Grace Presbyterian Church in Martins Ferry has a busy thriving congregation and does a tremendous amount of outreach work.

But that was not always the case.

In 1987, a young pastor named William Webster applied for the job and was hired.

But soon he got a phone call from the church hierarchy, saying it was hopeless.

“Yes, we were told by the Presbytery that the church was dead, dying, had no money, no numbers, and that they were merging it with two other congregations and you should not come here,” Webster recalled. “But I was already hired. So my wife and I looked at each other and said we’ll give it two years, put a resume together and we’ll be out in two years. And now 35 years later, I’m retiring from here. This is a great place.”

“Bill has vision,” said Ida Mae Cummins, office manager. “And that’s why our church has prospered and grown under his leadership. He was willing to take any idea and run with it—anything anybody wanted to do.”

He became known as a community leader as well as a church pastor, serving on numerous boards and organizations.

He was the longtime chaplain at East Ohio Regional Hospital, and played a pivotal part in its reopening.

His last Sunday at Grace Church will be April 24.