In September 1976, two College of William and Mary science professors and their wives, Dick and Phyllis Terman and Dave and Karen Thompson, established a fellowship centered on Christ and the essentials of the historic Christian faith. They envisioned a fellowship that would minister to the community of Williamsburg and the world, provide a forum in which people could honestly engage and wrestle with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and through which God could transform hearts and lives through His Word. After seeking counsel and guidance from Norfolk Tabernacle Church, the fledgling fellowship constituted itself as the Williamsburg Community Fellowship.
On October 3, 1976, the first service was held at the home of Wally and Lorene Thompson, with a children’s service held next door at the home of Dave and Karen Thompson. On October 17, John Wenzel, a missionary candidate with TEAM to Spain, began speaking on a weekly basis and then became part-time pastor in December 1976. During the following months, the Constitution and its Statement of Faith were written and adopted.
School Days and New Days
By the spring of 1977, Sunday morning attendance had reached 45 and outgrown the Thompson’s home. The Chapel moved to Walsingham Academy, a nearby private school. The name of the church was changed to the Williamsburg Community Chapel. When John Wenzel left to serve in Spain, Scott Hill began to serve as the Chapel’s pastor in January 1978. During Scott Hill’s tenure, the Chapel’s ministries continued to grow. Then in October 1979, the Hills notified the church of their decision to go to Spain the following June with Worldteam.
In anticipation of the Hills’ departure, the church board invited Dick Woodward to serve as the Chapel’s pastor. After 23 years as senior pastor of Virginia Beach Community Chapel, Dick began his ministry at Williamsburg Community Chapel in January 1980. Dick’s first Williamsburg Mini Bible College began in September 1980, with approximately 200 in attendance. The support of thirteen missionaries increased the Chapel’s global outreach.
The Chapel continued to grow under Dick’s ministry and soon recognized the need for additional pastoral help. Bill Warrick, a Campus Crusade staff member at the College of William and Mary, recent transplant from ministry in Texas, and beneficiary of Dick Woodward’s discipleship, accepted the church’s call and joined the pastoral team in May 1984.
As the Chapel continued to grow and the need for bigger facilities increased,its leadership remained committed to waiting for the Lord’s provision. The Lord’s leading to build a facility became apparent when fifteen acres of land were given to the church. A building committee assessed the needs of the Chapel and sought design and planning assistance. The Chapel family moved into the new facility in June 1989. Ten years later, in April 1999, God brought to completion a much needed education wing. This additional classroom and multi-purpose space enabled the Chapel to better serve the Chapel family and the Williamsburg community.
Time for Change
By 1990 the toll of a degenerative spinal condition upon Pastor Woodward was so great that he could no longer serve as full-time Senior Pastor. Bill Warrick assumed his role, and Mr. Woodward became Teacher-in-Residence. The Lord has blessed Mr. Woodward’s transition by allowing him to devote all of his time to preparing Mini-Bible College lessons, tapes, videos, and a host of other devotional and expositional materials. In collaboration with International Cooperating Ministries in Hampton, Virginia, the Word of God has reached millions of people in 22 of the world’s most strategic languages via Mini-Bible College radio broadcasts. Mr. Woodward now serves as the Chapel’s Pastor Emeritus.