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.

Click Here for Part 1

Virtual Choir

The COVID-19 pandemic hit fast and hard, but the leaders at Grace knew it wasn’t going to stop us from keeping worship inspiring and fresh. One of the ideas I had was to create a Virtual Choir so we could hear the wonderful sounds of our Choir and Praise Team, despite not being able to be physically together to create the music.

The first step was to select a hymn that was logistically easy to record. It had to be a well-known tune and one where the rhythms were all in sync. The second step was to send the sheet music and a sign-up sheet to each person so the recording could be done. The third step was to record each voice. This was done by each person listening to the audio through their headphones and singing into the computer microphone so only their voice would be picked up. The last step was for me to take all of the individual tracks and mix them to create the final product.

The first one was so well-received that WDEL wrote a news article about our efforts! In total, six pieces were done by the Virtual Choir: “Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart” premiered on May 31, 2020; “I Love to Tell the Story” on June 21, 2020; “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” on July 20, 2020; “Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service” on September 27, 2020; “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” on October 25, 2020; and “What Child Is This?” on December 24, 2020.

I want to sincerely thank everyone who participated in these sessions. It’s a great joy to be able to make music with such talented and dedicated musicians. It goes to show that music is universal and can take many forms!

Submitted by Jordan I.

Grace at the Odd Fellows Building

When early services were held at the Odd Fellows, the altar was essentially a large box on wheels. It held everything - hymnals, cross, candles. The ushers could set up the room in minutes. Typical of fraternal organizations, the meeting room included special chairs. Four large wooden armchairs were arranged one each at the middle of the four walls, facing the center of the room, obviously for the officers. The grade-school boys liked to claim the large chairs.

Submitted by Marcia S.

Grace's Baptismal Font and Its Window

The window behind the Baptism Font is a celebration and recognition of the ministry of the Rev. David P. Wasgatt, who in 1970 came to Delaware with his family to start a mission congregation which became Grace Lutheran Church.

The cross in the center combines several symbols. The three strands in the cross represent the three in one theology of the Trinity, separate but joined three in one. There is also the descending dove, or Holy Spirit, as an integral part of the cross. The central bar of the cross is curved. In the imagination one can see that Jesus who was there has gone, resurrected in power. Light blue rays explode from the cross. The golden flames on either side of the cross are symbolic of the Old and New Testaments, just like the two candles on either side of the altar in the sanctuary, and also represent the power of the Spirit.

The two medallions flanking the cross are scenes from the life of Jesus: the Crucifixion, Jesus taking on our sins, and the Resurrection, Jesus free from death and the tomb.

The font was built in August of 2005. It was constructed from two colors of limestone. The cross in the font echoes the design of the cross in the window. The simple design and lines of the font are reminiscent of an ancient village well. Just as the village well was the source of water for the village, the font is the source of life giving water for the congregation, the living water of baptism.

"We are born children of a fallen humanity; in the waters of Baptism we are reborn children of God and inheritors of eternal life. By water and the Holy Spirit we are made members of the Church which is the body of Christ." (From the Rite of Baptism)

As they enter and leave the narthex, people are encouraged to dip their fingers in the font as a tangible remembrance of their baptism.

Dedications: the window was donated by the congregation in loving appreciation of Pastor Wasgatt's service to the people of God at Grace Lutheran. Charlie Hufnal designed and crafted the window. The font is in memory of "Nana" Lou May Sanchez by Bob and Louise S. Ench.

Submitted by Charlie H.

Click the photos to see enlarged versions.

Mid-90s Grace Family Retreat in Wildwood, NJ

When we first started attending Grace in the early 90’s, two of our children had already been baptized, but our youngest, Gretchen, had not. We chose to participate in a GLC family retreat held in Wildwood NJ, at a facility owned by a local Lutheran church, but that had started life as a small tourist motel (read very small, spartan rooms with limited amenities.) These facilities were quite cramped (two sets of bunk beds with just enough room to walk back into the equally small bathroom) with each family occupying one room. Yet we developed some lasting friendships and bonds. Some of this was commiserating about the space – we had two adults who were 6’7’’ tall, and one gentleman who was 6’10’’. Picture Mark Teasley fitting into a standard bunk bed, and he was not the tallest man there!

