New Hope Bible Church, Grants Pass, Oregon, has dissolved after a 60-year ministry.
“We will miss their fellowship,” said Pat Coyle, Pacific District Conference (PDC) moderator, when he announced the dissolution at the PDC convention Oct. 27-28, 2017.
New Hope held its final gathering Oct. 15, 2017, with baptism, breakfast and a service that included praise and worship, a baby dedication, a brief church history and a message from PDC minister Gary Wall.
New Hope was formally organized in 1957 as Grants Pass Mennonite Church. In 1993, the church changed conference affiliation from the Pacific Coast Conference of the Mennonite Church to the Pacific District Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches.
Through the years, New Hope was involved in youth classes and activities; small group Bible studies; Mennonite and USMB organizations; bilingual services as an outreach to local Hispanics; support of community services such as the Pregnancy Care Center, Gospel Rescue Mission and Community Service Center; and Gospel Echoes NW Prison Ministry.
In the past 15 years, more focus was placed on U.S. and foreign missions, including MB Mission’s SOAR and ACTION programs, missionary and community support in Piura, Peru; Guadalajara, Mexico; and Thailand; as well as home builds in El Salvador and Guatemala.
New Hope was a multi-cultural congregation. About half of the members were from a Latin background, and worship services were held in Spanish and English.
Most recently, Lowell Stutzman served as New Hope’s pastor. For 20 years, Stutzman was a bi-vocational pastor, also working at the family building supply business. Stutzman died suddenly in March 2016.
“I celebrate and honor the ministry and faithfulness of the New Hope Bible Church family,” says PDC’s Wall, in an email interview. “I especially want to honor the faithful servant leadership of Pastor Lowell Stutzman.
“Lowell’s ministry reached far beyond Grants Pass. He impacted young men and women who are serving in overseas mission today. He inspired a congregation to embrace the Jesus way, unpopular and costly though it may be. Lowell loved people and worked diligently at building relationships with Hispanic congregation members, creating an inclusive fellowship of believers.”
Bi-vocational ministry had its challenges and Wall says the congregation was somewhat adrift when Stutzman suddenly died.
“Though attempts at renewal were made, it seemed best to recognize that the season of the life of this church family had drawn to a close,” says Wall. “I have deep respect and admiration for the congregation and leaders who served faithfully and well. The legacy of this Christ-centered church will live on indeed.”
Upon its closing, the congregation blessed several organizations with contributions, including the PDC, MB Mission and Mennonite Disaster Service.