History of Grace Church
By Gary L. Franks, November 2023
1830 to 1856…
Grace Church traces its history back to the early days of settlements in Northwestern Ohio when Sandusky Circuit riders such as George Mottinger and Elias Sichley, representing the Evangelical Church, ministered to area congregations in the early 1830s. The Sandusky Circuit was a part of the Ohio Conference of the Evangelical Church that was founded by Jacob Albright in Pennsylvania in 1800.
Jacob & Catherine Hufford
Among the first members of the Evangelical Church in Perrysburg were Jacob Hufford (aka Jacob Hoffert) and his wife Catherine, John and Barbara Brownsberger, Daniel and Catherine Klinger, and Rudolph and Lovina Lusher.
In 1846, the Ohio Conference established the Maumee Valley Mission which included the village of Perrysburg. In 1848, the Maumee Valley Mission became the Perrysburg Mission; it was at this time that the property at 331 East Second Street was purchased for the purpose of constructing a church and parsonage. Jacob Hufford led the construction of the 35’ x 45’ church, which was built of oak timber harvested from trees on his property in Perrysburg township. The church was named Grace Evangelical with John Brownsberger, Daniel Klinger, and Stephen Williams acting as the first trustees.
In 1856, the Ohio Conference combined the towns of Perrysburg, Gilead [Grand Rapids], and Toledo into a single Mission with Pastor Jacob Rosenberger selected as its leader. Church membership in those early days was quite small. In the first year, Pastor Rosenberger reported that the Perrysburg Mission’s membership numbered only 12 individuals. After two years it had increased to 35 individuals. The population of Perrysburg at this time was around 1800 people.
1856 to 1946…
The Church of the United Brethren in Christ was co-founded by Philip William Otterbein and Martin Boehm in 1800 in eastern Pennsylvania. In 1871, the church’s Rev. G. W. Craw preached at the Perrysburg Courthouse. This church was quite active in surrounding communities (e.g., Dowling, Stony Ridge, Gibsonburg, Moline), but it never had a physical presence in Perrysburg.
Over the years, the church building on East Second Street underwent several changes in appearance: in 1873 the addition of a bell in a small cupola; in 1883 a steeple was added along with a larger bell; ca. 1909 Sunday school classrooms were added on the west side of the main building; and in 1925 stained-glass windows were added.
The Evangelical Church and the United Brethren Church had considered merging off and on since the early 19th century, citing a common emphasis on holiness, evangelism, and their common German heritage. On November 16, 1946, Grace Evangelical Church merged with the E. U. B. denomination and became Grace Evangelical United Brethren Church by proclamation of the Bishop Arthur R. Clippinger of Johnstown, PA.
1946 to 1959…
Church membership continued to grow and in 1934 a fund was established for the construction of a new building, reaching $10,000 in 1946. A Building Committee of nine members recommended purchasing two lots on East Seventh Street for construction of a new church building and classrooms. The church continued to grow and by 1956, it was determined that a larger property would be required. This led to the purchase of the five-acre tract on East Boundary Street for $10,000.
In 1957 architect Huber Buehrer was hired to develop plans for the church and a parsonage. A ‘Venture in Faith” campaign was started to raise funds for construction. Two of the stained-glass windows from the old church were incorporated into the final design. By January of 1958, the plans were approved, and a $225,000 construction contract was awarded to Bucher Construction. The groundbreaking took place on August 10, 1958, with Pastors Alpha M. Rickel and Wendell W. Freshley presiding over the ceremonies.
A cornerstone was laid in October 1958 with a lead box containing an 1856-1956 centennial anniversary booklet along with copies of the groundbreaking service, Rev. Alpha M. Rickel’s sermon, the Church Discipline, the cornerstone laying service, a picture of the church on Second Street, and a Bible, cross, yoke, and chalice.
On May 10, 1959, a final brief service was held in the old Second Street church
followed by a walking caravan to the new church on East Boundary where Sunday
School was held followed by a Morning Worship Service. The old church continued
as a place of worship, having been sold to the Bethel Assembly of God and later to
the Maranantha Pentecostal Church of God. It was torn down in 2009. The large 1883 bell was salvaged by the property owners and donated to the city; it now resides in the lobby of the Municipal Building on Walnut Street.
One of the original the stained glass windows
1959 to 2022…
In 1968, the United States section of the Evangelical United Brethren Church merged with the Methodist Church to form the United Methodist Church. The Ohio Conference of Methodist Churches was split into east and west regions with Grace United Methodist Church joining the West Ohio Conference in 1970. Two (2) additional properties were purchased in 1977, making a total of 7.64 acres.
The church building has undergone three major expansions since 1970, the first being the addition of classrooms in Wing C in 1983, the second being the addition of Wings D and E classrooms and choir room in 1994, and the third being construction of the Family Life Center in 2008. A “Freedom Campaign” was established to pay off the mortgage of the Family Life Center, which was accomplished within 3 years.
Two narthex renovation projects have taken place: the first being the removal of dividing walls along with general renovation (paint, carpet, etc.) ca. 1995 and the addition of a skylight ca. 2008.
Grace Church Perrysburg Buildings Plan
On October 2, 2022, following nearly a year of study, prayer, and consideration of all aspects, both positive and negative, the congregation held two votes:
Whether or not to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church. Out of 235 total votes, 72% voted to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church.
The subsequent affiliation vote relating to the Global Methodist Church was 80% “Yes” to affiliate with the Global Methodist Church.
These votes were approved by the West Ohio Conference in December of that year. The major changes resulting from this were: (1) Purchase of the property and buildings from the West Ohio Conference along with a year’s apportionments and a pro rata amount of Unfunded Pension Liabilities for a total of $392,000 and (2) Changing the name to Grace Church Perrysburg. A mortgage of the property was secured in the stated amount and a “Future Fund” established to pay it off over a period of several years.