POINT?PLEASANT?- Forty years ago in a garage in Point Pleasant, a Bible study class felt the call to start a new house of worship to praise and sing the Lord's name. All that was needed was a pastor and a place to worship. In stepped a fresh faced 22-year-old, Ken Coleman fresh off earning a bachelor's degree in Bible study from Tennessee Temple University.
"The 10 to 20 people in the Bible study approached me and asked if I would lead their new church," says Coleman. "I told them to let me graduate first and then we would get the church started."
Pastor Coleman and his new congregation held church in buildings they rented at the Mason County fairground on Memorial Day weekend in 1973 as the first meeting place until they had the funds to build the church, which officially opened its doors in 1974.
Photo courtesy of Grace Baptist Church
From left are Pastor Jamie Watts, Bob Graham, David Ricks, Kenneth Coleman and Jonathan Pinson. All five ministers were on hand for the 40th celebration at Grace Baptist Church this past Sunday.
"We bought six acres of land and built the Tabernacle in six months and the rest of the church grew up around that," says Coleman.
Coleman would continue to preach at the church for 15 years and would see a very big expansion of the parish under his watch.
"The first year we were a church, we had about 527 parishioners attending, that number swelled to 709 in the second year."
Coleman would leave the church, 15 years later and travel down to Newport News, Va., to begin a second church - the Colonial Baptist Church. With the core leadership of the church left behind, the congregation would welcome its second pastor in Bob Graham.
Pastor Graham, 68, who is now retired and lives in Georgetown, Ky., went to Grace Baptist and immediately knew he would enjoy the people.
"All the loving people and the town, made Grace Baptist, a fantastic place to serve for the 17 years I was there."
Under Graham's thumb, the church made improvements in the facilities and redid the entire nursery for children who could not quite make it through the service.
Graham would be followed by Pastor Eric Watts who had a brief but successful stay at the church.
Grace Baptist was the first church Watts served and he calls it "the most special church he has ever served at. Point Pleasant was a wonderful area to serve my first parish at, filled with loving and supportive people," said Pastor Watts.
Although, the numbers continued to decline from those of the Coleman years, the church still served 60 to 70 people, and with the upgrades, such as a new roof, new front door and an expanded parking lot, Pastor Watts saw his ministry grow by 100 people in the very short time he was there. Pastor Watts left the church for a church in North Carolina.
Stepping in where Watts left off was Ravenswood native David Ricks, who would serve a short time in which few upgrades were made to the church, but everyone enjoyed the worship and services regardless.
Which leads us to Pastor John Pinson who organized the 40th celebration of the church.
"The church had plenty to celebrate this year," says Pinson.
Not only is Grace Baptist expanding its parking lot again, but it is doubling in size, beginning construction on 7,500 square feet of new church property. This anniversary will also mark the first time all five pastors of Grace Baptist will be in the same room together.
"We were all very excited to get to meet one and other and share stories about the church with one and other."
Another impressive feat, of which Pastor Pinson is proud of is Grace is debt-free and all the money it raised for the expansion of the church came slowly but surely from all the parishioner chipping in and giving their time and effort to make the expansion possible.
"It is a great feeling when your church is able to do the things it wants to do, and not get drowned in interest payments or debt trying to improve the worship areas," said Pinson.
The celebration began at 10 a.m. with Sunday school for the children and a special session for the adults and teenagers featuring Pastor Graham. After Sunday school, service was held at 11 a.m. where the charter members of the church and all five ministers were recognized for their contributions to Grace Baptist. Upon completion of the service a catered celebration feast was held followed by the mid-afternoon service given by Pastor Coleman where he spoke about the significance of the 40-year milestone and what the number 40 represents in biblical history.
"We all feel very lucky and very blessed to have served at a church with such loving people and such a great community," said the five pastors., "It was (Pinson: continues to be) truly a blessing to end up in such a great community being blessed with a wonderful facility able to cater and meet our worshipping needs."