We are mission-minded group of spirit-filled leaders, who are committed to each other, to the local church, and to getting in the great harvest in during these last days.
Here is some background about how our network was started:
The local church that gave leadership to establishing Word of Grace in Lowville, New York, which Penn Clark had helped pioneer back in 1985. We were a Charismatic Mennonite church, part of New York Mennonite Conference for about sixteen years. Over time, it became evident that our church needed to leave the denomination so we began seeking the Lord about who to affiliate with, as we did not want to be out there alone. We contacted other churches like-minded churches such as Petra Fellowship in Pennsylvania, and learned that they were also in the process of leaving the Mennonite church. They told us that a number of other churches like ours was doing the same thing at the same time and were forming their own networks. They encouraged us to do the same. About twelve of us met in Baltimore and decided to form ARCNET, which is an Association of Radical Church Networks. This provided a place for leaders of these new networks to work together and build relationships.
It became clear to our leadership that all of this was fulfillment of something the Lord had spoken to our church back in 1991, when He said we would be used to establish a safe place for pastors to come together from all across the State of New York and beyond.
This word had confirmed something that God had put in Penn's heart back in the early 1980‘s when he had a vision for a relationship-based fellowship of church leaders. This was not something commonly found in those days. This vision was confirmed in a vivid way through prophetic presbytery held at Rhema Fellowship in 1991, but we waited for about ten years for the Lord to establish it His way and in His time. During this ten year waiting period, Penn began to relate informally to a number of other pastors who were more apostolic in their thinking and calling, and began to do mission work together. These men would eventually make up the founding members of Word of Grace Network.
We began to go overseas together, sending teams from our churches, doing significant mission work together. We began to share in each other's pulpits and started retreating together all of which helped us build strong relationships. The other thing we all had in common was that each of us had been part of denominations or other groups that did not provide what we were looking for. We all wanted to be part of a like-minded group where we could build something that would impact the next generation of leaders.
In the meantime, Penn had been asked to help form a network in Orissa, India for some tribal pastors that he had been teaching and training for a number of years. Word of Grace - India was formed in 1996, and whatever he learned during this experience was applied to starting the network here in New York.
Word of Grace Network was formally launched in 2001, with seven founding members who were pastoring churches around the State of New York. Currently, there are about twenty men and their wives who are actively a part of our network, which is now based in WellSpring Fellowship in Penn Yan, NY.
Our leadership team, which we call elders, is made up of Penn Clark, who is our general overseer. He is the founding pastor of WellSpring Fellowship in Penn Yan, New York. Heather Clark is our secretary. To learn more about Penn, click here
Elton Erb, who is the overseer at New Day Community Church in Lowville, New York. Elton and Nancy have been with Word of Grace since it’s inception.
Phil Riehl is our financial manager and has pastored in Dundee, New York and is currently one of the pastors at WellSpring Fellowship. He and his wife LaReta serve in a number of ways, with LaReta acting as our treasurer.