Graceway Community Church was established in 1952 by a small group of military men. For decades the church was largely transitory, and struggled to gain lasting momentum. Petitions were made to affiliate churches for financial and spiritual aid, and this type of support is what kept the church afloat for sixty six years.
In 2018 the leadership of Graceway began to discern a change taking place in the church. One of the words given by the Spirit of God to an intercessor was, “A new day is dawning at Graceway Church.” It was not clear what to expect because this was the beginning of a journey into the unknown. While confirmations were abundant that God was leading the way, the only thing that was clear was the way that church had always been practiced up until now, was no longer what God wanted to do in this community. The instruction was the same as that given to Moses in the wilderness, to follow God in the cloud and “stay in the fog.”
The Lord guided through a series of phases, beginning with a call to order in the leadership structure, followed by the declaration of a church replant in the end of 2018, sixty six years after Graceway’s original inception. The Spirit of God then carried the church along in pursuit of deeper community, both with Him and one another. With a renewed focus on the church in Acts, Graceway was rediscovering the richness and simplicity of the pillars of the early church. Through the trial and error of experimentation, the Lord continued to work in the hearts of the people, deepening our understanding and giving us a new perspective, His perspective. In early 2020, the elders prepared to shift how we would gather as a church, and initiated what was called Home Church. By the end of that year, Graceway had transitioned to a network of Home Churches.
As new levels of community were being discovered, another phase of our journey was being revealed. This phase brought an emphasis on what it really means to be and make disciples. Drawn from the teachings in Scripture, the elders articulated a simple and common definition of a disciple: A disciple is a person who has made a Decision for relationship with Jesus Christ, is Immersed in Christian community, prioritizes Jesus’ Teachings, and practices Obedience. The church pursued these practices and continued to develop. After two years of meeting in Home Churches, the journey through the wilderness “following the cloud” was coming to a close. The Lord had been faithful to guide and provide through all five years of wilderness; and in 2022, the elders began to sense that Graceway was nearing the end of the journey from what was, now entering into what would become.
The book of Joshua tells of how he and the Israelites approached the Jordan River and had to cross over to enter their inheritance. This was the word over Graceway at this phase, a time of crossing over. Entering the new land brought new implications, and this was revealed before the people even crossed the Jordan into it. God called forth the priests to step into the water before he would reveal the miracle. Once they took those steps and got their feet wet, the waters parted and the nation crossed on dry ground. And finally as they entered the land, it was their responsibility to possess it. Their mission had only just begun.
For Graceway to cross over into the new place that God wanted to take the church, two final steps were required: a repositioning of the leadership and a shift in focus. On May 1, 2022, the structure of Graceway’s leadership was formally changed from a pastor led church to an elder led church. Pastor Ed Pichette who served as the pastor from January 2018 through present day, was commissioned from Graceway to serve in a regional role in the Church of Rhode Island and surrounding regions. With this commissioning, the structure of a single pastor leading the congregation of Graceway was removed, and the community of elders were now commissioned to lead at this capacity together. With the new commission, Pastor Ed Pichette maintained his role as one among the collective of elders that would now oversee God’s church together. The community of elders that now lead Graceway are built on the leadership structure given by Jesus in Ephesians 4. As each leader is given their place, the church is able to thrive and expand in accordance with God’s design.
Around this same time, the elders discerned that the Home Churches were called to be more than just discipleship groups. As Graceway crossed over into the new era, these groups needed to become more missional, with an emphasis on both discipleship and gospel sharing. Home Churches were reinvisioned and established on the pillars found in the early church, namely: scripture, partnership, sharing meals, and prayer. These groups were deemed as mobile churches, with simple and adaptable expressions that fit any setting.
In the same way that Joshua marked Israel’s crossing over experience, these stones “serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’” We will tell them the story of how God faithfully led Graceway from what it began as in 1952, for seventy years, all the way into the new era, which began in 2022.