The following account is a brief history that notes principle events and activities in the establishment of Grace Presbyterian Church.
Early in 1956, a group of Presbyterian living in Lodi decided the time had come to take steps to establish a church in Lodi. Several meetings were held in various homes. By spring 1957 the group had grown sufficiently in members and strength of purpose to take action.
In May 1957 Rev. Russell Bisnett arrived t help with organizing procedures with the help of the Presbytery, a manse was purchased at 1000 S. Crescent Avenue. While the Bisnett's were living in the manse, many weekly meetings were held in the living room. Arrangements were made for using the small chapel of what was the Hilborn Adventist church at the corner of Garfield and Hilborn Streets. This was used for regular services including church school. On Sunday, September 29, 116 charter members official became the first families of Grace Presbyterian Church.
When Hilborn Adventist Church was sold, Grace members negotiated for temporary use of facilities at what was then Central Avenue Adventist Church. Our first more permanent location initiated the remodeling of the office complex at the old Shewan & Jones winery on Turner Road. This building became a church and served the congregation well for two years.
On January 5, 1958, our next pastor, Rev. Ward Murray, arrived with his wife, Ruth. A building committee was formed to find a suitable site to construct a church building. Thus, a five-acre parcel at the corner of Mills and Pine was found and approved by Presbytery. The purchase was made in May 1959. On January 21, 1962, the ground was broken for the sanctuary with the first service held on July 8th of that same year.
In 1966 the Rev. War Murray left our church to begin a new ministry in the inland sea area of Alaska. Rev. John Kinsey served Grace as the interim pastor.
In October 1967 our next pastor was Rev. Vernon Robertson who, with his wife, Peggy and their three sons, all participated in the growth and development of our church. Grace took its place in the community. The sanctuary building was utilized to its fullest extent and by 1957 serious planning was begun on the construction of a multipurpose building. It was decided that 2 acres on the east side of the property could be sold to provide necessary funds. In July 1980 ground was broken for the new building known as Grace Hall.
In February 1982, the Rev. Vernon Robertson resigned and Robert Serwood provided leadership as interim pastor.
With the decision to build a multipurpose building there came an idea of starting a preschool to serve both the families of Grace and the families in the community. The preschool opened in September 1982 under the leadership of Jennifer Kraemer as a teacher/director. Grace Preschool continues to thrive today. We are even seeing second-generation students attending the school.
December 1982 the Rev. Dr. David Hill was called to become our pastor; which he stayed as our pastor till 2015. Under his leadership, Grace Presbyterian continued to be committed to growth. Many children's activities, missions, and community outreach programs were developed and flourished.
With the completion of Grace Hall, the next major project was removing the partitions and thus expanding the sanctuary to the full size for which it was intended. The newly-remodeled sanctuary was dedicated on April 1, 1984.
In the spring of 1989, the church purchased and installed a 12-rank Austin pipe organ. The organ was found when a member saw a tiny article in the newspaper. St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Napa was replacing their organ with a larger one, thus needing to sell their 12-rank organ. The organ made its debut at Grace in the fall of 1989.
The year 1993 brought a spirited campaign to become "debt free in '93". the goal was accomplished and the loans were paid in full.
In April of 2019 Grace Presbyterian welcomed a new pastor. We welcomed Steve Netiness after having two interim pastors for the between period, they were Bill McGenniss and Cindy Towel Kephert.
Community outreach has also been a large part of our church. Not only does our preschool serve Lodi, but we also have several ministries that provide for the needs in the area and beyond. The Deacons assist monetarily each month to the Lodi Chaplains, the Women's Center, Breakthrough Project, Salvation Army, First Presbyterian Church-Hurricane Relieve Program, Slidell, LA, and a small portion of members' preschool tuition. Our Deacons also visit shut-ins monthly and deliver the sanctuary floral bouquets to shut-ins each Sunday. They also provide crisis meals, send cards to members who are ill, and deliver food to families in need. These are just a few of the many actions that assist the others around us.
As we celebrate the serving Lodi, may we look forward to many more years of planting seeds of God's love throughout the community and beyond.