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New congregation calls historic Citrus Heights church home

Signage announces GraceHill Church will soon be meeting at the historic church building at 7600 Old Auburn Rd., in Citrus Heights. // M. Hazlip

By Mike Hazlip—
After sitting vacant for just over six months, a new congregation is set to begin holding services in a century-old church building on Old Auburn Road.

Teaching Pastor Tim Vusik told The Sentinel by email that an inaugural service has been planned for the new location on Sunday, March 5. Vusik is one of two pastors at GraceHill Church and said the congregation has been meeting in an industrial building near College Oak Drive. That location had what Vusik called “limited visibility,” prompting the decision not to renew their lease.

The location of the former Pioneer Baptist Church building at 7600 Old Auburn Road, along with its iconic steeple, was one of the factors that drew him to choose the location, Vusik said.

“The Pioneer Church building stood out to us for its unique church appearance and high visibility, situated as it is on a busy street with significant traffic,” he said. “Additionally, its location in the heart of a residential neighborhood offers many opportunities for us to foster relationships with our neighbors and continue to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ that Pioneer Baptist Church so fervently preached for almost fifty years.”

In January, GraceHill marked four years since inception, Vusik said, with the church moving several times over the years. The move to Old Auburn Road will be a permanent one, he hopes.

“With our relocation to Citrus Heights, we are eager to put down roots and serve our community, Lord willing, for years to come,” Vusik said.

Vusik confirmed that Pioneer Baptist still owns the land, and GraceHill is leasing it. Pastor Kyle Conley of Pioneer Baptist had previously listed the property for sale, telling The Sentinel in a prior story the church was not interested in managing the property.

The property was on the market in August of 2022 for $1,600,000, after Pioneer Baptist moved to a larger facility outside the city limits, at 4252 Garfield Ave.

Conley told The Sentinel in a prior story that the church made a decision to move due to the growing needs of his congregation. The church had initially planned to build a larger campus across from Rusch Park, but halted those plans earlier in 2022 when construction costs nearly doubled.

The historic church building at 7600 Old Auburn Road first opened in 1921 as The Friends Church, according to an official historical plaque posted on the church property. The church was founded by several Quaker families in 1917, who first met in the old Sylvan School house and later purchased land on Old Auburn Road.

In 1975, The Friends Church moved to a larger facility in Citrus Heights, which is still located at 7070 Woodmore Oaks Drive. The original location was then sold to Pioneer Baptist Church.

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