Christ Lutheran Church (CLC)

and Graceful Growing Together, Inc (GGT)

80 Year History of Community Outreach
1930s – Creating the Foundation 


  • On Dec. 2, 1934, at the height of the Great Depression, the first Lutheran congregation in the Bethesda area launched. On that Sunday, some 163 people gathered at the State Theater, then located near the site of the present Bethesda Hyatt Hotel, for the first service of the “Lutheran Mission of Bethesda.” The theater’s owner provided free use of the premises. Later renamed The Hiser, the theatre was the congregation’s home throughout its earliest years.
  • In October 1935, the Lutheran Mission of Bethesda became Christ Lutheran Church (CLC), with 46 charter members.
  • In March 191938_to_1940_Church38, members raised $7,000 in only seven days, allowing them to purchase the Garrett house at 8011 Old Georgetown Rd. Remodeling the house created a chapel, Sunday school rooms and a pastor’s apartment
1940s – Planning the Future


  • In 1941, an addition to the original church provided space for a new chapel and parish hall. As the war years progressed, church members knew the issue of more adequate facilities soon would have to be addressed. Master plans for future building began.1941-1953_Church
1950s – Growing the Facilities 


  • In 1951, a neighboring house at 5017 Rugby Ave. was purchased to use as a new parsonage.
  • By 1953, the congregation decided to build a new church facility on the site at 8011 Old Georgetown Rd.
  • The purchase of an adjacent lot on the corner of Old Georgetown and Glenbrook Rd. became the site of a new building; the three-level Luther Hall educational and community center was completed in 1955.
  • In 1956, the adjacent new Christ Lutheran Church building was dedicated.
1960s – Community Outreach 


  • In November 1961, in a step that launched Christ Lutheran’s enduring tradition of community outreach, the church opened the Christ Church Child Center (CCCC) as a special learning center for children with disabilities.
  • Property expansion continued in the 1960s with the purchase of the Barrett property at 8015 Old Georgetown Rd. and another house at 5014 Rugby Ave.
  • In the mid-60s, the Bethesda community around the church was growing rapidly, and in 1965, Old Georgetown Rd. was widened.
1970s – Growth and Change 


  • In 1972, with the additional space of the 8015 Old Georgetown property available, a senior day care center was opened. The Bethesda Fellowship House (BFH), served up to 23 people too hearty for nursing homes but who needed care during the day.
  • By 1976 CLC had seen a 30-year post-war era that spanned a dramatic period of growth and change in the community and congregation. The church acquired most of its buildings and property, and created programs to meet congregational needs as membership peaked. Most notably Christ Lutheran’s spirit of community service and outreach also took shape: first, through its Child Center (CCCC), and, later through the establishment of the Bethesda Fellowship House and many other community services. That spirit continues to define CLC and GGT today.
1980s – Approaching Maturity 


  • In 1985, with 123 students in four locations, CCCC moved into a larger home, a vacated public school at 11614 Seven Locks Rd. in Potomac, where it brought all its classes under one roof. With the move, the center changed its name to the Ivymount School.
  • With the educational building freed up by CCCC’s departure in the mid-1980s, the congregation explored other clcpiccommunity needs for that space. In 1986, the Christ Church Children’s Day Care Center accepted children ages 3-4. In 1987, the center increased its enrollment to include 2 year-olds.
  • In the fall of 1988, the Day Care Center expanded again – this time to the church-owned house at 5017 Rugby Ave. Cherub House, as the new portion of the center was called, answered a critical need in child care: a quality environment for infants and toddlers.
  • In 1988, responding to the need for affordable counseling services for the community, CLC initiated the Christ Lutheran Church Counseling Center.
  • In the late 1980s, Christ Lutheran opened its space for the first time to other church congregations seeking a regular meeting place. Adat Shalom, a Jewish Reconstructionist congregation, a Korean congregation, Iglesias Evangelica Principe de Paz and Iglesias Asambleas Principe de Paz Hispanic congregations have used the sanctuary and community facilities for their services.
  • In 1988, Bethesda Cares, an organization formed to help the homeless in Bethesda, began serving lunch at CLC. By offering its facilities to a range of organizations, CLC paved another avenue of outreach to the community.
1990s – Transition Vision 


  • In addition to sharing church, community and multi-cultural social events as space allowed, Christ Lutheran become a regular meeting place for members of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al Anon, and other 12-Step groups.
  • In the early ’90s the facilities were upgraded and made ADA compliant.
  • By the late ‘90s an evolving new vision for the future of the church was taking place. The Graceful Growing Together stewardship plan was started to view future needs and options.
2000s – Implementing the Vision 


