Several years ago Andre and Peggy Murphy moved to Montana to pastor an existing church. Commissioned and sent by Dr. Robin Holland’s congregation at Living Hope Baptist Church in Aurora, Colorado, the Murphy’s felt supported in taking the lead. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as planned. They had to leave their position at the Montana church and wanted to move back to Colorado. But to their surprise, when they left the existing church, a group followed them. Peggy says they were ready to call it quits, but instead Dr. Holland encouraged them to stay, and under Dr. Holland’s leadership, they pastored the group of 30 people in their basement. The group outgrew the space, and Andre began looking for a meeting location. They found Grace Baptist Church, which had affiliated with Converge in 1920. The congregation was small and aging, with a few young families and children. Andre approached the church leaders about renting a space, and they agreed. Sharing the building was only the beginning of the relationship. Gerry Devereux, the pastor at the time, saw life in Murphy’s group and welcomed their congregation into their building. He had been planning his retirement, so why not pass the torch to this young, vibrant congregation?
Black and white churches merge
Living Grace Church is the product of the Marriage of two very different church bodies who through obedience to the will of God united with Kingdom mindedness.
Living Word Church began in the basement of the Murphy Family in Oct. 2011, but God was preparing the way, preparing the people for the next step in His plan.
Grace Baptist Church has been established in the Great Falls community since 1893 and under the leadership of Pastor Gerald Devereux who passed the torch to Pastor Andre Murphy upon his retirement.
On September 1st, 2013 Living Word Church and Grace Baptist Church became one church Living Grace, now one congregation, with their first African American pastor. The 1st Lady Peggy was hesitant about how it would work. Great Falls, Montana, has a population of 70,000, with only three African American churches. The Murphy’s were meeting people who had never known a black person before Andre stepped into the senior pastor role. She wondered, “Would they stay? Would they leave the congregation?”
As with any church merger, a few people left, but Living Grace is going strong. Peggy says the mix of people is unlike any other church she’s been a part of. When they lived in Denver, diversity was all around them, as compared to the majority-white population in Great Falls. Today, in what is now Living Grace Church; on a Sunday morning you’ll experience a variety of worship styles.
“We have no style here. We sing a gospel song, a contemporary song and a hymn,” Peggy said. “It’s been really inviting and welcoming to everybody. However, we’ve also had people who visit and, when Andre steps into the pulpit, they walk out. We celebrate our differences but realize what we are united in is our love for Christ— but we can’t work it out by ignoring it.”
Confronting the black-white tension
This led to the church’s first Diversity Sunday. Andre and Peggy both felt the need for Living Grace Church to have a conversation about racial tensions in the country.
“How do you tackle the big problem of race if you can’t do it in your own house first?” Peggy said. “So we decided to do it in our church."
They gave congregants a survey to fill out; asking what they didn’t understand and what they felt was controversial. They asked about traditions and worship styles, even about ethnic hair and the Black Lives Matter movement. Peggy sat in the back of the church as the teen ministry led the conversation on October 9. She said the service lasted longer than usual, and she wasn’t sure if people would get up and walk out.
“People embraced it. I was a little nervous about some of the topics and how people would receive the event, but even when the topic was The Black Lives Matter movement, the congregation was engaged and actively listening,” she said. “Even down to the survey question about hair. Many non-blacks in our congregation didn’t know how hard it could be for African Americans to find someone to cut and style their hair correctly.”
Peggy says the hands kept going up for an hour and a half. What she thought might end in hurt feelings and anger ended in a better understanding of one another. Living Grace Church is a testament to what it means to be better together.
“It was so amazing to have the freedom to bring up topics and have people say, ‘Thank you for explaining that to me, I never knew that about you,’” Peggy said.
Our church is excited about sharing the gospel in the City of Great Falls. We believe in teaching God's word and with help from the Holy Spirit learning how to walk this journey in a way that honors God. We want everyone to hear the good news.
Our leadership team and founding members are committed to serving the Lord and this community. Our church body is a church that is committed to growing as individuals, families, and a community.
We are blessed and continue to seek the face of God and consider it an honor to be used by Him.
We invite you to come worship with us, learn, grow and serve.