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Published: Wednesday, 12/6/2006

Elmore church observes its 100th

The Rev. David Nevergall has led the church for more than 12 years.
The Rev. David Nevergall has led the church for more than 12 years.

A language barrier was the spark that ignited the desire for 17 families from the Elmore area to branch off from their Lutheran church to form their own.

They were unhappy that the services at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Elmore were going to continue to be spoken in German, and preferred they be in English, which children were being taught more and more in school.

That decision - made in 1906 - has led to this year's Centennial Celebration for the congregation of the Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, now located on the corner of State Rt. 51 and Witty Road just north of Elmore.

All year, parishioners have been celebrating their church's 100th birthday, beginning with a dinner in February with Bishop Marcus Lohrmann of the Northwest Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said the Rev. David Nevergall, who has led the church for more than 12 years.

"It was a really good party," he said. "We drug out the archives and giggled at each other's hairstyles when we were confirmed."

The dinner was followed by an old-fashioned potluck church picnic after an outdoor worship service in the summer, and the dedication of the church's new entryway last week.

The church began because several families desired to be better engaged with the world through services conducted in English, which more people could understand. Though much has changed over the past century, Pastor Nevergall said the concept of wanting to remain immersed in the world and immediate community has remained a staple with the congregation.

"I think engagement with the world is still kind of a tenet here," he said. "It's just taken on a different shape over the last 100 years."

The church now hosts the local food pantry, sponsors the village senior center, provides funding for meals at homeless shelters, and allows local 4H clubs to use its facilities for activities.

"We're a pretty active place," Pastor Nevergall said.

But at one time, the church was struggling just to stay afloat. The congregation didn't have a full-time pastor for nearly its first two decades and rented a church for services until the late 1950s.

Membership started to grow steadily at that time and the church currently has roughly 300 members. A brand-new church was built in 1961 at its present site.

In 2001, a large addition was tacked on to the side of the church to give breathing room for a bigger community space, the food pantry, offices, and classrooms.

Parishioner Vera Hille, 82, has lived through much of the changes at the church where she's been a member her entire life.

"I sure have seen people come and go," she said.

But now that there's adequate space at the church, Mrs. Hille said she envisions many more changes - but not ones that will halt efforts to continue the congregation's desire to engage in the world.

"We're doing it on bigger scales," she said. "We have more room in our new facility, and we can do more now."

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