LAYTON - For at least one master sergeant at Hill AFB, attending church goes way beyond what’s convenient.
Aaron Grade probably passes dozens of churches each Sunday on his way to West Valley City.
He finds his religious home with the New Apostolic Church (NAC), a denomination of about 10 million worldwide that has only one small congregation in Utah.
“It feels true, with genuine love, caring and teaching,” he said of his faith, which extends back generations. A great-grandfather served in the church’s lay ministry in the late 1800s in Germany.
But to him, its more than about family tradition.
Grade recounts a very real feeling of God being active in his life.
“Instead of being there in a bombing” while deployed in the Middle East, his transfer to that area kept being pushed back, he said. He believes there were actions beyond his control that took part in that.
“Even though it’s small, people are willing to come and support you,” Grade said of fellow church members.
There are only about 40,000 members in the entire United States.
“Members drove hundreds of miles to give us communion in a hotel room,” in Colorado, when his brother was at a ranch in Colorado, he said. “There was instant knowledge that we were brothers and sisters.”
When stationed at an air force base in Alaska, Grade was 800 miles from the only NAC congregation in that giant state, which is in Juneau. His only regular contact with the church was through periodic mailings of materials.
“It was kind of hard living with two other roommates who had no clue about faith,” he said.
At Hill, his co-workers all know that on Sundays, he makes the 45-mile trek to West Valley City.
Grade has considered the move from Las Vegas to Utah seven months ago as a way to start a new life.
Much of his success and happiness since moving here he attributes to Priest Ralph Veenhoven, the congregation’s local lay leader, and to strong support from members of the congregation.
“He (Veenhoven) is so full of enthusiasm, energy, and has such a big heart. That inspires me,” Grade said.
He’s nearing his 20 years in the Air Force and looking to retirement, probably early next year.
While he’s thankful for all the blessings he has, God’s protection and help, as with everyone, life has been far from easy.
One brother died in 1996 when he was stationed in Japan, and he tried to hold in all of his feelings. When another brother died in 2010, “it was very hard for me. I probably lost some traction in my faith. I had to sort things out,” he said.
But Grade knows he must trust in God through it all. “He knows what’s in your heart, what your potential is. He knows the future. He also knows that we are human.”
A highlight for him was church trip to Uganda in 2004. “We had many experiences with our brothers and sisters in faith,” he said.
“One thing that sticks out in my mind is how they are so simple in love and faith in ther daily lives,” Grade said. “They saw us and wished they could have the same modern conveniences and daily living. But when I saw them and their faith, I wished I could be like them an lead a simple child-like faith with no interference of our daily lives.”
The New Apostolic Church follows the Bible and is a Protestant faith, originally called the Catholic Apostolic Church. It was first founded in England in the early 1830s and formally organized as the NAC in 1863 in Germany.
It is led by a chief apostle and its leadership includes more than 300 other apostles, who are stationed around the world.