An Illinois Pastor’s Unique Journey Culminates in Church Launch

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Great Lakes

By Kevin Spear

On September 18, 2022, a new church was launched in Peoria Heights, Illinois. That, in itself, is always something to celebrate. But how and why it launched is even more inspiring.

Pastor Leah Grayer has felt a call to ministry for many years. “My call to pastor began to intensify the last couple of years with more requests to preach at various churches.” Pastor Grayer is a hospital chaplain and her ministry was crucial during COVID.

During the pandemic, she was meeting and serving families via Zoom. Pastor Leah said, “I was constantly asked, ‘Where is your church?’ or ‘Would you officiate my loved one’s funeral or wedding?’” In addition, she found the families’ churches were not meeting during COVID.

Eric Livingston presides over the launch service.

In the meantime, Pastor Leah and her husband Warren felt God calling them to a new ministry based on racial reconciliation and unity. As a result, the Grayers met with six individuals who wanted to be a part of the launch. As a result of that, Redeeming Love Church began in their home in November 2020.

Pastor Eric Livingston, state minister for Illinois Ministries, remarked, “Coming out of COVID, these families had such a connection with the Grayers that they asked them to start a church. Pastor Leah came to me and asked me what I thought. I thought it was the most natural, organic church plant idea—I was all for it.”

Pastor Leah has greatly appreciated the support from Illinois Ministries. She launched the church with a vision to be a church “where God is glorified, and people are unified.” She began leading a weekly Bible study and preaching on Sundays within her home.

A Church for the Community

Pastor Leah embraces the Great Commission along with a vision for unity and diversity. A quote by Martin Luther King Jr. motivates her: “I think it is one of the tragedies of our nation, one of the shameful tragedies, that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated hours, in Christian America.”

Pastor Leah Grayer and Eric Livingston, state pastor.

Redeeming Love Church aims to be different using the following strategies:

1. Establish a diverse launch team.
2. Reach out to their diverse community that is 65-percent White, 20-percent Black, 5-percent Asian, and 10-percent other races with outreach and community involvement.
3. A commitment to diversify its leadership, ministries, programs, and events.
4. Constantly communicate the vision and mission of the church, with the goal of building unity in the body of Christ.

Relaunch with a New Building

As the pandemic restrictions lifted, Pastor Leah resumed searching for a new building. But she found nothing. “I began to question if a church building was really what God desired for Redeeming Love.”

However, one Sunday, she was filling the pulpit for another church. A congregant asked her if they had found a church building. Pastor Leah replied they had not. The lady replied, “Please make sure you let us know when you do because we want to be there to support you.”

The lady left. But five minutes later she returned with a check in her hand. As she handed it to pastor Leah, she said, “The Lord wants me to bless you with this, in hopes that it will help you find a building to worship.” Pastor Leah was so moved by the lady’s generosity.

The next week, Pastor Leah resumed the search. Eventually, she found a vacant church building in Peoria Heights, Illinois. After prayer and negotiations with the owner, Redeeming Love Church had a new home.

Redeeming Love Church exterior

Pastor Eric Livingston was excited about the relaunch. “We had a unity service the week before the launch with five other local Church of God congregations—they were on board, excited, and gave an offering of over $4,500 in support of their brand-new sister church. I am so proud of the Peoria area churches, and Pastor Leah!”

The launch was a great success. Pastor Grayer explains, “Since the grand opening on September 18, 2022, we have seen people who were not attending church, attend regularly. We have heard people testify how the church has been a blessing to them. People have made commitments to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ!”

And God continues to supply their needs. Pastor Grayer continues, “We have gone from having no musicians, to having a full band. God has blessed us with furniture, finances to meet our monthly budget, and supplies. He continues to meet all our needs!”

Kevin Spear worked for Warner Christian Resources (formerly Warner Press) and has regularly contributed time and talent to the work of Church of God Ministries. He is a ministry partner with his wife Paula, a children’s director for Christ Fellowship Church—Westlake, Florida, campus.

Learn more about the Church of God movement at

Feature (top) photo: Redeeming Love Church in prayer and worship.

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