In early 1967, Grace Baptist Church began as a Bible study in the home of Elvin and Joyce King, 148 Hawthorne Avenue, London. The impetus for the new work came from the Swordbearers, a student outreach ministry from Cedarville College, who had been holding street meetings in London for several months. Five interested families and other individuals, with the help of Rev. Earl Umbaugh, state missionary, started an area Bible study, meeting once a week in various homes. Sunday services were first held on May 14, 1967, using the lower level of the new John Gibboney Building at 233 West High Street. A short time later the group occupied the first floor as well. The pulpit supply came from visiting pastors, deacons, and missionaries, as well as students and professors from Cedarville College. Financial help, as well as many of the furnishings were received from area churches.
David W. Morris, as a candidate, supplied the pulpit on June 25, 1967, was extended a call to be pastor on June 28, and arrived in August to assume his duties. An ordination council was called for May 25, 1968, for the purpose of ordaining him into the Baptist ministry. The Recognition Council for Grace Baptist Church met on April 2, 1968, and unanimously approved the church as a duly organized and properly constituted Baptist Church, associated with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches and the Ohio Association of Regular Baptist Churches.
Plans were formulated during the summer of 1968 for the construction of a new building. Through the loving generosity of Ralph and Martha Davin, the church was able to purchase land at 121 North Madison Road in the spring of 1968, and construction began that August. The building was completed in January of 1969, and on January 25, Grace Baptist Church met for worship in its own building for the first time. Dedication services were held on the second anniversary of the church’s beginning, May 11, 1969. The Conn organ was purchased and installed in August of 1971 which added greatly to the worship services. In 1972, the church purchased new pews and pulpit furniture. Stanley Johnson furnished the labor and blacktopped the parking lot and driveway in April of 1972, which provided a measure of comfort for members and guests. In May of 1976 approval was given for building an addition to the church, which included adding four additional classrooms and a kitchenette, enlarging existing classrooms and the nursery, and installing air-conditioning throughout the entire building. The entrance porch was enclosed in 1984 to provide an airlock entrance to the building. Pastor Morris continued to shepherd the church for more than twenty years, resigning at the end of 1987. Dr. Floyd Elmore from Cedarville College then served as interim pastor for thirteen months.
Dwain A. Hill accepted the church’s call to become pastor in early 1989, and began his ministry in February of that year. He was formally installed as pastor in April of 1989 and continues to serve Grace Baptist Church. In 1989, the parking lot was extended and new blacktopping laid. A bequest from the estate of Alta Stewart made possible new hymnals and pew Bibles in 1991. New carpeting was installed in the older part of the building. The Davins’ thoughtful remembrance of the church in their wills made it possible for Grace Baptist Church to be debt-free for the church’s twenty-fifth anniversary, celebrated May 17, 1992.
Awana Clubs for children began in the fall of 1992 and continued through the spring of 2003 when we were disappointed to no longer be able to staff the program. AWANA challenged children of all ages each Wednesday evening during the school year. Its three parts were comprised of individual Scripture memory, a large circle game time, and a group devotional challenge. There was large participation at various levels from much of the congregation.
A synopsis of the highlights of the next few years include:
In 1995 we had an unusually high number of guest speakers, groups and musicians.
Printing equipment was updated with the purchase of a photocopier.
In 1996 the sound system was updated and included lapel microphone.
A new roof was put on the building, and landscaping was added to beautify the grounds.
In 1997, and for several years after, the church tried staffing an evangelism booth at the Madison County Fair.
The pavilion was built through the generosity of Debbie Dunlap; many picnics, graduations, anniversaries and various events have been sheltered by this structure, not to mention that many church neighbors are free to enjoy the yard and the shade!
In 1999, Grace Baptist Church sent a team to Zambia comprised of Pastor Hill, Jim Young and Jesse Hill. They were to see and encourage the ministry of Jim and Rachel Chambers. Pastor and Jim taught a two-week series of classes on the family, and Jesse remained in Zambia for three months to help with the construction of the church building there, traveling home with the Chambers when they returned for furlough.
That year also saw new office furniture for the pastor’s study. It was also the first year that the ladies tried and enjoyed a fall retreat at Lake Hope in southern Ohio.
During the year 2000, in co-operation with a city-wide drive, we distributed the “Jesus” video to the neighborhood surrounding the church. That year, the women became part of something bigger by preparing gospel bracelets for a gospel outreach at the Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City, Utah.
2001 was the year of Home-going for Pastor Morris, a bittersweet time of missing a dear friend, but a time of rejoicing as he met his Savior. A drinking fountain and the first laptop computer for the pastor were small additions that year.
An experiment in 2005 was a kid’s summer “Boot Camp”; it consisted of a week of outdoor nightly kids’ lessons and games, and had a military theme of Christian soldiers.
All it took in 2006 was a gracious offering of one anonymous individual which stimulated the giving of many and resulted in a major redecorating of the church: a fresh building appearance included complete interior painting, new carpet throughout, lowering of the front platform, and a new furnace in fellowship hall.
Over the years, some things have remained constant. A core group has always met on Wednesday nights to agree together in prayer for both the church body and for other known needs. Sunday School continues to meet each Sunday morning and over a period of years has gradually shifted from age-segregated classes to a family-integrated Bible Training Hour.
For years, the church maintained its own food cupboard, and still maintains a benevolent fund to help members as well as others in the community. The congregation sings songs and hymns, mixing the centuries-old with the new, with a focus on teaching and admonishing one another as we praise God together.
In looking back over a church ministry, it is easy to list material improvements, but not so easy to list spiritual accomplishments that have eternal consequences. A quote that was cited in the 2008 annual report might help to keep focus on what really matters:
History and hindsight show that there have actually been several “congregations” at Grace Baptist Church in its forty-seven years. In fact, there have been about 306 different members, eighty of those since the twenty-fifth anniversary. As some people move away or move on, God brings others to this meeting place where we strive to maintain a support group for those who want to be Godly, to prepare people to go out and meet their daily mission field, and to herald the never-changing truths of God’s Word, “a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.”