A Brief History of Winona Lake (IN) Grace Brethren Church
Shortly after Grace Theological Seminary moved to Winona Lake in the late 1930s and the national organization activity of the Fellowship was beginning to center in Winona Lake, a small group began meeting in each other’s homes for Wednesday evening prayer.
The decision to move forward and form a church was made June 23, 1943, at a meeting at Don Bartlett’s home on Seventh Street. Temporary officers elected were Leo Polman, chairman; Isobel Fraser, secretary; and Marvin Goodman, treasurer.
The first Sunday service was held in the Free Methodist Headquarters building (now Mount Memorial Hall) on September 5, 1943. Charter membership eventually closed with 53 people on the list.
Grace Seminary faculty member Dr. Homer Kent, Sr. became the first pastor in 1946 and the church’s first constitution was completed three years later. Herman Koontz was installed as the church’s first full-time pastor in September of 1949, and two years later the group moved its Sunday meetings to the new seminary building, now McClain Hall.
Don Ogden was engaged as the church’s first music and youth director in 1953, and the first Vacation Bible School was held in 1954. That same year, property was purchased on the corner of 13th street and King’s Highway, for the eventual construction of a facility specifically for the church.
A branch church was begun in the Herscher Addition in 1956, and that congregation is now Community Grace Brethren Church of Warsaw, Indiana.
Richard DeArmey was installed as pastor in 1957. That year the church’s missions budget was about $5,000 and Sunday attendances averaged slightly more than 200 people.
Charles Ashman came as pastor in 1962, and six years later, in April of 1968, ground was broken on King’s Highway for the first phase of the church’s current facility. Ed Lewis became WLGBC’s first assistant pastor in 1969.
The new building was first occupied on December 11, 1969, with a threefold communion service attended by 225 people. Max Fluke was chairman of the building committee. At the formal dedication in January, 1970, the main speaker was Pastor Richard DeArmey.
In 1978 “Grace” was added to the name, now making it Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church. The facilities and property of the Winona School of Photography (now the Youth Center) were purchased in 1983.
John Teevan succeeded Charles Ashman as pastor in 1989, and attendances were then running more than 500 with a missions budget of more than $135,000.
In the summer of 2006, Pastor John Teevan accepted a position with Grace College and Seminary and the church restructured into a team leadership concept with associate pastor Bruce Barlow becoming the lead pastor. In addition to Barlow, the pastoral leadership team includes Kip Cone (proclamation), Dave Rank (music and worship), Tim Wright (youth), Tom Julien (equipping), Jay Bell (missions and evangelism) and Tom Miller (seniors).
“Founded on the Faith, Focused on the Future,” the slogan the church used during its 50-year anniversary celebration in 1993, still characterizes the warm, outreaching, equipping family of believers that is Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church.