  • In 2003, a Development Steering Committee (DSC) of CLC’s Council was formed to fully analyze multiple future options. The congregation-approved decision was to remain in downtown Bethesda and to have DSC manage the project to maximize the use of property to serve the evolving congregation and community.
  • After a special fund drive, MTFA Architecture was selected as the Development Coordinator to start to lead CLC through the complex development process.
  • With the 2004 purchase of 8008 Glenbrook, a 70-year acquisition of 10 adjacent land parcels bordered by Old Georgetown, Glenbrook, Rugby and the Rescue Squad at Battery, CLC’s Bethesda property now totaled 2.2 acres.
  • In 2005, CLC entered into a predevelopment loan with Thrivent Financial Bank.
  • In 2006, the new Woodmont Triangle Sector plan was approved and used in CLC plans.
  • In 2007, Graceful Growing Together, Inc. (GGT) was incorporated and IRS approved as a 501 c 3 nonprofit of CLC.
  • In 2008, a formal County Abandonment procedure to close alleys on the property was approved.20130608_130318
  • In 2008, CCCC outgrew its space and, with a new mission, moved to Rock Springs.
  • In 2008, Guiding Star Child Development Center was formed and IRS approved as a 501 c 3 nonprofit of CLC.
  • In 2009, CLC received The Community Service Award from The Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce.
2010 and Beyond – Vision Into Reality 


  • In October 2010, the Montgomery County Council approved the CLC property rezoning application allowing for greater density and height with mixed-use church, community center and housing purposes.
  • In 2010, the Culinary Arts Initiative (CAI) program started under GGT in the commercial kitchen.
  • In 2010, Christ Lutheran Church celebrated its 75th anniversary in Bethesda.
  • In 2011, the Circuit Court sustained the 2010 rezoning decision by the Montgomery County Council.
  • In 2012, an appeal of the Montgomery County Council rezoning decision was rejected by the Court of Special GGTDevelopment_Building_Contaxt_ViewAppeals.
  • In 2012, a Market Assessment and Operating Proforma study was completed by the NonProfitCenters Network.
  • In 2012, a Capital Campaign Feasibility Study was completed by Community Counselling Services.
  • In 2013, the Schematic Design was completed by MTFA and approved by the congregation, leading to the next phase of Design Development.
  • In 2014, GGT’s first County grant was received for capital cost sharing.
  • In 2014, CLC approved a land sale contract with Bush Construction as the condominium developer.GGTDevelopment_Council_Meeting_Post_Celebration_01
  • In 2014, Eagle Bank approved a loan to replace Thrivent as our pre-development lender.
  • In 2014, CLC and GGT testified in support of the Downtown Bethesda Plan
  • In 2015, the second County capital cost-sharing grant was received.
  • In 2015, the first capital grants were received from both the Maryland Senate and House.
  • In 2015, the CLC project is proceeding with the Design Development phase for a 64,000 gross square foot, 7-level LEED Silver worship space & community center. In addition, a portion of the church’s land and surrounding houses will be developed into new condominium housing.
  • In 2015, CLC celebrates its 80th anniversary in Bethesda.
  • From 2016 to 2018 during the construction of the new facilities, CLC will move into nearby Imagination Stage.
  • Montgomery County’s Director of Recreation and Chair of the Collaboration Council Gabe Albornoz has stated, “Your concept is ideal for a neighborhood health and wellness center.” Chuck Short, Special Assistant to County Executive Ike Leggett, also advised, “Your center will be an integral part of the new downtown Bethesda.”

As reported in the June 2015 cover story of “The Gazette,” “Bethesda has no community center downtown that will provide what the Graceful Growing Together project would offer,” Del. Marc A. Korman said. Korman (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda sponsored the bill to fund the project, with support from the entire District 16 delegation. In the Senate, Susan C. Lee (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda was a co-sponsor in the Senate.

“We want to grow around Metro stations, and I think that is great, but we need to make sure we are providing all types of infrastructure — not just school and roads, but community centers like this,” Korman said. The Graceful Growing Together project hits all of the marks for state support through a bond bill,” Korman said.

  • The past 80 years have paved the way for GGT’s future of outreach to the ever-growing and changing Bethesda community. The days and years ahead are exciting for the people and essential ministries and programs of Christ Lutheran Church and Graceful Growing Together, Inc.

What is God calling CLC and GGT to be and do in the future? And what changes are in order to help us respond most faithfully to the needs of His people?