As Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, 100 E. Schrock Road, celebrates its centennial, members are looking to the future rather than to the past.

As Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, 100 E. Schrock Road, celebrates its centennial, members are looking to the future rather than to the past.

The church, which was founded in 1909 as an offshoot of St. Paul Lutheran Church, originally was located on East Home Road. The church moved to its current four-acre parcel on Schrock Road in 1965.

The Rev. William Hartfelder, the church's senior pastor, said what has kept Grace Lutheran going strong for 100 years is the constant forward thinking of its leadership and its members.

"It has never felt like a church about to celebrate 100 years," Hartfelder said. "All too often, a church with a long history has decided what to do and how to do it years ago."

A large part of that forward thinking has been the church's commitment to expanding when needed, Hartfelder said.

Despite the Great Depression, the original church building was remodeled and expanded in 1936 in order to accommodate a growing congregation.

As the city of Westerville grew, a new church was built at the corner of Otterbein Avenue and Schrock Road, in a then-undeveloped area.

As it prepared for its 100th anniversary, the congregation moved out of its building for eight months last year to allow for renovation and expansion, a reflection of its ever-changing ministries, Hartfelder said.

"We've changed our facility to facilitate what God calls us to do," he said.

Though Grace Evangelical Lutheran embraces a tradition of looking forward, that's not to say it isn't celebrating 100 years of history.

On Nov. 1, the church will have one service at 10 a.m. Former members, pastors and family members of longtime members have been invited to attend.

Church members John Kleberg, who has been helping to keep Grace Evangelical Lutheran's archives since the 1970s, and Patty Barb, have worked to set up a display of church artifacts, including the altar from the original building, the church's original baptismal font, confirmation pictures dating back to the 1940s and items taken out of the cornerstone time capsule placed in the church during the 1965 renovations.

Kleberg said the church members have put a lot of effort into keeping archives over the last 40 years, and the centennial celebration has given the church the opportunity to appeal to members to bring in photos and memorabilia kept by their families over the years.

"I think that's what you find in a lot of older congregations," Kleberg said. "People kept things."

A lot of the fun of the centennial preparations, Kleberg said, is reading through the church's old records of marriages, baptisms and confirmations.

"In a lot of churches, the story of the congregation is the history of people," he said. "Always interesting are records of people's pastoral lives."

Kleberg said the church made a conscious decision to keep the 1909 cornerstone of the original church building closed.

During his research of Grace Evangelical Lutheran's historical documents, Kleberg, like Hartfelder, said he was struck by the forward thinking of church members who decided to build at the corner of Schrock Road and Otterbein Avenue on a larger plot of land than churches usually occupied.

At that time, Schrock Road stopped at Otterbein Avenue, and the church helped to put in much of the infrastructure at the intersection, Kleberg said.

"The members at the time had the foresight that Westerville was moving this way," he said. "And a willingness to accept the challenge and say, 'Let's do it.'"

The church's recent expansion mirrors that thinking, Kleberg said.

"It's almost like a recognition again that there's a vitality in the community," he said.