1975 - Official Start in New Haven
The church officially held her first Sunday service on November 9th, 1975 at the Glad Tidings Tabernacle located at 855 State Street in New Haven. While at Glad Tidings, the church was incorporated in the State of Connecticut as His Way Ministries.
1976 - A Summer in Woodbridge
In the summer of 1976, we moved into a home in Woodbridge. The congregation began to grow quickly and we crammed into this home for a couple of months.
1976 - Early Years in New Haven
Towards the end of 1976, we settled on a rented space on the 2nd floor of the building at 1211 Chapel Street in New Haven. The church grew as a leading influence for revival in Connecticut and New England. Other than a couple of Pentecostal churches and fairly strong Catholic Charismatic groups in the region, there was nothing like our church in Southern New England. The congregation was made up largely of young people in their 20s, Yale students, faculty and a growing number of older members. The church was known for it’s bold Biblical teaching, discipleship orientation and constant supernatural manifestation of the charismatic ministry. As we began regular outreaches into the New Haven area, the church started attracting a wide range of people.
1978 - Revival
Pastors Nick and Kathy Champlin were called by God to come to New England and begin a church for the purpose of revival. Under their leadership, the church started becoming a thriving ministry that gathered the hungry from all over Connecticut and leaders from all over New England. During the next few years other churches like ours began to crop up. The spiritual climate of the church was joyously infectious. There was a sense of anticipation and revival that seemed to blanket churches in those days and we were in the middle of it.
1980 - The Amazing Years At Yale
In 1980, the church moved a few blocks up the street to the famed Linsly-Chittenden Hall, just under the High Street Arch on Yale’s old campus. Over the next 5 years the congregation grew to around 300+ people.
1981 - Faith Christian Church
In June of 1981, His Way Ministries changed its name to Faith Christian Church. Many people traced their spiritual lineage back to the “Yale Years” when the church seemed more like a movement that God was leading. That period was filled with a mix of miraculous experiences and sacrificial service. The church occupied the main lecture hall, the famed Room 102 with the stained glass windows which was the old reading room of the original Yale Library and several surrounding classrooms. The main lecture hall could seat a little over 300 people. We used Room 102 as the small sanctuary. Every Sunday and Wednesday and some Fridays we would haul in the gear for our band, bookstore, Sunday school and nursery ministries. There was only street parking available around Chapel Street and the old Yale campus and people would park blocks away. New Haven was notoriously bad about plowing streets after snowstorms, but our attendance never seemed to waver, as people walked through snow and ice to get to the services. We could never get the Yale facilities department to turn the heat on for us during the winters. Consequently, it was common for people to leave their coats, hats and gloves on, and have steam coming out of their mouths as they sang and praised the Lord. The power and presence of the Lord was so evident, as people were drawn to the church, that our lack of amenities seemed inconsequential. Supernatural testimonies began piling up as words of healing and deliverance circulated through the region. The sense that we were laboring under a visitation of the Holy Spirit was evident and commonly believed by most of us. Pastor Nick always hearkened back to the vision he had in August 1975, and knew that God was unfolding His plan.
1982 - Outreaches And The Believer's Breakfast
By the early 80s, Faith Christian Church had established itself as a leading outreach for revival in southern New England. We had been hosting a monthly pastors gathering that drew church leaders from as far away as Hartford, Providence and Boston. Pastor Nick was regularly preaching in other churches and conferences around Connecticut and New England, as there was a growing number of churches and ministries from all backgrounds that were fellowshipping together. We began a half hour radio program called The Sword of The Spirit that aired at noon every week, Monday through Friday. This helped broadcast what was happening at Faith Christian Church and drew people to the church. We were always reaching out for lost souls, whether it was altar calls for salvation at every service or street evangelism and musical outreaches with our band. We never stopped throwing out the nets. However, the greatest outreach was The Believer's Breakfast that was held every month on the first Saturday at a local facility. It was a simple format modeled after the highly successful Full Gospel Businessmen's Breakfasts of the 1970s. We had powerful speakers, strong praise music and large altar calls for salvation, healing, deliverance and baptism in the Holy Spirit. You name it, we prayed for it. The breakfasts went on for 10 years and grew to around 400 in attendance and drew people from all around Connecticut and beyond. To this day, we encounter people who talk about how they were introduced to Jesus at The Believers’ Breakfasts.
1985 - First Avenue, West Haven
After 10 years of renting in New Haven, we were desperate for our own church facility. We had outgrown Yale and after briefly holding services at Carrigan Middle School in West Haven, we finally moved into our own new church at 870 1st Avenue in West Haven. The building had previously been a manufacturing operation. We purchased the property for $400,000, gutted it and rebuilt the entire inside. We moved in with a little over 300 members and a rolling momentum and the church began to grow exponentially. We doubled our attendance in about 1 year. The congregation was close to 1,000.
1990 - Great Celebration
The next 5 years were a time of great celebration. The air was constantly filled with faith and expectation and our altar was constantly filled with people being saved, healed, delivered and encouraged by a word from God. People came looking forward to what was going to happen at our altars more than anything else. During that time Faith Christian Church had emerged as the first racially integrated church in the region. For several years we had been preaching in local Black churches and had established a close relationship with leading Black pastors in the New Haven and Bridgeport areas. By the time we moved into 1st Avenue, our church’s complexion had begun to change. It was a wonderful time because race was never an issue or motive for anything. People from all walks of life were investing themselves in the Kingdom of God, and we knew that we were the tip of the spear of something that God was doing, that man was unable to do.
