In April of 1992, five Chelmsford families gathered to share one dream: a church that would bring together their beliefs, values, and community. From this humble beginning came the church that many have grown to love and call home, Grace Community Church.
The original five families were people who attended Grace Chapel in Lexington. Their desire was to replicate in a local church body those characteristics that made Grace Chapel so special to them – not superficial traits like worship style or church government, as important as those might be – but a culture of Christian liberty and grace.
Pastor Richard Rhodes from Grace Chapel became the guiding force behind the effort. When he was in seminary, one of Richard's key areas of focus was church planting. For one of his projects, he performed a detailed study of what would be involved in planting a church. "Coincidentally," the location of the hypothetical church in his project was the Chelmsford/Westford area.
In October of that year (1992), after months of prayer and planning, the startup team held an informational meeting at the Chelmsford Public Library. (Another coincidence: The meeting was held in what was the "carriage house." That building was later moved and became the property of a family in the church.)
Dozens of people turned out on that cold night to share in the vision of a new church plant in the Merrimack Valley. What would become one of the hallmarks of the church was made evident on that first night: an impromptu collection was held to help out two Chelmsford families in need. An extraordinarily large sum was collected, foreshadowing the tremendous generosity that would set the tone for Grace Community through the years.
February 10, 1993, marked the first ever worship service of what would eventually become GCC. There were 89 people in attendance at the first of several monthly evening meetings held at the Chinese Bible Church on Hunt Road in Chelmsford.
May 5 of that year brought together a gathering of regular attendees for the purpose of choosing a name for the church. Many possibilities were considered, but "Grace Community Church" was the final selection. Each word in the name still has a very significant meaning for:
The startup was gathering momentum. Searches were underway for a first pastor and a physical home. The generosity of the small congregation continued to evidence itself during a special Thanksgiving 1993 offering where more than $13,000 was raised toward procuring a permanent home for the growing community.
The fledgling congregation began weekly worship services, still in the evenings at the Chinese Bible Church, on October 3, 1993, led by a recently selected pastoral leader.
The next milestone was the opening of a permanent facility. March 13, 1994 was the first Sunday morning service at 275 Billerica Road, where the church still meets. The original sanctuary was where the youth room, junior high room, and connecting offices exist today.
It didn't take long to outgrow that space. In 2000, the new (current) sanctuary, gym (now the Grace Cafe), and additional offices were opened.
Although many years and many people have come and gone since those early days, one thing has remained constant: Grace Community Church has been and continues to be a place where people from diverse backgrounds can come together in the common pursuit of what it means to discover and live new life in Jesus Christ.