Sovereign Grace Church and School — Springfield, Massachusetts

Ukrainian-born pastor, Roman Varakuta, serves the Springfield, Massachusetts community through Sovereign Grace Church and School. Varakuta and his wife Anna relocated to Springfield 11 years ago. Since that time, the pair have welcomed three sons. Pastoral duties for Varakuta shifted from Associate Pastor to Senior Pastor over a year ago, but he added the responsibilities of school principal at Sovereign Grace School three years prior. The school has 36 students from kindergarten up to 12th grade; pandemic restrictions and digital education have increased enrollment. 

Sovereign Grace Church is an established congregation with a blended-music style. Currently, members meet in-person and online. Sovereign Grace offers their corporate and in-person option for the week on Sunday morning, with mixed-couples discipleship groups gathering in the evening. Friday night services for young people seek to connect youth with their parents. The congregation meets throughout the week in various gender discipleship groups. The weekly online prayer meeting allows members to meet together on Zoom. After the recent loss of one of their deacons to COVID, the deacon’s widow began a discipleship class to meet the needs of others even during her grief.

Pastor Varakuta challenges members to participate actively in church-wide discipleship through an all-inclusive Bible reading program. They study the Bible, write journal entries, and memorize Scripture together. He hopes this increase in study creates opportunities to share the Gospel with others. “People who are discipled together, connect better with one another,” Varakuta says. He adds, “Often, getting volunteers for church ministry can look like a guilt trip, but with discipleship groups, all that has changed.” When volunteers are needed, a group of friends offers to help, instead of just one or two people. Connection and investment in the local body increase when members are encouraged to connect and invest in others first. This new focus on discipleship is changing the culture at Sovereign Grace Church and impacting individual lives.

Recently the church began to livestream services. The technology team uploads the recordings to YouTube, and Varakuta uses the free transcription services on that platform to generate captions within 24 hours. Those in the nursery area also have access to the livestreamed services. The church is not providing childcare due to COVID precautions, but parents who leave the service to tend to the needs of their children can hear the music and preaching while they are out of the sanctuary. Next, Varakuta wants to increase the number of cameras and employ the use of a switcher to present a better-quality online experience.

Pastor Varakuta studied broadcasting while in college at Pensacola Christian College. He hopes to use the skills he learned in his undergraduate program to continually move the church toward excellence in their online presence on the website, livestreaming, YouTube, and podcasts. In the future, Varakuta is looking for options to provide hearing assistance for congregants.

The pastor admits to being in the midst of a hard day when he got word that he was the winner of a Bose Church giveaway. “Winning turned my whole day around!” says Varakuta. He chose the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 UC, which he describes as incredible. “I really love the mic quality. My wife says it sounds really nice on calls.” Varakuta is impressed equally with the noise cancellation.