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New church opens in Port Lavaca funeral home

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
May 16, 2014 at 12:16 a.m.

The Rev. Larry Green sits on a bench outside his new Church of Grace, which shares space with the Grace Funeral Chapel in Port Lavaca. "I'm after people without a church," Green said about who he'd like to attract to the new church.

Church of Grace

• WHAT: Church of Grace, new church inside Grace Funeral Home

• WHEN: 9 a.m. Sundays; 7 p.m. Thursday

• WHERE: 1604 W. Austin St., Port Lavaca

• FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call 361-228-0021 or visit godschurchinternational-victoria.com

He peeks behind the long theater curtains at the rear of the sanctuary stage, stirring up dust as he separates the fabric.

"There's a baptistery back here that I want to use at some point. It needs a good cleaning first, though," said the Rev. Larry Green, smiling, pointing to the dead bugs and spider webs that made homes in the fiberglass tub.

It's been an untouched area of the building for years, and Green is in the process of transforming the space.

"There is so much potential here," said Green, who also leads God's Church of Restoration in Victoria. "It will take some work, but when I look around, all I see is what it can be."

Green's new church launched in Port Lavaca, Church of Grace, is attached to a less traditional building - Grace Funeral Home.

So on one side of the building, visitors will come to honor death and prepare their loved ones for eternal rest. On the other side of the building, visitors will come to receive spiritual nourishment so that they will have a stronger, richer eternal life.

"I don't know that it crossed my mind that people may feel weird about church being in a funeral home. I look at it like, 'What better place to grow?'" he said.

Green, who also serves full time as chaplain of Hospice of South Texas, has spent much time in Port Lavaca tending to the needs of the dying.

He said it was during a long road trip through Port Lavaca that he heard God speak to his heart about opening a church in the area.

"I didn't want to at first, and I thought it was a crazy idea," he said. "But then God told me to contact the funeral home."

Green didn't know why he felt led to Grace Funeral Home, but soon he learned the chapel was empty and was large enough to seat about 300 people in the pews.

Upstairs, more than a dozen empty rooms for classes, Bible studies and children's rooms, were vacant.

"It needs to be cleaned up. It hasn't been used for about four years, so it will take some work. But I want to fill each of these rooms," Green said.

Before the church was a funeral home, it was Alamo Baptist Church.

Alamo relocated many years ago, but the foundation of the building was intended for church worship.

"I'm pretty thrilled that he'll be having church on Sundays. That church has been historically well known in that community for a long time," said Grace Funeral Home director Michael Delaney.

When the church opened to the community a few weeks ago, Green hosted a cook-out welcoming area residents to the check out the new church.

Delaney said he attended and was delighted to see a high turnout.

"He had quite a bit of people show up," Delaney said, mentioning he soon hopes to visit the church services on Sundays. "I've know Pastor Green for a long time. He's a wonderful minister and I'm very excited for him."

Green is intentional about his nondenominational doctrinal style, mixed with a tinge of Pentecostal theology.

He's seeking those who may have turned away from church, and those struggling with addiction, homelessness and those seeking a comfortable place to grow into a loving relationship with Jesus.

"I want to reach those who are hurting. . I want the underdogs," Green said. "And it doesn't matter how many people come to service. If there are three people, I'm going to preach. If there are 100, I'm going to preach."

And Green is excited the church is adjoined to a funeral home because when his members reach their time to depart from this world, he'll be ready for their church service.

"It's really convenient if you think about it," he said, laughing. "My job is really all about preparing people for the other side and how they're going to spend an eternal life with God."

Green said his preaching style is all about love, and realizing that denominations in Christianity are often dividers among believers.

To that end, he wants to be a preacher of unity and togetherness, because after death, everyone is going to end up together anyway.

"With all my heart I believe that we'll all realize one day that every church got it wrong. And I think one day we'll figure it out," he said. "But I'm about teaching Jesus. I'm about the church. That's where I'm at, and that's what I love."

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