John D. Rockefeller began the great work of restoring Colonial Williamsburg "so that future generations might learn from the past". Men of strong faith started the Williamsburg Christian Church , "so the present generation might learn from the One who made the past and holds the future".
Early in the spring of the year 1964, some of the residents of the city and vicinity of Williamsburg, who were also member of the Lebanon Church of Christ at Lee Hall, met to discuss the possibility of establishing a New Testament congregation in Williamsburg, the colonial capital of Virginia. Present at this meeting were some of the officers of the Lebanon congregation. It was the general feeling that such a work could be undertaken. The matter was presented to the elders and deacons of the Lebanon Church, who advised that inquiries be begun into the possibility of planting the new Church. In due time, after a general consideration of all possibilities, the work was proposed to the Eldership of Lebanon Church of Christ, who endorsed it. It was then sent to the general board of elders and deacons. After the plan was approved by all of the officers of the Church, it was presented to the congregation, who voted to endorse it by a sizable majority.
In September 1964, five families holding membership in the Lebanon Church of Christ began holding evening services in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Boyd. Charles L. Gilliam, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Bible Seminary, volunteered to minister to the congregation for approximately one year and support himself and his family by teaching in the York County School system. Christians of firm faith, they were determined that a Christian Church would become a reality in Williamsburg. Only a handful of people undertook the purchase of a $42,000 property on Jamestown Road which was remodeled and served as the House of Worship for three years.
Formal services were started on October 11, 1964, and for one year this small group of Christians worked, prayed and slowly grew in number. They then met another challenge in calling a full-time minister. With the encouragement of the elders of the Lebanon Church of Christ, and under the leadership of their minister, Rupert Wallace, steps were taken to secure the assistance of the Virginia Evangelizing Fellowship, the Peninsula Churches, and other interested Christian Families. The resulting financial pledges made it possible for the Church to secure the services of Ralph S. Cater.
In securing the services of a full-time minister, another crisis was met when a storage shed-garage was completely renovated and converted into a seven room parsonage by church members under the direction of Earl W. Boyd. The Virginia Evangelizing Fellowship and the contributions of interested Churches and friends made it possible for a new minister to move into the debt-free converted parsonage November 23, 1965. With unswerving faith, this small group continued to meet every challenge. In May of 1966, they decided to liquidate the second mortgage as quickly as possible. Six months later, this was an accomplished fact thanks to Joe Davenport voluntarily filling the pulpit while Ralph Carter went to Churches throughout the state of Virginia soliciting support.
In March 1967, the congregation decided to sell its property and relocate on a tract with greater acreage, offering more potential for growth. A new site was acquired on the corner of John Tyler Highway and Mill Neck Road and plans were drawn up for a two-stage building program. With the sale of the property on Jamestown Road, the congregation met for approximately on year in the Rawls Byrd Elementary School. In October 1967, $50,000 in Church bonds were issued and sold, and the Williamsburg Christian Church began construction on its property. The present worship building was constructed by several sub-contractors, locally and from the Peninsula area, under the supervision of Earl W. Boyd, Chairman of the Building Committee. The main accomplishments however, were made by the consistent loyalty of the men of the Church who labored nightly for approximately three months. The Church is planning not only for the congregational needs, but also for the spiritual needs of many college students in our community and approximately 1,000,000 tourists who come to this area every year. The present auditorium which seats 206, with offices, foyer and classrooms, has been planned to become the William & Mary Room in the final building development and serve as a focal point for the spiritual needs of our college students in this community. The first unit was completed and dedicated on Sunday, December 15, 1968.
As the congregation slowly grew, in 1970 seven deacons were installed for the first time. These were: Charles Priem, Carl Dotson, E.W. Grizzel, Bill Sutherland, Claude Brown, Harry Gambrell and Hoyt Davenport.
In March 1970, Larry Wigal, a graduate of Cincinnati Bible Seminary, accepted the call to minister to the congregation and moved his wife, Phyliss, and two daughters, Vicki and Cindy, on the field from Blountville, Tennessee.
