Pioneer Valley Assembly of God
Pioneer Valley Assembly of God (PVAG) is a church with a long history of service to the small towns in the upper Pioneer Valley called the Hilltowns. Situated along one of four strands of the Westfield River, PVAG sits on a 4-acre lot with a spacious facility allowing for a variety of ministries throughout the week. The building is host to the Huntington Food Pantry. The pantry is a social service agency and a ministry of the church. It is supported by a government grant and private donations.
The area around the church is rural with rolling hills, many dirt roads and no traffic lights. The area has many beautiful homes ranging from new construction to some that are centuries old. There is limited rental housing in the area and rather than a downtown or shopping district, the area boasts local mom and pop businesses and restaurants. The city of Westfield is a short trip down Rt 20 with a population of 41,000 and Springfield lies a few miles south of Westfield along the Rt 20 corridor, population 155,000. Hilltowners, as the residents are referred to are used to a 20 to 30 minute ride to access most city amenities.
PVAG’s form of governance is a blend of congregational and strong pastoral leadership who serves as chairman of an active, fully involved board. The Board meets monthly to review pastoral, financial and discipleship concerns, following the agenda developed by the Lead Pastor. The Office Administrator presents a monthly report to the Board as well, for their consideration. Annual Business meetings are held in either February or March, to elect board members, receive ministry reports, review the financial status of the past and current year, and discuss major ministry shifts and vision casting for the future.
PVAG began in the town of Chester when four families contacted the Assembly of God district office to inquire about a full gospel, Pentecostal church in the Pioneer Valley. This group found a small building on Main Street in Chester and Reverend & Mrs. Charles Pearce served as the first pastors for two years.
In 1974, the congregation had grown to about forty members and Pastor Russell Grant took the helm. They had outgrown the little building, so permission was received from the town of Chester to use the Town Hall. There were Sunday morning services, Sunday school, nursery and Sunday night services along with a Wednesday night youth program, Royal Rangers and Missionettes. There were also Sunday school teacher meetings and prayer group meetings held in the homes of individuals during the week. PVAG was a busy and dedicated body of believers with many traveling from surrounding towns. Plans began to be formed for a new church building.
A building site was found and purchased, but when the site didn’t pass the perk test, the land had to be sold and the search for a new building site began. In the meantime, the parsonage on that site was used to house services as the town of Chester said the church could no longer meet in the town hall. Sunday school classes were held in the upstairs bedrooms or outdoors in good weather, and services were held in the dining room, living room and kitchen and our numbers kept growing.
Pastor Grant had been out scouring the hill towns to find a new building site. He and his family bought a home in Russell and the property on Middlefield Street was sold. At this time, the church was believing that God had a bigger vision than just the town of Chester. The name of the church was changed to Pioneer Valley Assembly of God. A group of members were not in agreement with this decision and decided to leave the church. The Highland Grange in Huntington offered their hall for services and once again this group of faithful followers packed up their belongings to set up church in the Highland Grange.
This building came up for sale but after an inspection, it proved to not to be the best investment. Some members thought, “Well God lead us here”, others still had doubts. The town of Huntington bought the Grange building and the church had to move immediately.
The sentiment was “Where do we go from here Lord?” People were praying and seeking God’s wisdom. The school Superintendent was one of the PVAG members. She received a phone call informing her that the Montgomery Town Hall would allow the church to use their building if they would provide Sunday school for their church which was located directly across the street. The church agreed to this arrangement.
In the meantime, Pastor Grant found four acres of land for sale on Old Chester Road in Huntington. The Assemblies of God approved the purchase, and the move was on to clear the land and begin building. The church body donned their blue jeans, jackets, gloves and boots, and everyone pitched in to help clear the land. The building was completed, and the church quickly outgrew the space, so a second addition was added. Shortly after opening the doors of the second addition, a prophecy was spoken over us to be “the city upon a hill” and not to let the light go out or grow dim and that God’s truth, love and forgiveness could and would come to many through the ministry of everyone at PVAG.
In 1982, a young pastor and his wife were elected to follow the Grants. Karl and JoAnn Gustafson enjoyed almost 20 years of ministry at PVAG and led the church through its’ times of greatest growth. The 1990’s was the decade of international revivals, which followed a worldwide prayer emphasis in the 70’s and 80’s led by Paul Yonggi Cho and the Full Gospel Tabernacle in South Korea as well as the ministry and teachings of Larry Lea here in the states. The resulting 1990’s revivals came from diverse parts of the world such as Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tampa, Florida, Brownsville, TX and Toronto, Canada. Those revivals made their way to PVAG and the Hilltowns.
