Greater Refuge Church

Greater RefugeChurch is one of the churches in the Churches of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith denomination. The Greater Refuge Church originated when the late J.W. Pernell resigned from the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith in a doctrinal dispute to form the Assemblies of Yahweh. When the schism occurred, fifty members formed what would become Greater Refuge Church in order to stay with the Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This group appealed to the Chief Apostle of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Bishop William L. Bonner to help them organize a new church. In 1969 Greater Refuge was established, and Bishop Bonner served as the pastor of this church.

Since the Greater Refuge Church did not have a church building, the congregation met and conducted services in various locations throughout Richmond. With the help of the Churches of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith the congregation was able to purchase an old Masonic Hall in 1970. The building was then renovated for worship.

Bishop Bonner served as pastor of this church from 1969 to 1974 and then sought a successor.  He appointed Elder Peters to pastor this church after listening to twenty ministers preach during a service. Following Pastor Peters’ appointment church membership fell from 125 to 33. Bishop Bonner advised Pastor Peters to become a fulltime pastor. Because of the small church size, this was difficult to achieve, but he did assume a fulltime role in November, 1974. During the mid- 1980s church membership increased from 33 to 150 members. Some members who had left in the early years now returned, and Peters attempted to facilitate the return of members who had experienced a difficult transition as a result of the church split. In 1983 the church was able to retire the mortgage.

After renovating the old Masonic Lodge several times, Pastor Peters started looking for a new church building in 1990. Greater Refuge moved to a former BethelBaptistChurch in 1996.  According to Peters, the church now has a membership of 500 that is predominately African American. The membership is a mixture of middle and working class, and some members have been helped by the ministry to move into the middle class. They church supports ministries that help seniors, young people, and persons with recovery problems. Living Free is a ministry that works with people who struggle with substance abuse and have been incarcerated. Golden Guild is a ministry that reaches out to meet senior citizens in need. The church also offers childcare through its KingsKidAcademy, a pre-kindergarten program and after school care for children up to the age of twelve. The church also supports outreach programs that help homeless and incarcerated individuals, visit children’s hospitals, provide a free clothing closet, and give food vouchers to needy families.

Sunday morning services consist of a morning worship service and sometimes an afternoon service. A typical order of service begins with prayer, scripture reading, selections from praise leaders and a choir, offering, and the morning message.  After the morning message there is an altar call so that members of the congregation can come forward in order for a minister to prayer for them for healing or to accept Jesus into their life. Typically a minister places oil on a person’s head during the prayer. During the week Bible class is conducted each Wednesday.

Greater RefugeChurch
2210 Carter Street
Richmond, VA23222
(804) 321-1454

Interview with Pastor Peters

Profile prepared by Hope Ireland
April, 2007