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Worthington Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Oct 4, 2004

Grace Brethren Church of Worthington (Columbus), Ohio, (Jim Custer, pastor) celebrated its 40th anniversary with a series of events last weekend. Here is an article from Suburban Newspapers describing the event:

Grace Brethren Celebrates 40 Years


Grace Brethren Church of Worthington marked four decades in the community last weekend with an anniversary celebration.

Bill Palmateer, the church’s communications coordinator, said the event was scheduled to kick off Saturday with a neighborhood block party featuring Ohio State University football on a 32-foot screen, carnival rides and activities, games, hot air balloon rides and other activities.

He said live entertainment was also scheduled throughout the day.

Palmateer said that on Sunday, following the church’s two morning services, a pot luck dinner was planned, followed by a 40th anniversary gala and other events.

Grace Brethren sees about 3,000 people attend every Sunday, a number Phil Johnson, an assistant pastor at the church, said it has been seeing for some time.

“We were at 3,000 back in the late ’70s, early ’80s,” Johnson said. “And that was unheard of to have a church that size back then but we’ve been this size for a long time.”

Johnson said the key to Grace Brethren’s longevity has been sticking to the basics, something he attributes to Pastor Jim Custer.

“Pastor Jim has really set the standard of keeping us in the word of God every Sunday. … That really sets us apart from a lot of other churches,” he said. “… We stick to the book.”

Johnson said included in that approach, the church focuses on kindness and intimacy between its members, the message of the crucifixion and the hope of eternal life.

“We keep our message simple but we allow it to flow into a multitude of ministries,” he said, adding the church has produced nine CDs through the Grace Music ministry, which distributes music worldwide.

Grace Brethren, on Worthington-Galena Road, operates a bookstore, Grace Media, and a full-contact football league. It also offers outreach ministries for men, women and children.

While there are between 200 and 300 churches in the fellowship — a small number compared to some denominations — Johnson said numbers can be deceiving.

“The Grace Brethren Fellowship is a very small pond but it’s very, very deep,” he said.

Johnson said Grace Brethren has spread its roots in the Columbus area.

“We can say that out of our church, there’s 13 or 14 churches that have sprung out of our congregation,” he said, adding the anniversary celebration also served as a homecoming for members of the congregation.

“It really is a big family reunion,” Johnson said. “We have people coming back from all over the United States to be here.”

Johnson said that while many of those who attend Grace Brethren live near Worthington, people also come from more-distant areas including Mount Vernon, Grove City and Pataskala.

“We are really a regional church,” he said. “We’re not a neighborhood church, so to speak.”

Johnson said that through the church’s ministries and events — like the annual Living Christmas Tree performances he said draw between 25,000 and 30,000 people — it’s difficult to tell just how far the arms of Grace Brethren extend.

“We don’t know how far really our reach is here,” he said.