History of The Church

1896 - 1905
Our congregation had its beginning in May of 1896 as Rev. Frederick Strassner began preaching in the abandoned United Brethren Church on Charles Street (13th Street S.E.) Dr. Strassner's resignation from the pastorate of First Reformed Church (First U.C.C.) had been accepted in January of 1896 and had become effective May 1, 1896.

Permission was given to organize a new congregation by a vote of the St. John's Classis at its meeting of May 12 - 14, 1896. The South End Reformed Mission (our first name) was officially organized in March of 1897. Soon the congregation purchased a lot on the corner of Market Avenue South and Charles Street (13th St. S.E.) The existing 1-1/2 story house was remodeled into a church. At this time the name of the congregation was changed to the South Market Street Reformed Church.

Within two years the church had outgrown the remodeled house. The house was moved to the rear of the lot and a new church building was constructed. The new building was a brick veneered, frame structure that cost $6000. Trinity Reformed Church (Trinity U.C.C.) donated the pipe organ and President William McKinley donated the pulpit, which is still in use today.

1906 - 1915
On March 15th, 1906, at age 75, Frederick Strassner D.D. resigned as Pastor, thereby ending a 50-year ministry in the service of our lord. Mrs. Strassner died in August of 1906. Because "Grace" was Mary Strassner's favorite name for a church, the church was renamed in her memory to Grace Reformed Church.

Rev. J. Theodore Bucher began a ministry in 1906 that continued until 1924. It was during this time that the decision was made to move the church to the north end of the City of Canton.

1916 - 1925
Lots were purchased in 1916 on 23rd Street N.W., across the street from Daniel Worley Elementary School. The congregation moved in 1920 and worshiped in Worley School. Subsequently, lots were purchased at our present location on the northeast corner of Cleveland Avenue and 23rd Street N.W.
In July of 1921, the Reformed Church Board of Home Missions approved a gift to us of $14,000 and offered a loan of $35,000 at 2% interest. Architect Charles Bolton of Bolton & Son, Philadelphia drew the plan for a church of Gothic Revival architecture.

The church building was constructed in 1923. However the first services in the new building were delayed because of a strike by the pew builders. The church dedication ceremony took place on January 20th, 1924.

Rev. E.E. Koepp began his ministry with Grace in August of 1924. At this same time the tower or the church building, which originally housed the church office, was being rebuilt to permit installation of the new chimes. 

1926 - 1935
This was a significant and challenging decade in the life of the church. The parsonage was built in 1926 and in January of 1929, Rev. Edward G. Klotz began his ministry at Grace. The congregation struggled with the debt of a new church while the nation was plunged into the Great Depression. A famous and memorable activity grew out of our financial woes, the soup kitchen. The women of the church began the" soup kitchen" to assist the church by making soup in huge kettles and selling it by the quart.

In June of 1934, the reformed Church in the United States and the Evangelical Synod of North America united to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church. Our congregation became Grace Evangelical and Reformed Church.

1936 - 1945
At a time when many of our young members were in service to their country, Rev. Klotz concluded his ministry with us in 1942 and was succeeded by Rev. Arthur H. Harsh on January 1st, 1943. The first issue of "Grace Chimes," our monthly newsletter, was published on April 9th, 1944 and sent to many members who were serving overseas. The obligations to the Home Mission Board were paid off in 1945. 

1946 - 1955
With the end of World War II, Canton continued with growth that would see the peak of its population. The northwest portion of Canton continued to grow as did Grace Church. Our pastor for this entire decade was Rev. Arthur Harsh, who was called to the presidency of the Southeast Ohio Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church.

1956 - 1965
During this decade, Grace Evangelical and Reformed Church became Grace United Church of Christ as the merger of the Congregational Christian and Evangelical & Reformed churches created the United Church of Christ. For most of this decade Grace was served by Rev. Hugo C. Kellermeyer. Also it was at this time that the Parish House property (site of the current Education Wing) was purchased. In January of 1962, the report to the congregation listed the membership at 400 and an average Sunday School attendance of 201. The need for more Sunday School classrooms led to the envisioning and planning for the addition of an education wing.

1966 - 1975
The education wing was completed, but due to financial considerations, it was done in two phases, first tearing down the existing parish house and adding half of the rooms. Rev. Al Irby was called in 1967 and during his pastorate special emphases were lay leadership development and Christian Education. Grace Church had long had a strong Sunday School program for children and adults, however it was further strengthened by the participation of several members in the Lay Ministry and Christian Education Associates programs  of the denomination. These programs were the forerunners to the present Partners in Ministry programs.

1976 - 1985
Rev. Jay Schmidt was chosen as minister of Grace Church in 1978. One hallmark of the congregation was increased personal involvement in missions. A Loatian refugee family was sponsored by a group of interested and concerned members of the church in 1980 and this couple became very loved and close friends to our congregation. In 1983, four members of our congregation joined with a group from Trinity U.C.C., Wooster in a mission trip to Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, Mississippi. An outgrowth of that involvement was an awareness of the Mount Olivet Boys Home in Jamaica. Our first contact, as with many of our mission involvements, was financial support for the home and for the lay missionaries from Wooster, who traveled to Jamaica each summer. Health considerations kept that couple from their yearly mission trip in 1988 and Grace's first lay missionaries to a foreign country were called into service.


1986 - 1995 
Spiritual growth was  an important aspect of the pastonate of Rev. Carlan Helgeson, who began his ministry with us in 1988. Spiritual healing services became a part of our worship experience for a time durning this decade. Informal evening Bible studies were led by the pastor

Expanded parking facilities were made possible by the purchase of three houses and the donation of a vacant lot on 23rd Street N.W. Property lines were adjusted, the houses were sold, and a landscaped 41 - space parking lot was added.  

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