In December, 1945, seven adults and their children met together to worship, participate in the Lord’s Supper, and hear the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. This was the beginning of the Church of Christ in Grande Prairie. The following spring a parcel of land at the corner of 97A Street and Richmond Road (100th Avenue) was purchased for $250 and a building was constructed. The first service held in the new building was on October 27, 1946. The congregation was organized to reflect God’s intentions for the church and for people who don’t yet know Him, as revealed especially in the New Testament scriptures of the Bible.
From its beginnings, the congregation reached out into its community. The first church building (“Central”) was located just across the railroad tracks from the growing neighbourhood of Macklinville (now, Hillside). In order to reach out into this community, the church organized a Sunday school and vacation Bible schools that saw many Macklinville parents bring their children for Bible teaching, games, singing choruses, fun, and snacks! Eventually, some of the children’s parents began to attend services and adult Bible studies, as well as Sunday school and committed their lives to Christ. Several long-time members of the congregation came to know Jesus because of that early Sunday school and vacation Bible schools.
Each autumn in those early years, the church organized special, weekday, evening meetings with guest speakers and musicians, often followed by pie and coffee. These were opportunities for people to join their friends and neighbours and learn a little more about the difference Jesus makes in people’s lives.
During these meetings, the congregation became known for its enthusiastic singing and musicians, with what would now be called a “worship band” featuring piano, organ, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, accordion, violin, brass, and woodwinds!
In the mid-1950s, the church began renting Bear Lake Bible Camp in order to organize a family Bible camp for children, adults, and families. As kids and adults alike made memories of swimming in the lake, playing games of volleyball and softball, making crafts, singing silly songs and acting in sillier skits, they learned about Jesus, made decisions to follow him, and were baptized into Christ. In 1967, the congregation saw an opportunity to build a Christian camp when a member found several unwanted logging camp cabins and a cookhouse on skids, and others knew of a piece of Crown land just south of the city. During the winter of 1967/1968, the congregation built a road into the property, and moved the cabins and cookhouse into place on the site in time for a family camp at “Pineridge Christian Camp” in summer, 1968. Since then, with many improvements over the years, thousands of meals have been prepared and “inhaled,” hundreds of volleyball and softball games have been played, and as many campfires have been built. A million memories have been made as kids and adults alike studied the Bible and found Jesus.
In the mid-1960s, a youth group was organized with weekly meetings and outings featuring summer “corn boils” with sweet corn from Dunvegan, winter snowmobiling and hot chocolate at a member’s nearby farm, and other social events. But always, young people were challenged with God’s word to invest their futures with Him.
Renovations and additions were made to the “Central” building in the 1950s and 1960’s, but as the congregation grew there was an increasing need for additional church building space as the church continued to reach out into its community. This led to the purchase of the Avondale building at 102nd Street and 112th Avenue in February of 1969. The two churches functioned as separate congregations under one constitution and charter until they merged in 1973, the downtown location was sold, and they met at Avondale. In the spring of 1973, the congregation organized the first of many “Faith Promise” rallies, modeled after those pioneered by Toronto’s People’s Church, in order to educate about cross-cultural missions and outreach, and about giving to support the spread of the Gospel to “the uttermost parts of the earth.” The congregation set what they thought was a high goal of an additional $5000 for missions for that year. But God had another idea. When financial commitments were tallied, more than $16,000 had been offered to support the carrying out of Christ’s Great Commission to “make disciples!” As someone wrote at the time, “How did God do that?!” Over the next several years, as financial commitments to missions multiplied and they sent out cross-cultural missionaries from the congregation, the church became known for its “mission-mindedness.”
After expanding the Avondale building by developing the full basement and adding a “portable” for classroom space, the congregation had outgrown those facilities. In 1979, the Avondale building was sold and an official sod turning was held at what is now known as our Highland Park location at the corner of 92nd Avenue and Resources Road. The congregation met at Parkside School until the first phase of the Highland Park building was completed in March, 1980.Services were held in what is now the Fellowship Hall, and a large planter and bench in the foyer were converted into a baptistery around which the congregation would gather to witness people “buried with Christ” in the waters of baptism. The church introduced Grande Prairie to the Focus on the Family film series, and saw rapid growth in 1980 and 1981, till the recession took hold in early 1982, and people moved away from the city.
After two years without ministerial leadership, in summer, 1983, the congregation called newlyweds Alan and Sheena Jones to serve the church. Alan had been led to Christ by the church’s youth group and youth minister in 1978. He was recruited to attend Alberta Bible College (ABC) in Calgary beginning in 1979 “for a year,” he met Sheena Jones who was also an ABC student, they were married in 1982, and he graduated with a four-year degree from ABC in 1983! As Alan and Sheena made their family with the birth of a son, Alan and the elders engaged in a study of biblical eldership, leadership and the purpose of the church, and sought to renew the congregation in study of the Word while continuing to reach out to their community. In 1990, the congregation’s growth began to “take off,” again, and it was necessary to expand the building with the addition of the multipurpose auditorium and west basement, completed in 1993.
Through the 1990s, the congregation pursued new ministries by organizing a food bank, dinners for seniors, small group Bible studies, and “Glory Garden” day care for kids and their parents in the nearby apartment complexes. In the early 2000’s the congregation reached a size where another new building seemed called for. Plans began to take shape to construct a much larger facility located at the north side of Grande Prairie. These plans were put on hold during the significant slow-down of Grande Prairie’s economy in 2006. In 2009, the multi-site strategy was explored and embraced by the congregation as an alternative to one big location. We are thankful that the purchase of the Mission Heights property incurred no debt, even in such uncertain economic times. In the fall of 2010 we launched our second site with a large “Commission the Mission” celebratory event at an acreage belonging to a member.
Our multi-site ministry has resulted in our getting to know more people who want to know Jesus. People have “stepped up” into leadership and service opportunities. On any given day people are giving, serving, and being molded by God. We are thankful and humbled that God is working through us as people give generously of their time and talents. Hundreds of our neighbours and friends are touched by the people of the Church of Christ and their ministries, each week. As we seek the kingdom first in the years to come, we pray for God’s guidance and wisdom.
Still seeking to be God’s people, together we want to be a church reflecting God’s intentions for us, welcoming all who don’t yet know Jesus.
— GP Church of Christ (@gpcofc) July 7, 2016