During our get-together session at the onset, we decided to incorporate Gretchen’s baptism into our Sunday worship – a “regular” worship service was offered by the host congregation on Saturday evening, so we were worshiping with our small group on the beach Sunday morning. The setting was amazing; the baptism was celebrated in the ocean, using a large shell to scoop the water. The service was truly Awesome, in the purest sense of the word. While most small children don’t wear bathing suits for their baptismal gown, it worked in this instance. We remember fondly being welcomed into the fold at Grace, and this retreat weekend was just one example of how Grace is a community that lives up to its name.

Submitted by Bill B.

Pastor Wasgatt's 1991 Retirement Party

Here is a highlights reel of Pastor Wasgatt's retirement party in 1991!

Cherry Tree Wood

One of the confirmation classes of 1981 planted a weeping cherry tree by the back parking lot door of the church. Unfortunately, the tree was in the way when the narthex was expanded and the front entry redesigned. The tree was cut down but the wood preserved. A set of candlesticks, an altar cross and a cross in relief were made from the wood for the church.

From the Grace Archives

Grace Family Lenten Banners

“While each Lenten cross is unique to each individual family at Grace, the interplay of recurring purple fabrics and cross templates work together to create Lenten banners representative of the entire loving and supportive Grace family.” This statement appeared at the top of the instructions for making the crosses. This statement was true then and is still true today.

Have you ever wondered how the beautiful cross banners that brighten our sanctuary walls at Easter time came to be? Read on to find out!

From the early to the late 2000s Grace had a vicar program. During the 2008-2009 season we had Vicar Jan Olson and she brought the idea of the cross banners with her to Grace. Lynne L. and Veronica L. (former member of Grace) worked with Vicar Jan to get the project started. The idea was to have families within the congregation make a cross that would be applied to the banners. All materials for the project were supplied by Grace. Veronica had experience in banner-making so she procured all the craft materials, patterns, fabrics and trims needed for the banners and the crosses which were funded by Grace. So she drew up plans on how to make the banners which was quite involved. She also researched and found many different kinds of cross patterns for the Grace families to use for their individual crosses. While Veronica and Vicar Jan were busy making banners out of yards of white canvas, Lynne was busy getting the word out to the congregation about the banner project. She organized cross-making sessions at different times during Lent along with the purple cotton fabrics and fun trims such as lace, ribbon, rickrack, etc and cross patterns for the congregation's use.

Ultimately, Veronica made 6 banners which are 22 inches wide and 74 inches long with approximately 12 - 14 crosses per banner. They first appeared on Grace's walls at Easter 2009. Then in 2014 Lynne asked me to make 2 more to include the new families that had joined Grace since 2009. So now we have a total of 8 beautiful banners that “grace” the walls of our wonderful church at Easter time.

Submitted by Penny M. with input from Lynne L.

Stained Glass Windows

Grace is blessed with beautiful stained glass windows that were designed and created by our own Charlie Hufnal and installed in 2000, 2001, and 2004. This photo of Charlie and his grandson Jeremiah was taken the day the finished panels were transported over to Grace. They are in the back of Charlie’s van and Jeremiah is soldering on the butterfly antennae.

Charlie spent six months reading through many books, catalogs, websites, and, of course, the Bible to get ideas and explanations as he designed the windows. Charlie then spent approximately 1,800 man-hours fabricating the windows. The windows contain about 5,400 pieces of glass: 1,450 grapes, 65 “jewels,” and 3,885 flat glass. The total weight is about 550 pounds.

Each symbol and color in every window has meaning behind it. For example, high in the peak above the narthex is the Holy Spirit window (aka the Descending Dove window), which features a dove. The dove is a common representation of the Holy Spirit because this is the imagery used in all four accounts of Jesus’ baptism. A flame of fire is also a symbol for the Holy Spirit because of the tongues of fire that rested on the disciples during Pentecost. The background colors of the window give us both the blue of the sky and the red/orange color of a flame. This window was placed in the narthex, where the baptismal font is, to remind us of the role the Holy Spirit plays in baptism.