Attendance during this decade reached almost 200 on average and the reach of PVAG was at its height. Pastor Karl had a tremendous impact on the unchurched of the hilltown community, many of which actually considered him their pastor. He had a powerful visitation ministry for shut-ins, and often picked up one and took them to make his rounds on Fridays. He ministered not only to that person, but their entire family.
His successor, Pastor John Leslie opened PVAG to nationally known Christian leaders, often hosting events with speakers that drew Christians from all over New England. Pastor Toby Quirk brought a military background and church planting focus to the church. His commitment to outreach was phenomenal, matching his outsized personality and nature. He turned PVAG’s Hunger Walk fundraiser for the pantry into a festival, and even had PVAG rent a house for a homeless family until they were on their feet again. In addition, he served as the local Fire Chaplain for the Hilltowns. Pastor Chuck Vanasse was an incredible teacher who built a firm biblical foundation for the PVAG family in their lifelong journey in Christ. He helped to deepen PVAG’s relationship with the Lord by illuminating His Word and showing its application to each person’s daily life.
Although the primary guideposts for a history such as this one, center around ministry leaders and facilities, the church family of Pioneer Valley Assembly of God has affected hundreds of families in and around the region for almost fifty years. And that vision has not faded.
PVAG has had 6 pastors in our history.
1972 Pastors Charles & Rhoda Peace
1974 Pastor Russell Grant & Ethel
1982 Pastor Karl Gustafson & JoAnn
2001 Pastor John Leslie & Rhonda
2005 Pastor Toby Quirk & Linda
2013 Pastor Charles Vanasse & Michele
Voting members: 41 - Proposed members attend a formal membership class
Official Board: 4 Board members, including 3 Deacons and 1 Lead Pastor
Elected Deacons: 3 with three-year terms with vacancy rotation
Chairperson of the Board: Lead Pastor with voting privileges
Chief Executive Officer: Lead Pastor
Board of Officers: President (Lead Pastor), Secretary and Treasurer elected from existing Board members
Constituents who call PVAG Home: 50
Sunday total attendance: 40
Service Time: Sunday, 10:30am
Annual Income: $130,000
Missions Giving: $9,900 annually plus support of visiting missionaries
63 Old Chester Road, Huntington MA 01050
Facility: The building is a total of approximately 13,000 sf with a maximum seating capacity of 277 in our sanctuary. We have a fellowship hall, a comfortable meeting room, a classroom and nursery along with office space
Parking: Our large lot has a capacity of 140 vehicles.
Full Time Staff: Lead Pastor
Part Time Staff: Office Administrator
We have three teams with slightly different focuses on style of music, but all with a mixture of contemporary and standard hymns. Each team is led by a vocalist who also plays guitar, makes the schedules and assigns tasks.
The Women's Ministry at Pioneer Valley Assembly of God is for all women and girls- no matter your age, background or life stage. We want to meet ladies where they are and come alongside them - encouraging, supporting, praying and equipping them in their journey with God. We want to grow our faith and demonstrate His love and grace through our lives and relationships. We want deeper, Christ-centered relationships with each other through women's small groups, prayer meetings, fellowships and mentoring.
We want to encourage and equip women to faithfully and fully use their God-given gifts to glorify God. As we worship and serve the Lord together, we want every woman to feel loved and accepted for who she is in Christ so that she is transformed and empowered to live out Christ's love and grace. If you have not begun your journey with God or you are feeling like this may not be for me.... come and make new friends and be a part of something that has the potential to grow wherever you are willing to let it take you.
Children’s Sunday School and Nursery
Huntington Food Pantry
We run a medium size food pantry out of the basement of our church. It is staffed by Our Office Administrator who is the Director, a part-time Assistant, and the Lead Pastor as Executive Director. We serve between 30-40 families from the Hilltowns each Thursday, have an average weekly volunteer staff of 10 individuals, and give out a yearly average of 150,000 pounds of food. The pantry is primarily funded by a state grant, but we also receive other grants from the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and public donations. We partner with 8 local businesses for food donations which are picked up using our Pantry owned box truck 2-3 days per week.
We support 14 AG Missionaries that span the globe, as well as four local non-AG missions.
PVAG is located in Huntington MA, a town in Hampshire Country with a population of just over 2,000. It is nestled in the foothills of the Berkshires, boarded by Chester, Montgomery, Blandford, Russell, Southampton, Westhampton and Chesterfield. The Gateway Regional School system serves Huntington and five other Hilltowns.