We are Grace Communion River Road, formerly Grace Communion Eugene and before that, Living Grace Fellowship. We have gone through many names, but our heart has always remained the same. We have been a people that have endured many moves in our long history—including grange halls, schools, movie theaters, and square dance palaces!
More than twenty years ago, we were fortunate to land in a Methodist church that offered us a chance to heal and realize our purpose both within the congregation and without, but we knew it wasn’t a permanent home. We started our search for a permanent location, and we ended up just jumping from that church to another one that felt even less like the place we wanted to be. But at least we were able to make the change to Sunday at that location.
We finally hired a realtor to help with the search, but she didn’t understand our needs, like parking, appropriate rooms, and accessibility for those who are disabled. We became discouraged and finally gave up the search. There just wasn’t anything out there.
It is very interesting when you give up control of a situation, because it is then that God is ready to step in and take control. He was waiting for us to see what he had in store for us in his time.
Later, my son told us of a church that was for sale in our small community, and we thought it would work for us. But eventually, we realized we would not be able to afford to purchase it. Oddly enough, a member approached me and asked if we would be interested in leasing the church if she and her husband purchased the property. Of course, I said yes! They purchased the property, and we moved in. (Then COVID happened, but even that was a blessing because it allowed us to do some remodeling before we moved in.)
Over the months, it became apparent that some of the plans the owners had for developing the property were not feasible, creating an opportunity for GCI to help them transition from ownership and bless Grace Communion River Road with a permanent home. It seemed that the Holy Spirit was moving puzzle pieces around to make this a blessing for all. The Home Office stepped in, with board approval, and purchased the building for the Eugene Congregation with available funds from our region. Our congregation was told over 70 years ago that one day they would have a building of their own, and now they finally did!
We have a concentration of members in Junction City and the bulk of our members live just to the south, in the north end of Eugene. Therefore, it has been on our radar for quite some time to pursue Junction City as a potential focus neighborhood. So, you can imagine how thrilled we are to have found a church location in our focus neighborhood!
As a new church to the neighborhood, we are trying to be a “learner first” and not coming in with any preconceived ideas of what we think we should be doing. We have a pretty good understanding of our area because we’ve been mapping our neighborhood. We know the urban vibe is starting to grow because younger people are moving in, and it’s a neighborhood full of families. Now, we just need to find where we can be the best fit.
Our challenges going forward are shared with the rest of the world—Covid. Once we have it behind us, we can make the push we’re wanting to make to engage our neighborhood more fully. And you know what? COVID has, in some respect, been a blessing because it’s allowed us to get moved into a new building and make the renovations that we needed. Our little country church is not extravagant; it puts on no airs. It is surrounded by Filbert Orchards and a Country Club. There are many projects in the works from roofing, laying asphalt in the parking lot, landscaping, and tree removal. Also, we are considering adding a “bell tower” to make it resemble the original church that stood on this property for more than eighty years.
Covid has also forced us to have the digital presence that we’ve always wanted. So, without the pressure of having to hurry all these projects along and risk them turning out poorly, we were able to do properly what was needed.
Since moving in, we’ve already come to know many families in the neighborhood. Now we’re looking forward to opening our doors and welcoming the families with an Open House in July. And then hopefully, we will be mutually welcomed by our neighbors.
So, for those thinking “It’s never going to happen. We are never going to find a permanent home,” I was the last person to believe our story could happen. But it did happen—in just the right time, in just the right place, and most importantly, in God’s timing and not ours.
Note: Listen to Linda and others talk about the process of “mapping” their neighborhoods from a posture of being a “learner” on this episode of GC Podcast.