Vintage Grace Church leads the Easter Sunrise mass at Freedom Lake Park.
PINELLAS PARK – For the past 10 years, Stephen Smarowsky has served in various ministry positions at churches in the county.
The Pinellas Park native studied at Trinity College of Florida, an interdenominational Bible college in Pasco County. He went on to earn his master’s degree from Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in Virginia.
Through all of these efforts, he knew one thing for certain: one day he was going to launch a new church in his hometown.
“I always thought it would all lead me back to Pinellas Park to start a church,” he said.
This past spring, he founded Vintage Grace Church, which currently meets every Sunday at 4 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Pinellas Park, 5495 Park Blvd. N., where it rents space.
Statistically, launching a new church in the city of Pinellas Park makes sense, Smarowsky said. When studying the most recent U.S. Census, it showed that 40 percent of those living in the city have no religious affiliation.
“And that’s a conservative estimate,” he added.
All of these people needed a home for their beliefs, and he hoped that Vintage Grace Church would appeal to them.
“We needed another church in Pinellas Park that stands firm in the gospel,” Smarowsky said. “I really wanted to reach the city with the gospel.”
Many other churches tend to “redefine” the gospel so that it is relevant to modern society, he added.
“But we believe the gospel is relevant unto itself,” he said. “We preach the gospel the way it’s been preached for centuries. We don’t preach anything new.”
Vintage Grace is currently operated as a non-denominational church, he said. Also, though its “theologically conservative, we’re pretty liberal.”
He added, “I define myself as a liberal Christian.”
The church is also interested in reaching out to the Pinellas Park community. It often attends city events hoping to make new connections.
“We just want to get out there and meet some people,” Smarowsky said.
The church has started to see growth since it was invited to preside over the Easter sunrise mass at Freedom Lake Park.
“That was monumental for us,” he said.
From there, new families began regularly attending weekly services.
Smarowsky hopes to connect with more city residents through home-based Bible discussions.
“It’s all about conversation and discussion,” he said. “It doesn’t matter your religion.”
In fact, he said, during a previous home group, his neighbor, who is Muslim, stopped by to join the group.
“We really just want to reach as many people as we can,” he said.