Decades of Grace
In The Beginning (1955-1964)
Grace Baptist Church was officially organized on July 24, 1955, by a handful of people attending Bethany Baptist Church in nearby West Covina. Arnold Pearson was the church's first pastor. Since services initially were held in a home, it became apparent right away that church facilities would be needed. Though only 16 adults attended the first service, the future clearly looked bright and construction of the original sanctuary, now Building C, began the following year. The location, a 3 1/2-acre site on Glendora Avenue, where Grace is still located today.
Within five years of the church's founding, Grace was supporting six missionaries in five countries. The church's first expansion project, a 1,800-square-foot Christian Education Unit attached to the Sanctuary, was begun within a few years. In anticipation of continued growth, Grace strategically purchased land adjacent to the church property. Don Jensen was called to serve as Grace's second pastor after Arnold Pearson left for the mission field.
The Second Decade (1965-1974)
Over the next several years, other expansion projects were begun and completed. The Auditorium (Building A), with seating for approximately 800 worshippers, was completed as the church's second decade began, preceding construction of the 13,136-square-foot Grace Hall (Building E). Dr. H. Allan Smyth was called to serve as pastor as the 1960s came to a close, and the church's emphasis on evangelism continued to grow. A strong emphasis was also placed on Christian education.
The Third Decade (1975-1984)
Rev. Ronald Harper was called to pastor Grace Church as its third decade began. He served almost six years before Dr. Kimball Hodge became Grace's fifth pastor. During these years the church continued to attract new members and growth focused more on strengthening the base of ministries and missions than bricks and mortar.
In 1983 the church decided to begin a Spanish-language worship and education ministry on its campus. A year later, Grace began a new ministry aimed at attracting and developing children for Christ: AWANA.
The Fourth Decade (1985-1994)
The start of Grace's fourth decade was marked by continued emphasis on strengthening the church's ministry and facility foundations to support anticipated growth. Grace Sports Ministry began in 1986 with T-ball.
Throughout the years, as Grace grew in numbers, multiple worship services were used to accommodate the inevitable overcrowding that occurs between building expansions. During this decade, however, Grace gave the multiple service concept a new dimension with the addition of a worship service featuring contemporary music and a worship band. Thus, Grace's Celebration service was born, ushering in an era of multiple services with multiple styles of worship to reach multitudes for Christ.
In 1991 Rev. Gene Wood accepted a call to join Grace Church as senior pastor. The need for additional space to accommodate growth quickly became apparent. The Ministry Center, a 12,000-square-foot facility, was dedicated near the end of the decade and now serves as a base for contemporary worship, children's and youth activities, sports ministries and special events.
The Fifth Decade (1995-2005)
As the decade leading up to Grace Church's 50th anniversary began, construction started on our sports field, a parking lot and the barbecue area. In 1997 the first Evangelism Explosion program, where people eager to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others are trained, was launched. Grace Preschool opened the same year. The Grace Sports Ministry expanded to include soccer, and basketball, and later, volleyball. The following year, another worship service, Connection, was added. Common Grounds, making coffee and refreshments available, opened in 1998. In 2001 Grace embarked on a bold three-year plan dubbed as the "Family Room" project which resulted in expansion of nearly every facet of the campus. Building B and Building E were renovated, badly needed and expansive parking was added at the corner of Juanita and Glendora avenues. The entire courtyard was torn out and a new Fellowship Plaza installed. The original Christian Education Unit, the second structure completed on campus, was razed to open space for the plaza, and the nursery/preschool structures north of the Sanctuary on Glendora Avenue were razed to enable expanded parking. Just south of Building B, the playground was renovated with new equipment and a second playground was constructed to facilitate growth in Grace's children's programs and preschool.
Perhaps the most visible expansion was the three-level Christian education building which was added to the Ministry Center (Building D). The seamless merging of the expanded areas with the existing Ministry Center created a large structure that now houses Grace's Adult Bible Fellowship Groups (top floor), Grace Preschool, the nursery, preschool (middle floor) and student ministries (basement).
Today Grace's commitment to proclaiming the Word of God and salvation by God's grace continues to be central to its ministries. Methods have changed. Building and facilities have changed, too. And they will continue to change as long as God continues to bring new opportunities to attract and develop others at Grace.