The one thing a parent should never have to do is bury his child, but that’s exactly what Pastor Tim Kelley did two years ago. One of his parishioners was showing a friend his new gun. The gun, unbeknownst to its owner, had one bullet in it, and while the parishioner was showing his friend the gun, it fired, went through a wall, and killed Pastor Kelley’s daughter, Hannah Grace. She had celebrated her twentieth birthday that week.
Pastor Kelley’s memory is sketchy when it comes to remembering details of that day.
“I have images of that day, but much of it my mind has blocked out,” he says. He doesn’t remember what he preached about the day Hannah died.
For the next six months, Pastor Kelley preached about heaven. By July, he was exhausted, still grieving, and not sure how much more he could give.
He took a three-month sabbatical. When he came back, he realized his congregation needed a change just as much as he did, as well as being confronted with parking issues after a zoning problem arose. After soul searching, the contemporary Southern Baptist pastor decided it was time to move his church.
Hearing of the plight of Pastor Kelley and his church, Pastor Ryan Sarri, pastor at Pasadena Baptist church, reached out to Pastor Kelley and invited him to share space at their beautiful seven-acre church facility. He and his congregation moved from the Lealman site to share the property with Pasadena Baptist, a congregation with a 60-year history in the community.
The church is changing; the official name of the church is now Grace Connection at Pasadena, as the two congregations recently decided to become one congregation. Those who have attended Pasadena Baptist will find a new sort of worship on Sunday mornings.
“We’re more contemporary. I wouldn’t say we’re hyper-contemporary; we’re more middle of the road,” Pastor Kelley says. “I’m very proud of the Pasadena Baptist congregants’ desire to change as well as their understanding that they needed change. They embraced us; we felt very loved and accepted by them. They gave us a place where I could go,” he says. “This is a new church.”
Before Hannah died, the Kelley family adopted Sadie. Sadie was five when her big sister died. She, along with her parents, continues to grieve and heal. The Kelleys now have a ministry, through their daughter’s foundation – the Hannah Grace Foundation – to those families suffering from trauma, grief and loss. The pastor, his family, and the entire church focus on families of all kinds, however. Right now they’re planning a “mom’s night out” for single parents to have a night out; they know many of the families in the area are comprised of single mothers and single fathers.
Grace Connection’s congregation is thriving at the new location.
“I’m so excited to see the seats filled again,” founding pastor, Roland Barrington, told Pastor Kelley after a recent service. Single parents, young families and retirees are rediscovering the casual, yet traditional church.
Grace Connection focuses on the Bible, and in the coming weeks Pastor Kelley will focus his message on what it means to be a Christian in a non-Christian world.
The congregation worships every Sunday at 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m.; on Wednesday night they have a service as well as AWANA (a youth group) and Ground Zero, a teen group.
The church falls under the umbrella of Southern Baptist, but Pastor Kelley cautions people not to get too caught up in that label.
“They [the Southern Baptists] have a lot of assets to help people,” Pastor Kelley says, “without exercising much control over each individual local church.”
For example, if you visit the church three times and fill out a visitor card every time, the church sends $10 to an orphanage in Uganda.
If you’re seeking a new church, and want to know more about Christianity or need a support system to help you face life’s challenges, Pastor Kelley invites you to come see what Grace Connection can offer you.
“We want to be a warm place where people can come and rest,” says the pastor and father.
Grace Connection Church
635 64th Street South