In 1969, all eyes were on the moon or the little town of White Lake, New York as the first manned space mission landed on the moon and half million people turned out for Woodstock. Closer to home, the Houston faithful were making plans for the first-ever worship of what would become Grace Presbyterian Church.
On the first Sunday in December 1969, the new combined church of St. Matthews Presbyterian and Second Presbyterian worshiped together for the first time at Walnut Bend Elementary School. The very next Sunday, the congregation voted to name this church Grace Presbyterian Church. Fifty years later, after more than 2,600 Sundays together, Grace has grown, not only in its physical space and membership, but in its impact across Westchase District.
Starting with nothing but a dream, a prayer and open land, the vision for what Grace Presbyterian would become had only just begun. For three years, weekly activities were held off site until the completion and dedication of the gymnasium, fellowship hall and education building in March 1972. The congregation and staff voted to begin with the gym so that the new space could be multi-functional, serving both as the worship center and an outreach opportunity to West Houston. Seeing emergency needs for food, clothing and shelter in the community, Grace was one of the founding members of what is now known as West Houston Assistance Ministries (WHAM).
By September of 1975, Grace School was launched as a mission of the church to serve families in the surrounding area through Christian education. The Founders Chapel was dedicated in 1978, unveiling the original 1903 Kimball Moller pipe organ, bringing familiar sounds from Second Presbyterian Church and a beautiful space for the community to worship together. Seven years later, a larger sanctuary was constructed to accommodate a growing membership. Today, Grace continues to look beyond itself and has become a congregation known for “living to make Jesus visible,” by loving and serving others across the street and around the world.
Living to make Jesus visible
On any given day, Grace Church members can be found working in the West Houston community – leading cooking classes for clients at WHAM, mentoring students at Paul Revere Middle School, and making meals with the Manna Ministry to provide for those in need. According to Rev. Chris French, pastor of Missional Living, God is working through the people of Grace Presbyterian Church. “Loving our neighbors means more than just inviting them to church,” said French. “We need to look around, know our neighbors, be in a relationship with them and love them in such a way that we’re not just giving them a message, but we’re demonstrating our love for God by caring for the needs that they face every day.”
Long-time member Bill Aldridge, who was in the first confirmation class at Grace, knows the power of transformational love firsthand. “This church came here when there was nothing out here but a community,” observed Aldridge. “We drew in people from Briargrove Park, from Walnut Bend and Lakeside Estates. People came to church and heard the word of the Lord and lives were changed. This is the place where I learned that God loves me and where I learned to love God.”
Grace can also be found loving those beyond the borders of West Houston through mission partners like Habitat for Humanity, Living Water International, Medical Benevolence Foundation, Youth with a Mission, Star of Hope, Boys and Girls Country, Grace Girls School in Kenya and many others.
To the beltway and beyond
In the next fifty years, Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Trey Little, would like Grace Presbyterian Church to be known as “so much more than a nice building in the Westchase District. I’d like Grace to be remembered as a group of courageous people authentically partnering with Jesus to build His kingdom in Houston and beyond,” said Little.
The membership of Grace Presbyterian Church will celebrate its 50th anniversary at a combined worship service at 10 a.m. on December 8. The 50th anniversary celebration also recognized a milestone in Grace Church’s “Ready” campaign, which brought $6 million in physical improvements to the church, including a remodeled Worship Center, updated Founders Chapel and a modernized fellowship hall.
Grace Presbyterian Church
10221 Ella Lee Lane