History of Grace Baptist Church
Beginnings - 1956
Baptist Church (GBC) was founded in 1956 by Pastor
Carl Wheeler and sixteen other individuals.
GBC's meeting was
held in a the former Gladstone
Methodist Church at Gladstone and Franklin
service was held on Sunday, May 13, 1956.
In the first formal meetings of Grace
Baptist, sixty-five attended Sunday School, and
fifty-three attended the morning worship
of Supplies & a Home for the Pastor
May 15, a group of S.S. teachers met with the
Wheelers in the annex at Gladstone. The teachers
were concerned that the students would have
nowhere to sit - as GBC had no chairs. After
prayer the group went home.
(of the same week), word was
received that an unnamed source had given GBC
seventy-six chairs -- of wooden upright type.
Of concern also was
a place for the Wheeler family to live; Pastor
Wheeler was trusting in God to find a home.
A family living near Cain Lake
was leaving for the summer and needed someone to
live in their home and care for the grounds; clearly, God answered
the prayers, and saw to the needs of this small
body of believers.
first years 1956-57, saw some familiar names
come through GBC -- especially notable
and Lillian Lancaster
(missionaries to Japan, who visited the Church in September) and
evangelist Elton Crowell who held evangelistic meetings during
Church attendance was usually
sixty to seventy in the morning services, with a record S.S.
attendance of ninety-three in Dec. of 56.'
Drafting of the Articles of Faith - 1957
May ninth of 1957 Articles of Faith were read
In July of 1959 articles of incorporation were
read and approved and later filed with the
GBC applied for
membership in the Regular Baptist Convention (GARBC);
GBC's membership was approved on June of
Move to High Street - 1959
1959 the congregation that owned the Gladstone
building was anxious for us to buy that
facility. We looked at several options,
including buying some lots on Lakeway Drive and
building our own church.
However, in early
September the price for the old Faith Lutheran
building had been lowered to a sum thought
affordable by our congregation. The motion was
made that we buy this building. On October 4th
of 1959 we held our first services in our "new" building. We
continued our services in our "new" building at
the corner of High and Maple Streets in Regular
Baptist fashion. Fifty to eighty regulars
attended most services. Now and then, the
pastor's "musical saw" would ring out,
accompanied by Mrs. Wheeler on the piano.
1960 Mrs. Watson joined us after her baptism; she has been an active member ever since
- longer than any other person in our membership.
In September of 1962, Pastor
Wheeler in a loving and gracious manner told the congregation that,
"no church is, or should be dependent on one man, that he would move
In October of 1962, Pastor
Wheeler accepted a position as pastor at First Baptist Church of
Arrival of Pastor Cordell Baker - 1963
January 20th of 1963 the members voted to call
church choir. The choir sang a song at nearly
every morning service, at times there were as
many in the choir as were seated in the pews. At
one time or another it seems, nearly every
member served in the choir.
Construction of a New Facility - 1973
saw a gradual increase in attendance. By the
late sixties our morning worship service saw an
average attendance near one hundred. We were
starting to outgrow our building, and we had
nowhere to expand at that site.
strip had room for only six or seven cars and
people were having to park all around the
neighborhood. Thus, discussions pertaining to
the purchase of a new property ensued. We
were originally given one property as a bequest,
but at the time it was landlocked and access was
too costly. We purchased five acres on Donovan
Street with the intent of building there.
However, we later decided to purchase the
ten-acre parcel that is now our present site for
$14,000. We didn't jump in hastily, records show
that it was six years from the first ideas in
1967 to the start of construction in 1973.
broken for our present building in 1973 and the
building was fully completed in 1976. We sold
the High and Maple facility to a martial arts
teacher -- who
still operates a school on the present site.
During a short period
in 1974 the Church was without a physical home.
We held Sunday services in the YWCA building
for about six months. Late in 1974 we moved into
the basement of our church as work continued on
the main auditorium and offices.
Mr. J. Helgeson
acted as the general contractor and Pastor Baker
acted as the construction supervisor. Except for
a few items, a crew of volunteers from our
membership and others in the county constructed
the building, which was a major factor in
keeping costs down.
Total cost for the building
including the pews was about $76,000. Many local GARBC churches gave assistance in the labor to
construct our building. Especially noted are
Nooksack Valley Baptist and Grace Baptist of
We held the dedication service in
November of 1976. We thank God for the men and
women who's effort and perspiration have given
us our building and our Church.
Resignation of Pastor Baker - 1982
year, 1982 was another year that saw major
changes at Grace Baptist. In February of 1982 we
called Mr. Moir as Minister of outreach.
summer Pastor Baker resigned as pastor with the
intent of serving as a church planter for
Baptist Mid Missions.
