Archive for February, 2012


After several months of discussion and prayer, the leadership and congregations of both Grace Community Church and Bigelow Church have decided to join forces and become one. The combined congregation will be officially known as “The Grace Community Church @ Bigelow” and will hold corporate worship services at the current location of Bigelow Church (415 Washington St.)


This process started just a few weeks after the death of Bigelow’s Pastor, Steve Schueren. It was at this time when the leadership of Grace Community Church received the following communication:

“On behalf of the elders of Bigelow Church I am writing to ask you to prayerfully consider, in the very near future, joining Bigelow Church for a combined Sunday worship service.  If God so leads we would be more than willing to reciprocate and join Grace Community Church in the same manner in a subsequent Sunday.

Steve spoke highly of the Gospel Centered efforts of Grace Community Church so we are very comfortable reaching out to you at this time.

We (Bigelow Church) find ourselves in a time when it may be beneficial in the short term for those in our congregation to not have the responsibility of filling the pulpit each Sunday, especially in the next few weeks. This short time may prove very helpful to our Church and we would welcome the opportunity to sit under your preaching.” (October 16, 2011)


I think it is very important to note what was going on at Grace Community Church at the time this request was received.  For nearly two years, Pastor Brad Howerton had been leading the congregation through a verse by verse study through the book of Romans.  According to the providence of God, we were preparing to land on the following verse:


“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)


On Sunday, October 30th, the congregations gathered together for corporate worship for the first time at Bigelow Church. The combined services continued as scheduled for a period of two weeks, in which we were able to join together in worship to the Lord through congregational singing, sharing of the Lord’s Table, and the preaching of the Word. In addition to our combined services, we were able to share in a fellowship meal that was served by the congregation of Grace Community.


Immediately following the second week of combined worship, both congregations decided to continue in this pattern of combined services.  It was then that the following announcement was presented to each congregation:

“Whereas, the leadership of both Bigelow Church and Grace Community Church desire to magnify Christ and His Church in Portsmouth, OH; and,

Whereas, the leadership of both Bigelow Church and Grace Community Church recognize the needs and strengths of each congregation are, in many ways, complementary to the other;

The leaders of both congregations have agreed to conduct a feasibility study to evaluate the potential for merging the individual congregations in order to form a combined union stronger than the component parts.”


The aforementioned “Feasibility Study” was scheduled to continue for the remaining two months of 2011. We then spent the month of January holding combined congregational meetings, in addition to our continued pattern of scheduled worship services. The congregational meetings served as an opportunity to answer questions and to address any concerns regarding the practical outworking of this merger.

The “Feasibility Study” officially came to an end this evening (Feb. 12, 2012) as both congregations assembled together for the purpose of concluding this specific study. After a time of prayer and reflection, we once again shared the elements of the Lord’s Supper. The members of each congregation then expressed and affirmed their desire to connect the component parts as one local expression of the body of Christ.

This has been a very exciting and unique experience for everyone involved, as we recognize that each congregation represents a variety of factors: different age groups, backgrounds, circumstances, preferences, etc.  However, with Christ as our foundation and His word as our guide, we are committed to deny ourselves as we seek to glorify Him as we move forward.

We all stand amazed as we watch God’s providential hand orchestrating every detail surrounding this process and we can say with full assurance that “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

In Christ,

Gary Chaffins




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