Sovereign Grace Community Church started with four families who had a deep desire for reformed doctrine. These families began meeting in homes for Bible study and fellowship. Their desire grew to see a reformed church planted in Hughson that would follow the Biblical pattern of elder rule with higher church courts that could provide accountability and oversight. The Lord led these four families to Pastor Sal Solis who was a retired Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) minister. This humble group approached the OPC with Pastor Solis to see if the Presbytery of Northern California and Nevada would consider sponsoring them as a home missions work.
The home missions committee of the Presbytery was very reluctant to back such a small group, but with Pastor Solis’ encouragement they were taken under the wing of the committee. With financial support from Presbytery and the OPC denomination, the new work was on its way. The Lord was answering prayers and against seemingly difficult obstacles, the small flock of believers was being formed into the founding members of Sovereign Grace Community Church.
1998: Worship services begin
Pastor Solis left retirement behind to serve the Lord on a weekly basis from the pulpit once again. He made it clear to these founding families and especially the men that they would need to do much of the work of the church. In 1998 worship services began at Hughson High School. Each week the band room was transformed into the worship facility for the young church and slowly new visitors became new members.
While the new church was thankful for their meeting arrangements, it became clear that they would need a place of their own. With a limited budget and hoping to only have to borrow $100,000.00, the search began for a building. The lowest price building that could be found was an old medical office, but the price was almost three times the budget. The listing real estate agent reassured the men that the price was firm! After much prayer and pressure applied to the real estate agent, he presented the church’s offer of $100,000.00 with a 10% down payment. The Lord once again answered prayer in a way that the church could not even have imagined. The owner counter offered at $95,000.00 and at a lower interest rate than had been offered.
1999: Pastor Mark Richline called as organizing pastor
In 1999, Pastor Mark Richline and his family moved from New Jersey to Hughson to become the organizing pastor for the young church. Pastor Mark brought a sincere love for the people of his new flock and the congregation continued to grow under his ministry. The flock was knitted together by their love for one another and they continued to reach out to new visitors as well as their own family members with the gospel.
The Lord called Pastor Richline and his family to the foreign mission field in 2011. While they are deeply missed, they are the church’s personal connection with the OPC mission work in Uruguay. Many tears were shed, but watching the Lord sovereignly work this all out left no doubt that he would continue to provide for his church in Hughson.
2011: Pastor Mark Wheat called as new pastor
A pastor’s search committee was formed and once again the Lord answered the prayers of his people with just the right man, at just the right time. A unanimous vote to call a new pastor was once again evidence of our Lord caring for his church.
Pastor Mark Wheat and his family moved from Tyler, Texas to Hughson in December of 2011 to take up the pastoral ministry at Sovereign Grace. Pastor Wheat was born and raised in Tyler, Texas in a strong Southern Baptist home. Through the years, the Lord led Mark and his wife Lori into the reformed faith, and eventually into the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. His preaching can be described as skillful, pointed, warm, and even thunderous at times, but it is always gospel centered and aimed at the heart.
In many ways Sovereign Grace church is still very much like it has been throughout its life. New members share with the session that the friendly, welcoming people were what the Lord used to attract many to return after a first visit. We continue to grow as part of God’s family, living, serving, loving and forgiving each other as only a Christ-centered church family can.