Grace Family Church Dedicates Its New Home With Prayers, Music, And Thanks
There were multiple references during the Church Dedication Service on April 7 to the length of time it took Grace Family Church (GFC) to get approvals for and then build its new home. Years of patience, setbacks, and perseverance were all acknowledged and even joked about now that the church is celebrating worship services in its permanent new home at 13 Covered Bridge Road.
First Selectman Daniel Rosenthal may have put it best that Sunday evening, however. After being invited to the stage to offer remarks, the first guest speaker of the event told attendees that he was reminded of the length of the project when he arrived at the new building that evening.
“It was pointed out to me,” Mr Rosenthal said, “that this project started when my father was first selectman.”
Herbert Rosenthal served as Newtown’s First Selectman from 1997 until 2007. The church had purchased the Covered Bridge Road property in 2004. The church's name change occurred in 2012.
After years of legal wrangling, ground for the new 24,500-square-foot building was broken in March 2018. The congregation relocated from its original home at 174 Mt Pleasant Road at the beginning of the year. The first services at the new location were celebrated on February 17.
Saying he was honored to be part of the dedication, Dan Rosenthal also said that one of the things that makes Newtown so great is its family-oriented foundation.
“The heart of that is our religious community,” he said.
A few minutes earlier, Pastor Barry Fredericks, senior pastor of GFC, said he still did not know what to say about the beautiful new building his congregation can finally call theirs.
“Fourteen years, we never gave up,” he said. “We are so grateful for this night, and so grateful for this building. We thank the Lord for all these years, working side by side.”
His wife, Pastor Sheila Fredericks, thanked everyone in the room for their “time, talent, and treasure.”
GFC Children’s & Youth Pastor Adam Fredericks said he and his family and the entire church staff were thankful for those who were joining them for the celebration, “as well as those who couldn’t be with us tonight.”
A video was screened during the ceremony, with photos of church leaders meeting with Stanley Simon, who sold the property to the church in 2004, along with images of the ground breaking and various phases of construction.
In addition to Mr Rosenthal, special guests included Paul Scalzo, of Scalzo Group Real Estate; the Reverend Chris Canton, pastor of Word of Life Family Church in Middlebury and a former member of the GFC staff; Attorneys Peter Scalzo and Tom Rickart; and Rob Blanchette of Borghesi Building & Engineering.
Pastor Barry Fredericks thanked the two attorneys for their work, saying “they did everything they could do to protect us. They’ve been so kind and patient.”
Mr Rickart said that the one constant through the years of work was “the faith demonstrated by Pastor Sheila and Pastor Barry. It was unceasing.
“It was truly an honor to be involved in the entire process,” he added. “I wish the congregation the best of luck.”
Project Manager Dave Nelson was also recognized, as were other members of the building crew.
Rev Canton recalled working on the Letter of Intent just days before 9/11, and the journal he kept during the first few years of the project.
“I cannot imagine the work that has gone on during the past 11 years,” he said. Turning to his former pastors, he thanked them “for doing the work, for not quitting.
“Tonight is a celebration,” he continued, again addressing those in the sanctuary, “of all the work, of all the prayers, and of all the giving, as well as all that is going to be done.”
The sanctuary was filled to capacity for the 90-minute celebration. Laughter and happy tears punctuated the celebration, which featured brief speeches, prayers, musical praise and worship, and a building fund offering.
Reverend Sam Smucker offered the Church Dedication Message that Sunday evening. A regional director for Rhema Ministerial Association, of which GFC is a member, Rev Smucker reminded those in attendance to always remember that a church is not just its building.
“What a blessing, to see what God has done — and is and will be doing,” Rev Smucker said. “Remember, however, that the building is not the church. The church is the people… and the local church is the hope of the world.
“We need a place to meet in, we need a location within the community,” he later said. “You need faith and patience to build a building and raise funds to do that. You also need strong, steady leadership, and you’ve had that.
“Faith is to believe in something you cannot see or feel, yet you take steps forward until it can be seen,” he said. “What was a dream for a long time on blueprints has become something we can touch and see and feel, all for the glory of God.”
Later referencing a passage from Philippians, Rev Smucker encouraged the members of Grace Family Church to “conduct yourselves in the Good News of Christ, with one spirit and one purpose. Stand together.
“This is going to be a church even more concerned,” he said, “with people’s eternal destination.”
After thanking Rev Smucker for his powerful words, Adam Fredericks welcomed his father back to the stage for the closing song of the evening, “Glory Thy Name.”
“We want to glorify the name of Jesus Christ in this building,” Pastor Barry said as music once again filled the hall.
Grace Family Church offers Sunday services at 8:30 and 10:15 am, Wednesday evenings at 7 pm, and a Thursday afternoon healing service at 1 pm. It also hosts Bible studies, youth groups, ladies meetings, and a recovery group. The annual Easter Egg Hunt, to which all are welcome, is scheduled for Saturday, April 20, at Treadwell Park (registration is requested and can be done online at gracect.org), and Vacation Bible School is scheduled for August 12-16
Additional coverage of the April 7 dedication service can be found in the April 19, 2019 print edition of The Newtown Bee.