After some tumultuous months, we made a connection with Pastor Brian and Candice Simmons from Clearwater, who had been pastoring a local church after years of serving as missionaries in South and Central America with the New Tribes Missions. Pastor Brian agreed to take over as the senior leader of Faith Christian Church. Pastor Brian and Candice worked to lead the church back to wholeness, exercising their own prerogatives and style. The root of the ministry remained. The spirit of the work quickly revived and sprang forth into growth as the few hundreds multiplied quickly.
1993 - Gateway Christian Fellowship
Within a year or so of Pastor Brian’s leadership, Pastor Nick stepped down from heading the ministry. Pastor Brian then continued to steer the church in the direction he felt led. At that time Pastor Brian changed the name of the ministry to Gateway Christian Fellowship, in order to identify the church with a new beginning.
2001 - Bull Hill Lane, West Haven
After 16 years at 1st Avenue, we finally moved into our current location 129 Bull Hill Lane in West Haven. Under Pastors Brian and Candice Simmons, Gateway experienced years of growth. Lives were being changed by the goodness of God and the empowering work of the Holy Spirit. Gateway continued to be a hub and resource to New England. Through powerful preaching, a committed team of volunteers and a busy calendar full of conferences, Gateway was a catalyst for igniting revival and passion in the lives of many. Pastor Brian built the church to a thriving and passionate ministry of over 1,200 people. After leading Gateway for 18 years, Pastors Brian and Candice handed the reigns of leadership to Pastors Todd & Joy Skeirik.
2009 - A Friend in the Region
In 2009 Pastor Todd Skeirik, the former Executive Pastor, took the helm of leadership. With a strong passion for prayer, intercession and the prophetic, Pastors Todd and Joy led Gateway into fruitful years. Their vision was rooted in Matthew 28. Many lives grew in intimacy with God as a result. The church remained strong as the values for family, intimacy, prayer, worship and ministry grew.
Pastor Todd forged powerful relationship with other churches and helped Gateway emerge, not only as a regional center known for revival, signs and wonders, prayer and bold preaching, but Gateway became a friend to the city and to other churches. Gateway thrived and grew under Pastors Todd and Joy. In 2013, under the direction of Holy Spirit, they resigned as senior leaders of Gateway to pursue a new chapter in their lives.
2013 - A Family of Hope
In November 2013, Pastor Lance and Darlene Bane moved to New England from Texas and took over as our senior leaders. Gateway is finding her voice in this new season with a return to the founding values; the presence of God, bold preaching, signs and wonders, discipleship and winning the lost. Trumpeting the values of hope and joy, Pastors Lance and Darlene, along with the Gateway team, are a healthy and empowered family that is experiencing the supernatural presence and power of God, sharing it with those in the region and beyond. We are a “gateway of hope”, experiencing God’s kindness and leading brilliant lives together.
To say it’s been an adventure since arriving in November 2013 would be an understatement. From unfriendly financial statements to people making a choice for another church, from staff departing into new directions to hiring new teammates, from feeling scared everyday to feeling confident, it’s been a great journey. Gateway is a church with a rich history, and Pastor Lance knew that one of his first assignments as the Lead Pastor was to re-align us to our past, to honor previous leadership and set a clear direction for our future. He and Darlene are grateful for those who have endured, yet another transition and chose to stick with us. We are equally excited for the new families, teenagers, young adults, children and seniors that have joined this movement. We have had plenty of private tears and we have had more than enough public laughs. From being frustrated with Connecticut winters to understanding why people won’t come to church as often in the Summer, Pastor Lance feels it’s a privilege to serve this great family.
Here’s a story that he recounts - "Sunday February 14, 2016 reminded me of the story Pastor Nick Champlin (founding pastor) told about Faith Christian Church (now Gateway Christian Fellowship) that happened in 1981. FCC was meeting at the Reading Room of Yale Library back then. Nick writes,
“We could never get the Yale facilities department to turn the heat on for us during the winters. Consequently, it was common for people to leave their coats, hats and gloves on, and have steam coming out of their mouths as they sang and praised the Lord. The power and presence of the Lord was so evident, as people were drawn to the church, that our lack of amenities seemed inconsequential. Supernatural testimonies began piling up as words of healing and deliverance circulated through the region. The sense that we were laboring under a visitation of the Holy Spirit was evident and commonly believed by most of us. Pastor Nick always hearkened back to the vision he had in August 1975, and knew that God was unfolding His plan.”
Sunday, February 14, 2016, reminded me of that because we had one of our coldest weekends on record. When I awoke Sunday morning the temperature was around zero. No big deal. After all, church is inside where it will be warm and toasty. (I had posted on Facebook the night before about coming to church where it will be “hot.”) As me and the family were getting ready I got a text from our worship pastor telling me the temperature in the Worship Center was 49 degrees. The furnace at church had frozen up because it could not keep up with the below zeros temps. So my invitation to the church to attend our “hot” service ended up being a worship service in a room with a temperature of 51 degrees. I was considering canceling service, but people kept coming and coming. We had a normal size church attendance, worship was amazing and people bundled up in their coats, gloves and hats."
This story typifies what is happening at Gateway. People are hungry for God and willing to deal with discomfort to be together, to be with God and to hear His word. I love the Gateway family and their passion."
As we look back as a family on our rich heritage, we can’t help but respond with gratefulness and surrender to His lead. Looking ahead, we are confident that He who began a good work in us will continue His work in us until it is finally completed on the day when Jesus returns.
The rest of our story is still being written... Join us and be a part of something special.