Richmond Grace Fellowship
Worldwide Church of God began as a radio ministry in Oregon in the early 1930’s. Herbert Armstrong, an advertising designer, started a radio ministry known then as The World Tomorrow as well as the companion magazine, The Plain Truth. Armstrong later moved the ministry to Southern California for greater radio access. He subsequently created a small school, Ambassador College , to train leaders for the church. Graduates of the school were sent to various cities to gather believers into the church. The church grew rapidly through the 1950s and 1960s, with the radio ministry becoming a television program and the magazine becoming the largest circulated magazine worldwide. As the church continued to grow, it changed names several times, eventually becoming Worldwide Church of God.
Armstrong had supreme doctrinal authority within the church and based his doctrine on three theological assertions: God is the creator, the Bible is true, and the Bible does not change the Sabbath to Sunday. He did not accept the doctrine of the Trinity. Members were required to tithe and were not allowed to vote, serve in the military, marry after divorce, seek medical attention from physicians, or wear cosmetics. The church did not observe individual birthdays or the Christmas and Easter holidays. Any person judged to be disloyal to the church and its teachings was likely to be expelled from the fellowship.
In the early 1980s the Worldwide Church of God was regarded as a heretical group in conservative Christian circles. After Armstrong’s death church doctrines and practices changed in a more traditionally Christian direction. The church began teaching that it was permissible for members to seek help from medical personnel, to use medicine, observe birthdays, and wear cosmetics. The church was divided over these doctrinal revisions, and by the late 1980s, several thousand members had left Worldwide Church of God to form the Philadelphia Church of God, a church that preserved Armstrong’s original teachings. The 1990s brought additional changes as church leaders challenged the biblical basis for Armstrong’s teachings. The church then accepted the doctrine of the Trinity, declared that the cross was not a pagan symbol, decided that Christians may vote, and permitted the observance of Christmas and Easter. Friends and families were split. A budgetary reduction began to affect the television broadcast, which eventually was cancelled. Most of Armstrong’s literature was discontinued or edited. The companion magazine is now called Christian Odyssey and has less than 20,000 subscribers.
As the church modified its doctrines, the evangelical churches re-evaluated their stance toward the Worldwide Church of God, and in 1997 the church was accepted as a member of the National Association of Evangelicals and a partner denomination of Mission America and the American Bible Society. The Worldwide Church of God is now regarded as a conventional Christian denomination. With its headquarters still located in California , the church has approximately 64,000 members worshiping in 860 congregations in about 90 nations.
One of these congregations is located in Richmond on Hermitage Road . Richmond Grace Fellowship was founded in November, 1963 by a traveling pastor sent to Virginia by the Worldwide Church of God. Richmond Grace Fellowship has a small congregation of about sixty members of various ethnic backgrounds, with ages ranging from infants to elderly. Regular services are held every Sunday morning consisting of a Christian Living Class followed by Intercessory prayer, worship in song, and a sermon. After the sermon, the floor is opened for discussion. The congregation then may gather for a snack while they enjoy fellowship with one another. A communion service is held on the first Sunday of every month at Richmond Grace Fellowship in celebration of the common unity humanity has with one another and with God, the Trinity in Jesus. The congregation joyously acknowledges the Lords Supper in the spring with a special service that includes a foot washing ceremony and also holds special services for Christmas and Easter.
The congregation as a whole strongly believes in the pastoral care of the sick and infirmed. Each Sunday, the congregation will lift the sick up in prayer and will anoint with olive oil those that are in attendance. For those not able to attend the service, members will visit their homes or pray with them and offer encouragement by phone. The church purchases medicine for those who cannot afford it and have built wheelchair ramps for the handicapped. Richmond Grace Fellowship supports and helps staff Higher Grounds Summer Camp each year. The church also holds various outreach events and festivals throughout the year for the community; members regard these events not as a membership drive but as a means to share Gods love.
Richmond Grace Fellowship
Scottish Rite Temple
4204 Hermitage Road
Richmond , VA 23227
Pastor Bill Winn
Richmond Grace Fellowship website
Worldwide Church of God website
Profile prepared by Christina Williams