Brief History of Grace Covenant

Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church (GCPC) began as a ministry of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES), on January 5, 1980, under Max Harris as the organizing pastor.  Many of the original members had been worshiping at Blacksburg Christian Fellowship and GCPC was planted with the blessings of that church.   For the first three years, GCPC worshiped on the Virginia Tech campus, but around 1983 moved off campus to meet at various locations around Blacksburg until moving into their own facility on Shadowlake Road in 1995.    

Attendance fluctuated during these years as the congregation moved around and continued to establish her values and culture, eventually settling as a church body which majors on the grace of the Gospel, while yet holding to our Reformed distinctives and heritage.  During these early years, several members entered the mission field and contributed to GCPC’s strong emphasis on supporting Gospel work around the world which continues to the present day.

After Max Harris received a call to another congregation, Will Traub became pastor.  In that period, the RPCES united with another denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), to which GCPC still belongs.  In 1985, Will Traub departed for the mission field in Germany, and the congregation then called Don Clements to become its third pastor.   Under his leadership, GCPC purchased the property on Shadowlake Road in 1987, which would eventually host our current building, made possible by a large anonymous gift and the generous bequest of one of GCPC’s first Ruling Elders, Walter Shell.

In 1992, Pastor Clements resigned to serve in other ministries, including 10 years as the founding Stated Clerk of Blue Ridge Presbytery, which formed in 2002.  GCPC was then served by Vic Wolf as the interim pastor from 1992-93.  Vic is most remembered for helping the congregation grasp more fully how God’s grace in Christ informs and empowers the whole Christian life, and not just initial conversion.  After returning to seminary to receive a degree in counseling, Vic later returned to GCPC in 1996 as Associate Pastor for a time before becoming a full time Christian counselor.  Vic was called into glory suddenly on March 26, 2012, the first of GCPC’s pastors to receive his heavenly reward.

In 1993, the congregation called Gordon Woolard, who served as pastor until 2004, when he too entered the mission field to train pastors in French-speaking nations.  During Gordon’s tenure, the congregation continued to grow in grace and number, and had a particularly strong ministry to international students which continues today.  In 2002, Kyle Kockler was called as our first Associate Pastor of Youth and Family until he departed in 2008 to allow his wife to finish medical school in Florida.  That same year, GCPC called Brian Waters, who grew up in nearby Christiansburg, to be the new Associate Pastor.

In 2004, Blue Ridge Presbytery began a Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) chapter at Virginia Tech under Rev. JR Foster, which helped GCPC renew its strong ministry to VT students, as well as those from nearby Radford University and New River Community College.  JR was succeeded by Rev. Andy Wood, himself a VT grad, in 2011.

Also in 2004, GCPC called Chris Hutchinson, to replace Gordon Woolard as senior pastor.  GCPC continued to grow to the point that the expansion of the sanctuary and other parts of the building became necessary.  After a two year campaign the building expansion, which includes a full fellowship hall, was completed and dedicated in August 2009.  The expansion has benefited many outside groups, a larger Sunday School ministry, and helped support our monthly potluck meals, one expression of the fellowship we have together in Christ in the Lord’s Supper.  Around this time, GCPC also began to send out a number of young men into the ministry and increased its care for the needy through the deacons.

By 2012, as GCPC continued to grow, the elders sought the Lord’s will and determined to undertake the challenge of sending out a sizable core group under Pastor Brian Waters to start Providence Presbyterian Church, a daughter congregation in nearby Christiansburg.  The purpose is to multiply our efforts with two vital congregations in the New River Valley, both of which preach God’s Word, pray in faith, and celebrate God’s grace in the Sacraments.  We thus hope to see even more precious souls come to faith in Jesus Christ, so that they too may glorify and enjoy Him forever.

In 2013, our associate pastor, Taylor Rollo, came to us, and under his ministry, we have seen the youth group expand greatly and the congregation continue to grow.  In 2016, we expanded the sanctuary once more to accommodate this growth, which increasingly reflects the multi-national nature of our community.  For this and all things, we continue to give God all praise and glory.