent blue to Christmas white). Singing anthems came together digitally or with a small group recorded in person. It was amazing to see the technology used to give us a Christmas worship experience while also keeping us safe.
Our family will look forward to this year’s Christmas season services as we can now come together in-person and online to worship God for all He has done, what He is still doing, and all that He will continue to do for His people (thanks Tara for this reminder every worship service!). Merry Christmas Grace family!
We are the church that continues to grow into our name as grace-filled followers of God. God’s grace accepts us as we are and invites us to become who God makes us to be. We invite you to come as you are: questions, complexities and all. Join us as we continue to grow deeper and bolder in our faith to proclaim and extend God’s love and grace.