Detailed descriptions of all of our stained glass windows can be found in two books in the Narthex; ask an usher to direct you towards them so you can learn more about these sacred works of art.

Annual Mosaic Chili/Cornbread Cook-off

As Lutherans we love to host and participate in events that include great food and fun fellowship. Grace has been hosting the Chili/Cornbread Cook-off along with Mosaic of Delaware for the past 7 years (not including 2021 and 2022, when the event was not held due to COVID).

The idea of the cook-off started when Chuck Sipe, the Mosaic director, and Angi McCloskey, Community Relations Manager, presented the idea of a Chili/Cornbread Cook-off for the Mosaic homes and requested that Grace host the event. The purpose of the cook-off was to offer community fellowship, fun and of course picking the best chili and cornbread winners. In January 2014 the first Chili/Cornbread Cook-off was born.

The church fellowship hall is transformed with lots of decorations, the smells of many chili varieties (mild, medium, hot and very hot) and many varieties of tasty cornbread (blueberry, honey, jalapeno pepper, cheddar, etc.). The food continues with chips, salsa, chili toppings, bowls of salads and tasty treats. Plus, large amounts of lemonade and water to help with cooling the palate.

Anyone can enter and you do not need to be a master chef to enter the cook-off. All attendees receive two voting tickets (red for chili and yellow for cornbread). Once everyone has tasted the chili and cornbread entries, the voting begins and the winners are announced. Medals and prizes are awarded to the top three winners for their chili and cornbread entries. There have been many winners and in fact, Grace was represented in the chili and cornbread winners circle in 2018 and 2023. Start perfecting your recipes now and join us next year for the fun!

Submitted by Lynda M.

Memories from 1985 to Today

We have been worshiping at Grace since 1985 – and oh the changes in those 38 years.

We started attending informal Sunday evening worship services along with Grace members Marcia and Marv S. At that time, we were attending a Presbyterian church in Wilmington. Marcia was our DCE and as such was unable to attend Grace Sunday mornings. To support Marcia a few Grace members, including Angie and Dave W., Bus H. and Ruth and Joel H., gathered for a casual Sunday evening service and we joined them. We sang songs/hymns, shared praises and concerns and took turns offering a devotion. We met in the room which is now the nursery. Back then the current nursery was actually divided into 3 sections for 3 separate Sunday school rooms! One of the room dividers is still there and you can see the support in the ceiling for the second one.

From attending those evening services Jim and I decided we wanted to join Grace on a more permanent basis and in 1986 we became members. At that time the sanctuary was a multi-purpose room. Fellowship Hall had not been added so any group gatherings such as potluck suppers were held in the sanctuary – thus the moveable chairs and altar.

Sunday school rooms have also undergone a facelift! The current coat closet and area beyond housed the secretary’s office, the pastor’s office and a small Sunday school room (where I taught in the early 90’s). The current sound room was the preschool Sunday school classroom. It was so small the room held a table, chairs and of course the kids. However, the teacher had to stand in the hall to teach! I subbed there! Our youngest son was in fifth grade when we started at Grace. His classroom was the right hand section of what is now the nursery and has a sink. The room was shared by the Sunday school class and the altar guild, since, other than the bathrooms, it was the only source of water – no Fellowship Hall and no kitchen.

Fellowship Hall, kitchen and the basement area below Fellowship Hall for Sunday school classrooms were the first addition. Fellowship Hall was also divided to accommodate Sunday school classrooms – the current quilters room was one. I know - I also taught there! For additional Sunday school rooms there was a detached trailer on the side lawn for 2 more classrooms. The wing housing Pastor’s office, Susan’s office, choir room, bathroom and conference room, the 4 Sunday school rooms, hallway and Narthex was added later. Lastly, the downstairs area was renovated largely with volunteer help (sweat equity!). Those who did much of the work were called the Subterranean Committee!

Although Grace has undergone several building changes, the Spirit has remained the same – Thanks be to God!

Submitted by Jim and Jane F. with help from Mary H.

