Founded in the spring of 2001, Grace Community Church began when several families asked Cliffe Knechtle to lead an informal Bible study. The thought was to explore how the lessons of the Bible applied to modern day life. As word of the meetings spread, more families began to join in. It soon became apparent that there was a real need for this kind of message, which was formulated around building relationships and serving others. With prayerful research and consideration, the group decided to start a church with Cliffe Knechtle as Senior Pastor, which would be based in New Canaan. First and foremost, Grace Community Church is about the modern application of Christian faith, and how it helps us deal with the challenges and complexities of everyday life.
The name Grace Community Church was born from the gift of grace that God extends to us all.
On September 2, 2001 fifty people attended the first official service. A week and a half later, the small congregation gathered again to pray for friends and families who had been part of the tragic events of September 11th. It was a significant moment in the church’s history as many of our beliefs and themes about what a church should be were galvanized that day.
We continued to meet in the homes of several families, until we moved to a local automobile showroom where as many as 100 people would gather on any given Sunday.
To accommodate our growing congregation, Grace Community Church began to meet at Waveny House, a beautiful mansion set on 285 acres of park land in New Canaan. Waveny provided a warm and welcoming setting for Pastor Knechtle’s message of Bible-based truth and its cultural relevance to our modern lives. Music was provided by a variety of musicians from the blue grass sounds of New Canaanite Dan Weed, to the gospel anthems of the Bronx Bethany Choir.
Word spread. As people came through the doors, hot coffee and bagels welcomed all on arrival. Casual dress, a child-friendly atmosphere, spirited music and a compelling message all combined to create a different Sunday morning experience.
As the church continued to grow, we transitioned to Saxe Middle School cafeteria and eventually to the auditorium where we remained for several years. Now, we are incredibly excited to have a permanent home at Grace Farms, located in northern New Canaan on a beautiful 80 acre campus that includes the architecturally significant River Building designed by Pritzker Prize award winning Japanese architects SAANA. Grace Farms was provided as a faith-inspired gift to the church and to the greater community from a number of people in Grace Community Church. These people formed Grace Farms Foundation as an independent, non-religious entity to develop and manage the site and to create independent programming, which gives people inside and outside the church the ability to collaborate for good in the world. The Grace Farms facility and the Foundation's programming provide the opportunity for Grace Community Church to be a more significant contributor to the greater community and to fulfill our church’s mission in ways that we could not do otherwise, while maintaining independent control and financing of our own church ministry.
Our pilgrimage from one venue to another has clearly demonstrated that a church is not a building, but rather a group of people who love and serve God and one another, and strive to form a community born of grace.