Major accomplishments during this period include the donation of a Lowery Organ, like new, from Mr. and Mrs. Champ Y. Powell, in 1971, in return for some remodeling to his basement by men of the church volunteering to do the work. Due to the efforts of Brother Wigal and members of the church in 1972, $5,500 was raised for purchase and installation of wall-to-wall carpeting and oak pews. The complete amount was raised during the year above the regular budget. Kitchen cabinets were also built and installed by men of the church assisted by Howard Hertzler, a cabinet maker and member of the Denbigh Christian Church. Larry Wigal resigned December 3, 1972, to take a position with the First Church of Christ in Mapleton, Georgia.
During the time following, while searching for another minister, the pulpit was filled by several interim ministers, among these were Joel Wilson, from Grundy, Virginia. In the Spring of 1974, Gerald Stemm accepted the call to the church. His family includes his wife Louisa; sons, Matthew and Aaron; and a daughter, Gerri. At the encouragement of Joel Wilson and after much prayerful planning and under the diligent efforts of Everette Norman, a bus ministry began during the winter of 1973-74. Out of the ministry grew a fairly sizable and stable youth group and a youth choir under the direction of Mrs. Stemm. They performed on many occasions for other congregations in the state.
1975 saw another first - two elders were installed : Bill Sutherland and Everette Norman.
Other major events that occurred during the ministry of Gerald Stemm included the burning of the mortgage on the building on April 4, 1982, hiring a part-time secretary, Kit Sutherland in 1979, purchasing a van in 1980, paving the parking lot in 1982, and the organization of a Golden Agers group in 1983.
Gerald Stemm's letter of resignation was read Sunday, October 21, 1984, and was effective on November 18, 1984. He has started a church in Botetourt County, Virginia.
On December 2, 1984, a new work was begun to minister to the town of Toano. Now called the Church of Christ at Toano, this church has purchased land of its own and is effectively presenting the message of Christ there.
On May 12, 1985 Steven P. Angel was called to serve the Williamsburg Christian Church as the minister. Steve, his wife Linda, and their two daughters Suzanne and Dawn moved here to begin on July 7, 1985 and began serving with the congregation to spread the gospel of Christ here in Williamsburg.
Since the church has always cared for it's youth, several youth ministers have been called to work with the church; Kevin Odor in January 1978, Greg Brookins in June 1979, Doug Karley in March 1981 and Cliff Manuel in June 1982. From October 1982 to October 1985 Mike Anglin served very well as youth minister, and filled the pulpit often in the interim period of Gerald Stemm's leaving and Steven Angel's Call.
In November of 1985, John James, a student at Roanoke Bible College, began serving at Williamsburg Christian Church as part-time youth minister. In June of 1988 he assumed full-time duties in teaching and leading the youth. John's wife Annie, began a Deaf Ministry in September of 1987, using her talents in signing. Following the resignation of Steven Angel in March of 1989, John became the interim minister.
Upon the recommendation of Ralph Carter, Frank Forehand, and a search committee chaired by Alvin Waltrip, the congregation called Dave Hileman to fill the position of senior minister in October of 1989. David, his wife Cindy, and their two sons, Geof and Gregg, came to the fellowship here from the Union Grove Christian Church in Barboursville, Virginia in February of 1990. Goals identified at this time were development of strong leadership and teaching for maturity of all believers. As a step in reaching these goals, a Joint Board was installed in January of 1991. Members of this board included Harry Gambrell, Dave Tatum, and Charles Whitten, as elders, and Jim Kennedy, Ed Qualtrough, Nelson Scott, and Alvin Waltrip, as deacons.
Another change in church leadership occurred in June of 1991 as John James resigned to accept a position on the ministerial staff of Kempsville Church of Christ in Virginia Beach. The decision was made to fill John and Annies areas of ministry on an individual basis. Jamie Darcy, a graduate of Johnson Bible College and the College of William & Mary, accepted the responsibility of leading Children's Worship and the Youth Group. After an enthusiastic beginning, our congregation was greatly saddened at Jamie's unexpected death. Debby Darcy, Jamie's wife, continued with the leadership of the Children's Worship. Billy Swain, a graduate of Cincinnati Bible College, assumed the coordination of the Teen Group. Linda Angel accepted the newly formed Music Coordinator position, which was designed to emphasize worship through music for both children and adults. Sherry Price agreed to serve as deaf interpreter. As an aid to all of the leadership groups, a part-time secretarial position was approved and filled by Cindy Hileman.
