One Congregation’s Legacy: From Little, Much

By David T. Chafin

The little congregation of First Christian Church in Ravenswood, West Virginia, had fallen on hard times. They had a dozen of faithful members in attendance, but all of them were aging quickly. The community had taken a downturn years before, and options for growth and renewal were not showing much promise.


The congregation held enough properties, stocks, and cash to continue their gathered presence in their old decaying building. However, they were concerned that at the rate they were going, regular budgetary income was not going to allow them to preserve their assets for the future of ministry in that place.

After careful analysis, the trustees of the congregation worked with the Christian Church Foundation to create a permanent fund and a “Last Will and Testament” describing their intentions and desires for an ongoing ministry for the church -- even after they ceased to meet in the old building on the corner of Sand and Gallatin.


Enacting a vision for the future

Within a year or so, the group determined they could no longer expect to meet for worship and Sunday School as they had for so many years. It was time to execute the Will.

The congregation’s wishes were immediately implemented, allowing the continued support of the local hunger ministry, Week of Compassion, and the Christian Church in West Virginia. Two of the congregation’s members transferred their membership to the Parkersburg congregation, and all of the others were received as members of the Regional Church.

An “estate sale” was conducted and more funds were raised. The proceeds from sale of the parsonage and stock portfolio, along with much of the accumulated cash, were added to the permanent fund at the Foundation.

The church building was kept in the care of the Region. Today, the building houses a recovery ministry and serves as a space for community groups to gather. The small home adjacent to the church building is held locally, as well. An immigrant family has lived in the home for many years as they settled into the community, and they fondly remember joining the congregation for worship periodically. Their youngest child was blessed and dedicated in the church.  

Former members of First Christian Church remain a vital part of Ravenswood’s life, and continue to provide salt and light in a place where God’s presence is much needed.

For one historic congregation, the ending of a full, rich era of life in ministry will bless coming generations in ways that its faithful members had dreamed, planned and took action for. This is the life beyond life that the gospel speaks of. This is faithfulness that has no known end.

If you would like information on creating a legacy plan for your congregation, contact us at (800) 668-8016 or

Leaving A Grand Legacy: The Story of First Christian Church of New Castle

In 1856, a small group of Restorationists gathered in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. Talks began of starting a new church. As songs were sung and plans were laid, they could not have imagined the future that would await for their church community.


With the support of the Thomas Phillips family and many other prominent residents of the New Castle area, the small gathering began to grow in numbers and wealth. In just 8 years, the group formally organized to as the First Christian Church of New Castle.

What started as a small group would soon become a central part of the city of New Castle, constructing a church home known as the “big steeple” church on the city’s diamond.


The growth of a community

The church continued its ministry with growing numbers of members and expanding ministry in the community and denomination. Along the way their history was marked by a split of an independent church, Central Christian, and a merger with a Baptist congregation. And the “big steeple” became a central part of the New Castle community.

As the years passed, the great steepled building became a greater responsibility to maintain. Utility bills soared, and worship attendance and membership declined in the 1960s and 70s. Even in this declining period, the church continued to actively share in outreach in their community and through the Pennsylvania Region and mission funding of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).


The decision to close

Faced with increasing deferred maintenance and dwindling attendance, in 2012 the congregation decided to sell their building. The congregation’s decision to gift their remaining assets served as a last testament to their devotion to God’s mission and the commitment of their ancestors in faith.

The congregation made a large gift to the Christian Church in Pennsylvania. Although most of those funds were used by the Region for ongoing expenses, the Regional Board, at the recommendation of Regional Minister Thad Allen, committed $1,000 to establish a named permanent fund with the Christian Church Foundation as part of the Pennsylvania Region’s All Saints Fund. This fund became the First Christian Church of New Castle Fund.

Through this fund, the legacy of each generation since 1856 will continue to serve Christ’s church through an annual income to the Region.

Extend the legacy of your church

Legacy Permanent Funds established through the Christian Church Foundation, enable the accumulated assets of a congregation to continue to serve God's mission long after the doors of a church building close.

If your congregation is interested in exploring how a Legacy Fund might extend your church's legacy, contact us at (800) 668-8016 or