By Bob Zoellner
A local congregation has been born anew after COVID-19 forced it from its rented facilities.
The Grove Bible Chapel Tampa, meeting weekly at Bloomingdale High School until March 2020 when it no longer could use the facilities for services, became a strictly online format for the next 34 weeks, according to Pastor Kurt Gebhards. That was hard for a church which thrives on relationship, where “iron sharpens iron” and where discipleship is the foundation for the church and its mission.
“The Grove is here to grow and enhance the fellowship of our people for the gospel of Christ,” Gebhards said. “We’re here to help each other follow Christ better. It’s about the glory of God and the people of God.”
“The ministry of our church are the life groups where discipleship takes place,” he added. “Discipleship is life on life trust being established over the long term.”
Originally called Harvest Bible Chapel Tampa Bay when it launched in 2014, the church “rebranded, replanted and relaunched for the pursuit of gospel,” taking on a new name in the process to more fully embrace the ministry’s direction. As stated on the church’s website (https://thegrovetampa.org/), “a grove is a collection of fruit-bearing trees of varying sizes and stages which mutually benefit one another as they produce a harvest for the owner of The Grove.”
The congregation desires to grow and mature alongside one another as they worship, serve, share and study the Word of God together.
Gathering at 10 a.m. on Sundays in its new location at 1801 S. Miller Rd. in Valrico, the church has seen a lot of growth since November when it started meeting in person again. COVID-19 protocols are in place, with the proper level of precaution taken and offered to each person and family, depending on needs.
The congregation is led by Gebhards, one of three men who serve the body as elders. In addition, Dan Claassen, one of the original members who helped plant the church, and Kevin Huggins, who serves as the youth pastor, govern its direction.
The Grove is “a totally autonomous church that is part of a greater collective of churches who are all committed to planting, multiplying and strengthening churches,” according to its website.
The building was previously occupied by Centerpoint Church, which moved to 1720 S. St. Cloud Ave. in Valrico. The Grove had almost purchased a different property, but connected with Centerpoint and has been in the current location since November and just recently closed on the property.
“Centerpoint let us meet here until we owned it,” Gebhards said. “They were great. They’ve been really good to us.”