Tonawanda News — Vanguard, which started in 1981 as Community Christian Church, has been located in a variety of sites throughout its 32 years before settling at its prior location of 75 17th Ave. Since May, the church has been led by The Collins, who moved to the area from California for the role.
Justin grew up in Rochester and attended Bethel Christian Fellowship there, while Jessica is originally from Toronto. They met at Elim Bible Institute in Lima, married in 2000 and spent a number of years at churches in the Rochester area before moving to California and becoming involved at Bethel Church in Redding, Calif.
The pastor at Bethel Christian Fellowship, which has a relationship with Vanguard, was the one who connected the Collins family with New York state once again.
“He called me up out of the blue as we were living our California existence and said, ‘I have a position I think you and Jessica would be perfect for. Would you be interested in interviewing for it?’,” Justin recalled. “I said I’d pray about it, internally saying ‘no.’ ”
Praying about it, however, he “felt a shift,” and the family, including their daughter Eleanor and son Judah, was on its way back to New York.
There was a process of becoming accustomed to the established congregation in North Tonawanda, while the congregation become accustomed to them, Justin said.
“They were one of the big reasons we decided to leave California and come back to New York,” he said of the Vanguard congregation. “We could see a fire that burned inside of them, and how brightly it burned.”
At the same time, the heritage of the Grace Lutheran Building has its own legacy to lend to the mix.
“God has done so much here,” Justin said. “We don’t feel we’ve started something new in this building. ... We get to begin where they left off. Their ceiling has become our floor. There’s a foundation here to build on.”