In 2009, Pastor John Davis founded the Grace Church of Philadelphia in hopes to connect the people of Powelton Village with the joy of Jesus Christ.
Every Sunday at 4 p.m., members meet at 36th and Pearl streets to gather for worship. Grace Church exemplifies people of multi-ethnic and various economic backgrounds found in Powelton Village.
“At any table on a Sunday afternoon you might find a Ph.D. in psychology whose teaching at Drexel, with a guy whose been a heroin addict for forty years and now he’s on methadone and trying to get clean,” Davis said. “Maybe a Drexel student or Philly school teacher or a homeless guy that we met on the avenue.”
People of all walks of life are encouraged to participate.
“People who normally in life who would have no intersection at all, in Christ, at the lords table, at a fellowship meal, you find people loving each other regardless of all the human differences that are there,” Davis said.
Anyone is welcome to attend public worship on Sundays, but the best way to get deeply involved is to make your presence known in Grace group.
Grace group meets every Wednesday over dinner and participants have the opportunity to spend time with Davis and other leadership members in a more intimate setting.
“Each of the Grace groups try to do something in the way of ministry in the neighborhood. So if you just come and sit on Sunday and don’t do anything else you’re likely to get lost along the way, so it’s important that you become part of a small group of believers,” Davis said.
One of the guiding principles Grace Church follows is to live with the dogma “4G’s,” gather, grow, give and go. To fulfill the commitments of the church, Davis created this concept to represent how members should operate and continue their progressive relationship with Jesus Christ.
Following these values is crucial to a successful journey. Interaction in public worship and Grace group is the basis to these beliefs.
“Christianity has sort of a bad rep. We want to demonstrate that there is a Christianity that is full of grace, that is simple, that is livable, that brings hope.”
Practicing simple church is imperative. It is necessary for members to become an integral part of the Powelton community outside of Grace group and group worship. Grace group advocates neighborhood involvement and inspires building and maintaining relationships.
Davis has touched the heart of many people in the Powelton community through the use of his patented 4G system. Davis and his team provide hope and a helping hand to people in need.
“Our leadership team involves a core group of five guys, my brother, myself and three other men,” Davis said.
“One of them is a computer tech and a grad of UPenn, the other is a school teacher in Philadelphia school systems and has taught music for almost 40 years and another one is a seminary grad who plans to help start a church in South Philly. The core group is five and then we have six interns that are part of that leadership team,” Davis said.
Community member, Donna Stillwell, 54, said she finds comfort knowing there are people like Davis and his team out there making the world a better place.
“He was a neighbor of mine, Pastor John, his heart is where we need it and there’s not many people like that, his wife also, Dawn. As far as what he’s doing for the church it’s great. We need a lot of people like him, whether they’re reverends or not,” Stillwell said.
Stillwell isn’t the only one who feels this connection. Across the community, other residents have taken the time to confide in Davis.
“I came here with my husband, but at that time we were just dating, and we were introduced to pastor John and we’ve been coming here ever since,” said Janet Roundtree, a Grace Church member of three years.
“I was baptized and they married us here. I’ve helped out with the community in West Philly feeding the homeless. I’ve helped out with some of the moms and children that come to our church if they’re in need of clothing for their children,” Roundtree said.
There is a palpable sense of love and community that contagiously spreads duing worship.
“[Davis] is very loving, and welcoming and warm, very encouraging,” Roundtree said.
This sense of caring is no coincidence. With a challenging past that involved an empty life of drugs and pleasure seeking, he found his sanctuary in Christ.
“Now with a bachelor’s, two masters, a professional doctorate and 37 years of being a pastor and church planter, I still have the same love for Jesus, for the Bible, and for people,” Davis said.