McKees Rocks Assembly of God: A Brief History
In 1984 the Lord spoke to the heart of founding Pastor Jim Tracey while he was studying at Southeastern
College of the Assemblies of God to start an Assembly of God church in McKees Rocks. Pastor Tracey and
his wife Kathy were born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, so they were at least vaguely familiar with McKees
Rocks and aware that there was no A/G church there at the time. Upon completion of his course of study, they
returned to Pittsburgh to serve an internship at New Life Assembly of God in Oakland, their home church, which
was itself a home missions project. The goal was to connect with the local leaders of the Assemblies and begin
the process of starting the church.
After numerous delays, Wednesday night Bible studies were begun in 1989 in the Tracey’s recently purchased
home in Sheraden under the oversight of the Southwest Section of the Pennsylvania Delaware District. The
Tracey’s were required to live within the Pittsburgh city limits because Pastor Jim was employed at the
Pittsburgh Water Department, so living in McKees Rocks was out of the question. The studies began with
Pastor Jim, Kathy, Kathy’s mother and grandmother, who were born-again Roman Catholics, and a couple of
friends from the Oakland church. Before long two families joined the group and a core group began to be
Easter Sunday 1990, the first Sunday morning worship service was held in the Tracey’s dining room. Offerings
were received for the first time and the church began to move forward. By the fall of that year Pastor Jim felt
compelled by the Lord to add a Sunday evening service. Since he was now in Supervision at the Water
Department, the thought of preparing a third message on a weekly basis was overwhelming. As he prayerfully
considered how the Lord would have him to proceed, he felt directed to conduct a prayer meeting in which
requests would be received, recorded in a database and printed for distribution, then moved to an “answered
prayer” list as the answers were provided by the Lord. This proved to be a wonderful unity builder as well as a
faith builder as the infant church continued to mature into what the Lord had in mind. By the end of the year the
group had begun to feel the need to move into a building in the Rocks and out of the Tracey’s house. With the
approval of the Sectional Committee they began a search and before long they located a building in the bottoms
for rent which held promise.
Because the building in the bottoms was zoned commercial, a zoning variance from the borough was required.
After submitting the appropriate paperwork Pastor Jim was contacted early in 1991 with a meeting date for a
hearing with the borough zoning board. The day of the zoning hearing, Pastor Jim was contacted again and
informed the hearing could not take place due to illness of one of the board members. So began a long series
of delays in the effort to move into the building. There were now some 20 people attending on Sunday
mornings and the other services were going strong as well. Eventually the ill member of the zoning board died
from cancer and Pastor Tracey was informed that the process would have to be put on hold until the other
member of the board returned from Florida in late March or early April. Then the rumor came.
There was a building located at the corner of 9th and Broadway in West Park, Stowe Township (our current
church building) which was privately owned and currently leased by an independent Charismatic church. The
rumor was the building owner was interested in selling the property, so Pastor Jim contacted the realtor who
had handled the purchase of their home and asked her to inquire as to the accuracy of the rumor. It did not
take long for her to report back that indeed the owner was interested in selling and even had the property on
the market, but the current tenant was unwilling to vacate as yet. The realtor was sent back to the seller with
the message that a potential buyer existed once the property was vacant, but not before. The decision was
made by Pastor Jim, after consulting with the Sectional Committee, to continue to pursue both properties to see
which one opened up first.
After weeks of delay the call came from the realtor that the property would be vacated by the coming
Saturday. Interestingly enough, Pastor Jim found a notice in the mail at home the same day that a hearing was
now scheduled on the rental property for the Thursday before the Broadway property would be vacated. The
decision was made to pass on the zoning hearing and tour the Broadway property the following Monday.
Because there were no significant expenses associated with the church at the time, a significant bank balance
had accrued. In short order the Sectional Committee approved the purchase, the Pen-Del Loan Fund agreed to
loan the needed money and McKees Rocks Assembly of God moved into it’s current location at 835 Broadway.
Almost immediately the District adopted the church as a District Home Missions Project and agreed to give
$20,000 toward paying off the newly purchased building. 1991 was a very good year in the life of this fledgling
The next major milestones for the church came in 1993. The Section had put together a pay package for
Pastor Jim from the church’s income, adjusting and increasing it several times from the purchase of the building
through late 1992. Pastor Jim and Kathy agreed the time had come for him to quit his secular job and become
a full-time Pastor. At the request of the Director of the Water Department, Pastor Jim stayed until January
1993, after which he left secular employment. By the fall of the year McKees Rocks Assembly, with the
guidance of the Sectional Home Missions Committee, moved from Home Missions status to a self-governing,
self-sustaining, General Council Affiliated Assembly of God Church.
Meanwhile, a thriving children’s ministry was developed. Sidewalk Sunday Schools were extremely successful,
touching the lives of many of the children in the now defunct McKees Rocks Terrace housing project. In the
summer of 1994 the VBS program saw some 200 children packed into the sanctuary. In the spring of 1995 the
decision was made to purchase the old Parkway Theater a couple blocks from the church building. After
hundreds of man-hours of labor, the building was first used for VBS that summer which was attended by at
least 250 kids. Now named “the ROCK,” it continued to be used for both Saturday Sunday School and VBS, as
well as Sunday morning Children’s Church and Wednesday youth. As time passed, needs changed and it is
currently used on Monday nights for a youth mime/choir group and Wednesday night youth group.
The wind of the Holy Spirit began to move mightily in 1999, even though attendances declined. Several trips
were made to various Awake America crusades held in different cities in conjunction with the revival which was
taking place in Brownsville, Florida. Friday night services were eventually added as people cried out for more
of the Lord and surrendered more to Him. We survived “Y2K,” and have continued to move forward in pursuit of
the mission and vision identified by the leadership in 1999.
In 2004, Pastor Michael Russell was installed as the Associate Pastor. While the numbers in attendance and
demands on Pastor Jim’s time may not necessarily have warranted additional staff, it was clear to all who call
McKees Rocks Assembly of God home that the decision was ordained of God.
Only the Lord knows what lies ahead, but we are convinced He has good things in store for us. We know He is
faithful to complete that which He has begun, and convinced He has begun this work, He will complete it.
Another milestone in the life of our church was reached in May of 2005. Having become convinced of the Lord’s
direction, we adopted Brookline Assembly of God as a sister church. We now see ourselves as one church in
two location. The ultimate goal is to help Brookline to grow to a place of stability and
strength where they will be able to stand on their own. We do, however, desire to maintain a long term,
interdependent relationship which we expect to share with other churches in Pittsburgh as the years go
by, should the Lord tarry!
Our involvement in Brookline took yet another step when we installed Pastor Michael Russell as the Pastor of
Brookline Assembly of God on January 28, 2007. He and Pastor Tracey will be exchanging pulpits on a
quarterly basis and combined services continue to be scheduled every 5th Sunday evening. With focused
leadership at the helm, there are great expectations for the future in Brookline.
McKees Rocks Assembly Of God