50 Years of Music at Grace

Throughout its history, the Christian church has used music to proclaim the gospel and to return thanks and praise to God.  Music is the highest expression of harmony and truly an inspiration from God.

Here at Grace Lutheran, we are truly blessed with our current music director, Jordan I., who contributes significantly to our music program with all his talents including his uncanny tech-savvy ability with music production software.

Fifty years ago, our music program had humble beginnings at the Odd Fellow’s Hall.  Lois S. remembers answering the call to help out assisting at the piano for the choir practices which were sometimes held in members’ homes.

In Grace’s current location, Dianah J. was our first music director.  In a phone interview, she remembers starting here at such a young age, how welcoming the Grace family was and how the music program here at Grace meant so much to her.  After Dinah moved out west, Lynn B. took over.  Both Lois (who became our church organist) and Mary Alice T. remember how each director brought different gifts and talent to contribute to Grace’s music program.  This includes Alexis W., our very talented music director prior to Jordan’s arrival, who brought us a cantata during a special celebration at Grace.

Submitted by Toni D.

Video Interview with Gener E.

More Memories from Marcia S.

Q: What did the men of the church do one weekend early in the church's history?
A: Painted the parsonage. (This was not easy - the parsonage was two stories and big.)

Q: Grace had a number of lovely large house plants in the narthex. Who cared for them?
A: The Hockessin Garden Club (with Joanne D.) met at the church and cared for the plants. (The office staff was inept at this activity and would have inadvertently killed the plants.)

Police: I called the police once when at Grace. Our mailbox was a large business size box on a post on Graves Road across the street from the driveway. One morning I got to church and noticed what looked like a crumpled flat piece of cardboard in the driveway by the side door. Then I realized it was not cardboard but our crumpled and flattened metal mailbox. It had been blown up. The area was experiencing a rash of blown-up mailboxes. I called the police who assumed the deed was done by a group of teenagers they were trying to identify. Both the police and I were thankful that the exploding box hadn’t hit one of the teens! The sharp edges of the metal could have caused serious injuries. I don’t know if the culprits were caught. The Wilmington newspaper started emphasizing that tampering with mailboxes was a Federal Government crime. I suppose the police were trying to get news out to the perpetrators that what they were doing had serious consequences.

Office equipment: Office equipment changed dramatically! We started with a couple of typewriters and a mimeograph. A stencil burner was added making stencils easier to prepare. Eliminating the smelly correction fluid was great! Then we moved on to the first computer and copier. The office was very small. To make room for the computer, the closet door was removed, and the computer was put in the closet, facing out into the room.

The huge room for a three desk office in the addition cured the space problem. But the office equipment still needed to be maintained. The copier was placed in the storeroom next to the office. With doors to both the office and hall made access easy for staff and Sunday school teachers, etc. We graduated to a large printer accessible by computers in the pastor's study and church office. It was great - except when something went wrong. One Thursday I started printing the Sunday bulletin and the test page came out totally unreadable. It looked like a page full of short little lines going in every direction. Imagine a page of text that had no curved lines. As usual with an equipment problem, I called Mark W., our expert, and alerted Kathy L. at the Lutheran church in Newark that I probably needed to “borrow” her printer on Friday. On Sunday Mark told me that the printer had been fixed! An engineer from Hewlett-Packard had flown out from California and fixed it on Saturday. At first I thought he was kidding. But he explained that we had a new model of printer and HP needed to know what had happened. Was it a one-of-a-kind problem or an indication that there might be a major design flaw? Fortunately, it was an isolated problem.

Geese Crossing: A house to the east of the convenience store had a small pond in the backyard. Every year the mother goose would raise a family near the pond. As the chicks grew she would lead them back and forth across the highway to the empty field (now a school) next to the church to feed. We could hear tires squeal and horns honk when motorists suddenly realized there were geese crossing the road. Fortunately, I don't think there ever was an accident either to a car or the geese.

Speaking of Canadian Geese: They "rested" on the empty lot next to the church during migration south and north. Flock after flock stopped by. Bless him, John D. would wash away the copious droppings on the church sidewalk before church on Sunday.

Submitted by Marcia S.

Click Here for Part 1