In the fall of 1992, a Self Study Taskforce was implemented to assess the future physical and spiritual needs of Williamsburg Christian Church. Studies included development of a Mission Statement, a congregational survey, a space needs survey, and a statistical history of the worship attendance pattern. Recommendations of the Taskforce included minimizing transmission of sound through different parts of the building, adding space for various new ministries, with an emphasis on the childrens ministry, and providing for handicap accessibility. A building Committee and Fundraising Committee were established in June of 1993 to plan for these improvements.
During the next six years, several different plans were submitted to the City of Williamsburg. Difficulties were posed by special use permits needed to build in a residential neighborhood. During this process, the option of selling the property and relocating was also explored. Small groups meeting in homes were introduced to promote spiritual growth and develop caring fellowship. Called BASIC (Brothers And Sisters In Christ), these groups focused on Bible study, prayer, and sharing joys and needs of members. In-depth Precept Bible studies were also offered.
In the Spring of 1997, Donn Leach, a graduate of Lincoln, Butler, and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, was hired as part-time associate minister. Donn and his wife Joan, came here from Countryside Christian Church in Chesterfield, Virginia, having served as missionaries in England at Springdale College. Donn helped with the teaching responsibilities, as well as with ministry to the seniors, and with business matters related to the new building plans. Joan was a great blessing to the Ladies Christian Endeavor areas. In the Summer of 1999, Donn and Joan retired to Manhattan, Kansas where Donn teaches part-time at Manhattan Christian College and they are close enough to share in the lives of their five grandchildren.
Ministry to the youth remained an important concern. To accomplish this goal while addressing the need to increase our physical facilities, a new plan for staffing was introduced in the Spring of 2000. This plan, Building for Ministry 2000, proposed the addition of two full-time staff members with the reduction of Dave Hileman's responsibilities. Dave would continue to preach and do some teaching while his work with the Virginia Evangelizing Fellowship increased. Two people within the congregation were identified as having the gifts suited to these positions: Dave Faith, an elder, became Associate Minister, and Leanne Pettit became the Youth-Music-Drama Director in June of 2000. David, his wife Karen, and son Paul, had been active members here for four years. Leanne, a recent graduate of the College of William & Mary, had worshipped with the church during her time at the college.
The second part of the Building for Ministry plan was an expansion and renovation of the church building, based on a concept contributed by Beth Crowder, an architect from our fellowship. It included a new foyer, large classroom, and an office area on the entry level, with a lift to the sanctuary level. A handicap accessible restroom was added on the sanctuary level, along with a Welcome Center. Sanctuary renovations included replacement of pews with chairs to increase seating capacity, an expanded platform area, new ceiling, and sound and video systems. The Finance Committee recommended an initial commitment of $60,000 and on June 11 a special offering of $63,774.41 was received. Financing for the $400,000 project was arranged with Church Development Fund, and Henderson, Inc. began construction in July. With the great co-operation of the builders, worship continued in the building each Sunday. The facility was completed and dedicated on March 25, 2001. In the late Winter of 2003, Steve Sandefur, a graduate of Johnson Bible College of 1982, was hired as Lead Minister. Steve, his wife Denise, graduate of Vincennes University in Vincennes Indiana and their son Saul came here from Shaker Prairie Christian Church, a rural church outside of Carlisle Indiana. Steve served as the Lead Minister preaching and teaching until June of 2010 and now continues in ministry in Kentucky.
Our current Lead Minister Fred Liggin, along with his wife Alison and son Ian, arrived in October of 2010. Our Community and our world have experienced great changes in the past forty eight years. It remains the goal of our congregation to effectively represent Jesus Christ and His Gospel in Williamsburg. As every day people in every day places we are learning what it means to be joined in God's pursuit of restoring lives by the gospel of Jesus Christ, and making His Kingdom tangible to all in every day ways.