Over 90 years have passed since the Reverend A.J. Lange, Pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Summit decided that a Lutheran church was needed in the Village of Willow Springs. After holding services temporarily in a private home and in the Willow Springs Public School, “the little white church on the hill,” a 24x40 foot white frame structure was erected on the corner of Nolton and Cedar Streets at a cost of $1,713.50, and was dedicated on December 16, 1928. Pastor Lange, assisted by several students and candidates for the holy ministry, conducted services until 1940 when the Pastor of Trinity, German Church Road, was asked to service both Trinity and Grace congregations. Pastors William L. Bartling, A.L. Oltroge, John H. Bohlman, and Stephen G. Mazak, Jr. each serviced under this dual parish arrangement.
As the years passed and the congregation grew, it became evident in 1961 that a full-time pastor and a new church building would have to be considered to meed the congregation’s needs. The new structure, as you see it today, was completed and dedicated on March 31, 1963. Simple in design, the sanctuary imparts a feeling of peace and tranquility. The laminated beams of the wood decked roof soar towards the heavens, but one’s eyes are drawn almost immediately to the life-sized chancel crucifix, a copy of one of the famous crucifixes of Oberammergau, Germany; hand carved by the well-known woodcarver, John O. Torrell of Palatine, Illinois.
Rev. Walter C. Kalbhen served as the first resident pastor from 1961-1965. Rev. David R. Krampitz came to Grace in 1966 and faithfully served the congregation for 35 years. Upon his retirement in 2001 he was appointed Pastor Emeritus by the Voters Assembly. Rev. Gary R. Schmidtke served as Pastor of Grace from 2001 until his retirement in June 2008. Rev. William J. Orr, who came to Grace in January 2009 and faithfully served until November 2016, when he accepted a call from Salem Lutheran Church, Jacksonville, IL. In December of 2017, Rev. Mark W. Duer accepted our call and was installed in January of 2018.
From “the little white church on the hill” to the present day structure, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church has served the community well; and with the Grace of God we will continue its mission for many years to come.