We asked Mr. Moir to serve
as interim pastor while we looked for a new
Pastor Baker was still part of our
congregation until 1984 when he went into a
church planting ministry with Baptist
Mid-Missions. He had served our Church for
almost twenty years as pastor, lead us through
the acquisition of our property and the building
of our Church. He worked long and hard in the
service of the Lord and in service to the
congregation. We as a Church owe Pastor Baker
our gratitude and our thanks for a job well
Pastor Hoefs - December 1982
December of 1982, we called Mr. Hoefs as pastor.
In 1985 we installed the sign that now faces
James Street Road. It was paid for in part with
the memorial fund of Carl Sorstokke, who was one
of the original members of Grace Baptist.
the mid eighties Bellingham Baptist School
operated in our building. The School was a
cooperative effort between Grace Baptist and
The mid eighties also saw
our Church come free of rent or mortgage for the
first time in its history. Praise the Lord!
Pastor Hoefs served us for seven years, until
1989. Thanks Pastor Hoefs.
Vater - 1989
Pastor Hoefs left, Pastor Vater came to Grace
Baptist to serve initially as an interim pastor.
While here as an interim pastor, we called him
to work as full time pastor.
Pastor Vater put
time, effort, and thought into how Grace Baptist
could better do the job God has called us to.
After evaluating member surveys the pastor made
the observation that "Our purpose as a church is
to evangelize and to edify believers. . . . Too
often we gear our church programs to meet our
tastes, when we need to consider the needs of
the unsaved around us."
Perhaps this is still
true. One item Pastor Vater looked into was the
idea of bringing in a youth pastor. There were
some hopeful candidates, but, it was not to be
at that time.
Pastor Vater served our
congregation until 1991. Thanks Pastor Vater for
your service to Grace Baptist.
Pastor Vater resigned, we were without a pastor
for nearly a year. We had several prospective
candidates for the job during that time, but we
were not able to make things come together.
According to one member, these were bleak times
for Grace Baptist, attendance and participation
were dropping to a very low number.
Pastor Mordhorst - 1992
struggles and trials proved worth it when we
called Pastor Mordhorst (right with wife
Cynthia) to our pulpit in 1992. where he still
serves. During his time with us, we have added
several new members and hired the church's first
Youth Pastor (who has since joined the faculty
of Cedarville University).
has blessed Grace Baptist by giving us such
distinguished and capable pastors throughout the
years. We have never been wanting in quality
Bible preaching and teaching. Truly the Lord has
blessed us through these men. Thanks again to
Carl Wheeler, Cordell Baker, Hank Hoefs, Virgil
Vater, and Bob Mordhorst.
Lest I forget, we
should also thank the wives of these men who
served along side of their husbands. Thanks to
Florence Wheeler, Virginia Baker, Deanna Hoefs,
Marty Vater, and Cynthia Mordhorst for their
service to the Lord and to Grace Baptist Church.
Lastly, thank You LORD for providing these men
and women to bless us and to serve the church
called Grace Baptist Church of Bellingham.
During November of 1999 we held our first church
reunion. All former members were invited as were
the former pastors. Many of the old members
attended our reunion weekend. With the
exceptions of the Wheelers all of our former
pastors attended and took part in the various
services. Although not physically able to
attend, Pastor Wheeler was interviewed on via
telephone by Pastor Mordhorst and explained some
of the history of our church. Pastor Wheeler,
though now in his late eighties is as sharp and
witty as ever.
(Click here to hear the interview)
important that we not forget the struggles we as
a church have gone through and the people that
have lead us through them. We have come a long
way since 1956. In forty-three years, we have
occupied three different buildings and have had
five different pastors. We have seen the joy of
babies born to our members and we have had the
sorrow of burying old and dear friends in
Christ. We have seen new members come in and we
have seen some move away and others fall away.
Yet it is more important to consider where we
Pastor Vater stated it well when he
said, "Our purpose as a church is to evangelize
and to edify believers." We need to work as
individuals and as a body to carry out this
purpose. As Pastor Wheeler said, "Hats off to
the past and coats off to the future." Pray that
God will use each of us, this body, and this
building for his glory. -FLM-
1. This quote was taken from the
notes and diary of Grace Baptist Church, written
and compiled by Margaret Sorstokke. Thank you
2. Quote is taken from an
article in the Bellingham Herald, Sept. 1957
3. Although "new" to us, the
building was constructed as the First
Presbyterian Church in 1889. Our "new" church
was 60 years old when we moved in.
Pastor Carl Wheeler -
Grace Baptist Fellowship -
GBC - Modern Day
Original Signers of
Articles of Faith -
on High Street -
Pastor Cordell Baker -
Current Facility -
Pastor Mordhorst -