Welcome to the abbreviated version of the history of PVAG, located in one of the beautiful highland river hill towns, of the Pioneer Valley, on Old Chester Road in Huntington, Massachusetts. Our lovely, white steepled, New England church is perched on a grassy knoll, backed by stately pines, and green forests, and is adjacent to the Westfield River.
Our church, like the Westfield River, has a very meandering history, with many ‘highs and lows’ and
‘twists and turns’ as God has led us to our present location and vision. Throughout that journey, God has been unwaveringly faithful, and many people have come to know and receive the love and forgiveness of Jesus here.
Our story began in Chester, MA, in 1972, when four families contacted the Assembly of God district office to inquire about a full gospel, Pentecostal church, in the Pioneer Valley. From that inquiry,
‘Assembly of God Chester Church’ was born! Housed in a small building on Main Street, Reverends
Charles and Rhoda Pearce came to serve as our first pastors.
In 1974, the congregation had grown to about forty members, and Pastor Russell Grant took the helm. We had outgrown the little building, so permission was received to use the Chester Town Hall. There were Sunday morning and evening services, Sunday school, and Wednesday night Royal Rangers and Missionettes youth programs. Prayer group and Sunday school teacher meetings were held in several of our homes during the week. We were a busy and dedicated body of believers, with many traveling long distances from surrounding towns.
As God continued to grow our fellowship, we moved forward to build a church. It was to be constructed on the same property as the parsonage we owned, in town. Everything seemed to be progressing well, but we were about to undergo some serious testing. The land wouldn’t perk. It would have to be sold and another location found. Added to that disappointment was the news that Chester would no longer let us meet in the town hall. The parsonage would have to serve as our church. Sunday services were held in the dining room, living room and kitchen. Sunday school classes met in the upstairs bedrooms or outside in good weather, and still our numbers kept growing.
We looked everywhere for property in town, but nothing was suitable. It was determined that we’d have to expand our search. Pastor Grant scoured the hill towns and found four acres of land, for sale, on Old Chester Road in Huntington. He purchased a home for his family, in Russell, and the property on Middlefield Street sold. At this time, many of us sensed that God had a bigger vision, for our church, that would encompass more than the town of Chester. That’s when we voted to change the name of our fellowship to ‘Pioneer Valley Assembly of God’. Some of our people were adamantly opposed to all of these changes, and sadly, nearly half of the members left the church.
In the midst of all of this, we had to vacate the parsonage and find a new location to hold services. The Highland Grange, in Huntington, offered us the use of their hall, and once again we packed up and moved the church. If all of these trials weren’t enough, shortly after we arrived at the grange, that building came up for sale. We considered purchasing it, but an inspection proved it would not be a wise investment. The Town of Huntington ended up buying the property, and on a Sunday, told us we had to be out THAT DAY. This was, yet, another instance of opposition from the local communities who, in their words, wanted to keep those “holy rollers” out of their towns.
By this time, we were feeling like wanderers in a foreign land. As we prayed and sought God’s wisdom, our heart cry was, “Where do we go from here, Lord?”, and God intervened, powerfully. That same day, one of our members received a phone call informing us that Montgomery would allow us to use their town hall, if we would provide Sunday school classes for their church, which was located directly across the street. We said, “Yes”, and gave thanks for the Lord’s leading and provision.
When the Assemblies of God agreed to help us purchase the property in Huntington, our greatly
diminished church family joined together in a leap of faith, and the move was on to build. Donning our blue jeans, jackets, gloves and boots, we pitched in to help clear the land and construction was begun. To celebrate the hallmark moment when the rafters were in place, we had a prayer service inside the framed structure. Many never forgot looking up to the heavens, through those rafters, and thanking God for his sovereignty and unwavering faithfulness. Within a year, the building was completed, and we were finally able to move the church to its permanent home. Halleluiah!
Karl Gustafson became our pastor in 1982 and was with us for 18 years. During that time we experienced much church growth, and by 1985 we needed to start planning another building project. Shortly after we completed a large addition, a prophecy was spoken over us to be “the city upon a hill”, a lighthouse to the Berkshires, and not to let our light go out or grow dim. God’s truth, love and forgiveness could and would come to many, through the ministry of each one of us at PVAG. People of all ages have gone out from here and bringing with them the truth that God is alive and well and that Jesus is the only way to forgiveness, salvation and eternal life.
We have a wonderful history of God-sent pastors and their families that have served our flock over the years. In November of 2022, we elected, Pastor Javier Melendez, to lead us during this next season. We are so blessed to have him, his wife Diana and their four beautiful children with us. We know that he is God’s called and chosen one to continue the ministry that was started at PVAG so long ago.
All for the Kingdom and the glory of God!
1972 Pastors Charles and Rhoda Pearce
1974 Pastor Russell Grant and Ethel
1982 Pastor Karl Gustafson and JoAnn
2001 Pastor John Leslie and Rhonda
2005 Pastor Toby Quirk and Linda
2013 Pastor Charles Vanasse and Michele
2022 Pastor Javier Melendez and Diana