1972. Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment. World leaders agreed to ban biological warfare. The US withdrew its last troops from Vietnam. Closer to home, just before that signal year in Church of the Saviour's history, a group of people met in the Villanova home of Art & Nancy DeMoss in December of 1971 to talk seriously about starting a new church. The guests that evening included Bill Hogan, then the northeast regional director for Campus Crusade. Six couples emerged who, in his words, "felt the call and the challenge to do something new." During one of the subsequent organizational meetings held at the DeMoss' house, attendees were suggesting names for the new church. Church of the Savior sounded great, but the question was asked, "How do we spell Savior?" Just at that moment, Caroline Swithinbank (the De Moss' nanny) came from the kitchen carrying a tray of coffee. Without spilling a drop, she said, "With a ‘u' of course." The name stuck.
Bill and Jo Ann Shore, to this day seen regularly at Church of the Saviour each Sunday and throughout the week, were among the original group. In 1969, Jo Ann gathered a Bible study in her own home, and a year and a half later, Bill's heart was changed as well, by what he saw in her. Together they became involved in neighborhood Bible studies, one of which began to pray about starting a church unique to the Main Line, one that would be Bible-based, evangelistic and missions oriented. Their loving focus on people remains as bright as ever, and that mindset stimulated the early church's actions and development. While not necessarily dissatisfied with their own churches, that initial group came to a firm consensus that the new church should maintain the clear goal of applying Scriptures to everyday life.
Until March of 1972, the group met on Sunday nights-an active fireplace their backdrop-in the old Haverford Hotel. Hogan, then 38, resigned from Campus Crusade to devote himself full-time to developing the new nondenominational church. On April 16th of that year, Church of the Saviour held its first Sunday morning worship service at the Strafford Elementary School for 70 people.
Longtime Church of the Saviour members Dave and Dianne Balch joined Campus Crusade that year, and began to work with the DeMosses several years later in helping to organize monthly dinners for professionals who didn't know Christ (a practice they resurrected years later by coordinating the church's spring and fall outreach dinners). In a reflection of what has guided Church of the Saviour from the beginning, Dave observed that "as we grew in our faith and came to understand the Bible, we grew in our perspective of people. Dianne and I felt together that we wanted to take seriously what God said."
As the church quickly outgrew its first space, the Tredyffrin-Easttown Junior High School became the next gathering spot, and within three years, the fledgling Church of the Saviour had over 400 members, who voted to pay half a million dollars for 30 acres on North Wayne Avenue. Because that money was not readily available, 10 of the original couples mortgaged their homes to guarantee the loan, an act of faith and sacrifice for which all of us at the church remain ever grateful. By the time of the new facility's debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1978, the 900-seat sanctuary was already too small and a second service had to be added.
From the beginning, the church's mission reflected a comprehensive attitude toward service, with a raft of events including Bible studies, Sunday schools and a vibrant youth ministry with 300 teens gathering every other Thursday night for music, personal testimony, games and discussions. Reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ has always been integral to life at Church of the Saviour. In 1973, that vision began to take wing, as the church supported its first missionary couple. By the end of the following year, Church of the Saviour had held its first missions conference and supported 12 missionaries, with a budget of $2,500. The church's mantra-His Last Command, Our First Concern-grew out of its evangelical work as reflected in the Great Commission from Christ to his disciples that they spread his teachings to all the nations of the world.
By 1981, the church's annual budget had grown to $1.25 million, which the leaders met with more than $50,000 to spare. Back then, they did not avail themselves of collection plates; rather, collection urns were placed throughout the lobby. "We want people to give because they want to give, not because someone is holding them accountable," Hogan explained. That vibrant philosophy continues to this day. During its first decade, Church of the Saviour grew from six couples to over 1500 people, an extraordinary circumstance that many attributed to Hogan, a true teacher of the Bible rather than didactic preacher, with a selfless mix of sincerity, Biblical devotion, gratitude and humility.
In letters that he sent to prospective church members, he would quote the 17th-century French physicist, inventor and religious philosopher Blaise Pascal: "There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man that cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ." Church of the Saviour continues its uncompromising focus on God's word rather than man's interpretation of it-a prescription that transcends the vagaries and sins of everyday life while reinforcing an unceasing service to God.