Grace Lutheran Church of Oak Ridge started as a little band of Lutherans who found themselves on a secret mission in a secret city in the early days of WWII. Most of them came from other states. After months of Bible studies in homes, they held their first worship service on November 9, 1943, led by Rev. Rudolph Schulz of St. John’s Lutheran Church of Knoxville, our “mother church.” The congregation formally organized 3 years later with 180 baptized members, including many scientists as well as other occupations. Occupations weren’t a topic of conversation due to the stringent wartime secrecy. The new congregation grew rapidly with the mushrooming Oak Ridge population. Then most members were under 30 with a passion for spreading the Gospel message with a grace-filled expression of Christian worship and outreach.
Grace has always put strong emphasis on Bible study, parish education, and the very best in music. Grace has a legacy from its earliest days of talented musicians and singers and hosts visiting musicians and choirs and presents music festivals as part of its mission to Oak Ridge.
Before claiming a permanent home at 131 W. Gettysburg Ave. in 1951, the congregation met in a variety of locations, from the Chapel-on-the-Hill to the Ridge Recreation Center (where volunteers not only had to set up chairs, they had to pick up the beer bottles from Saturday nights, and sweep the floors to prepare for services).
Grace Church has maintained its sense of diversity, pioneer spirit, and generosity as a congregation through nearly 70 years of existence. Though Oak Ridge was the setting for the creation of a weapon of destruction, Grace Church’s mission has been to reach as far as our hands and hearts can stretch to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and His love and concern for others, both nearby and around the world.
We are told that God created man out of the dust of the earth. Early members of Grace might remember our church being born out of the ever-present mud in the early days of The Secret City of Oak Ridge.