Community of Grace Lutheran Church in White Bear Lake may have undergone a recent name change, but its mission remains the same.
Known for decades as First Lutheran, the church’s roots run deep, back to 1888 when German and Swedish immigrants each started their own churches in the White Bear Lake area. The two denominations merged in 1929 and became First English Evangelical Lutheran Church. In its almost 130-year existence, the church has undergone a relocation out of downtown in 1958, building additions and several name changes, but has always remained true to its calling to serve others in love.
“We wanted our name to reflect the community we have at our church,” says service and mission director Perry Petersen. “Unfortunately, First Lutheran didn’t really communicate much.” A vote for the new name, Community of Grace Lutheran Church, was held last fall, and new signs and a website redesign were implemented over the following months.
“It was an interesting conversation, because people are very attached to names,” Petersen says of the new appellation. “We’ve had a few name changes along the way. We’ve been First Lutheran for a long time, so that was a big deal in that regard,” though Petersen says the vote for Community of Grace was, by a “large majority, positive.”
Regardless of its name, Community of Grace members are still focused on doing what they do best: finding numerous opportunities to serve the White Bear Lake community. “We do a community garage sale in June that’s part of Manitou Days up here in White Bear Lake and typically host a couple thousand people,” Petersen says. “We give out 1,500 hot dogs, have a community meal, 100-plus sellers, and do it as a blessing to our community.”
Community of Grace also strives to end hunger by partnering with the Fare for All program, which provides families with fruit, vegetables and frozen meat in bulk at discounted prices. They’ve also been a part of a separate program; mobile markets, an effort rolled out by the White Bear Area Emergency Food Shelf to expand food accessibility to those in need providing fresh produce, milk, eggs and basic food-shelf staples at the traveling sites.
In July and August, the church participates in School Tools Drive, collecting donated school supplies for the White Bear Lake school system to give to kids in need with Interfaith Action. And last summer, Community of Grace participated in a Habitat for Humanity project. “One of our own people benefitted from getting a new home from Habitat,” Petersen says. “The more I’m around our community and our church, I’m continually impressed by the generosity of people to give, and not just give out of prosperity, but to give even when it hurts a little bit.”
And the church carries out the commission to love their neighbors even when they are 2,200 miles away. Petersen says efforts to help internationally have “blossomed into a very strong partnership in Haiti called Mission of Hope Haiti. We currently sponsor 150 kids and raised $15,000 [in March] to send 60,000 send meals there.” Additionally, a team from Community of Grace visits Haiti to serve and connect with people there every year.
With a vibrant community of about 650 to 700 members, it’s easy to see why there is an outpouring of love and service to the people they live and work alongside. “I just think it’s a great church, and very generous people with their time and their treasure,” Petersen says. “It’s a joy to be able to be a part of that."
Donate to the School Tools Drive
- High-priority supplies: Backpacks, three-ring binders, calculators and facial tissue.
- Other supplies: Spiral and composition notebooks, pencils, pens, markers, folders, school boxes, erasers, highlighters, colored pencils, rulers, glue, USB flash drives, etc.
- Monetary donations will be used to purchase additional items not covered by the drive. Address checks to Community of Grace Church and write “School Tools” in the memo line.