A presence in Destin for more than 30 years, Grace Lutheran Church will soon celebrate 10 years in its current location at 4325 Commons Drive. A 10-year celebration service begins at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 13 with Pastor Kevin Wendt officiating. Following the service will be a time of food and fellowship and family-oriented activities. All are welcome to attend.
Sue Gibson, Grace member since 1985, said the church first met in 1982 in the office of Dr. Mike Raim, a charter member. Service was then held Sept. 26, 1982, at Destin Elementary School with 57 people gathering for worship.
"With no permanent place of worship, Grace moved many times during the next five to seven years," Gibson told The Log. "During the next few years we met at several different locations, including the Baptist Church on Calhoun Avenue, the Banquet Room of the old Holiday Inn, and a storefront in the Shores Shopping Center."
“This was my first and only parish,” the Rev. Paul Kummer, pastor from 1989 to 2011, told The Log. “We were in a storefront church next to Delchamps liquor store, where Target is now, and our motto was ‘Get your spirits there; get the Spirit here!’”
In October 1991 ground was broken for a new church building on Two Trees Road where they moved in 1992 and remained for the next 13 years.
Since then, the church has grown from a few dozen members to more than 400 people at the Sunday services, with attendance averaging about 600 during Snowbird season.
"As membership grew, it became necessary to plan another move," Kay Royston, volunteer staff member and former vice president of the Parish Planning Council, told The Log. "Land from the Mattie Kelly Trust Fund had been purchased in 1983, and with accessibility to that land, a new building project began in March 2003."
Marcia Hull and her husband Dave have been members of Grace for 20 years and she served on the Building Committee.
"Mattie Kelly preserved this parcel of land for The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod for the future permanent home of Grace Lutheran Church," Marcia told The Log. "She established a trust of $275,000 that she donated to nine churches, seven of which were in Destin. She was very devoted to the spiritual needs of Destin."
"It was a big deal to build the present campus," Kummer said. "We did it on a lot of faith but God, as usual, was so faithful. It was a joy to fill the sanctuary and classrooms with hungry people who just want the world to know how good God is and how much he loves them."
With the completion of this project in 2005 the move was made from Two Trees Road to Commons Drive, and the Two Trees Road building became the current City Hall Annex.
Grace celebrated her new 35,000-square-foot campus with a dedication service on Sept. 11, 2005, with Kummer officiating. Gibson remembers him telling her about the color of the roof and building. "The red roof was the blood of Jesus covering us and making us (the white building) pure."
"In the past 10 years, God has faithfully worked through Grace Lutheran Church to provide for the spiritual and physical needs of the membership and the community," said Royston. "In addition, the facilities have been used for cultural events, such as Sinfonia concerts and Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation event overflow parking, Community Bible Study, G3 Preschool, Vacation Bible School, YMCA camp, and a Brazilian church, just to name a few."
Kummer said, "I bless Grace Lutheran, yes, the building, but especially her pastor and staff and people. You, dear people are the Church and you radiate Jesus' love and power and the world needs what you carry."