The most pivotal evening of Chip Grange’s life began with a half-truth. His younger sister, who had committed herself to Jesus at the age of 12, offered him two tickets to see a “mystery movie” at Constitution Hall in DC. Freshly home from sophomore year at college, and with nothing else to do, Chip accepted, inviting along his then-girlfriend. Chip had been raised as a church-going Methodist, but two years at college had dimmed his childhood faith. He began to call himself an agnostic and had given up his weekly trips to a nearby Sunday service.
Increasingly, he even felt the need to challenge those around him who had kept their faith, particularly his sister. He continually brought up what he now refers to as his “Alpha Questions,” pestering her to explain how God could allow suffering, whether much of the Bible had been disproved, whether religion had done more harm than good. These gotchya questions would often leave his sister confessing that she did not know the answers- but she’d calmly rejoin that, although she didn’t have all the answers, she knew Jesus was alive and loved him, and wanted Chip to know and love Him too.
But all that was about to change drastically. Chip, his girlfriend and his sister headed over to the DAR Constitution Hall, and only after they arrived did Chip discover the mystery movie was the Billy Graham film, “For Pete’s Sake”, and the event was being sponsored by the local Christian Business Men’s Committee (CMBC). After the movie, Chip’s girlfriend was drawn by the invitation to speak with counselors. Chip escorted her to the front, where she met with women counselors, while Chip went off to meet with some men discussing their life-changing relationships with Jesus.
He listened politely to stories of a businessman who was a recovering alcoholic and a lawyer who was a recovering workaholic. He then interjected with his Alpha questions, and, feeling their answers to be unsatisfactory, concluded the men were sincere, but either wrong or irrelevant to his life as an economics student with major ambitions.
That’s when he met Bob Woodburn, a Senior VP at the National Bank of Washington and President of the CMBC. Bob wisely ignored Chip’s questions, instead speaking of Jesus’ life, stunning miracles, revolutionary gospel, and death and resurrection. Bob told Chip that when people reject Jesus’ rule, they choose their rule over His, reject the joy of their Creator for His creation, and suffer spiritual darkness. A thought came into Chip’s mind, very clearly: “If this Jesus really is who He claimed to be, I can’t remain indifferent.” When Bob invited Chip to pray, he found himself kneeling in the marble foyer of Constitution Hall, praying that if Jesus were truly the resurrected Son of the living God, he would reveal that truth to Chip and take charge of his life.
“I lay in bed and I said, Jesus, if you’re the Lord of my life, I need a job,” he recalls. “The next morning Bob called and asked me how quickly I could get downtown.”
Chip immediately felt a profound sense of peace, which overcame his anxiety over his lost summer job. Months earlier, he’d lined up a prime position at a brokerage firm. Right before he was to start, the firm informed him that due to cutbacks and layoffs, they could no longer hire him. It was a blow to Chip’s personal philosophy—“plan your work and work your plan.” As Chip recalls, “I believed with careful planning and hard work I could largely control the outcomes in my life. The chief item on my summer calendar—brokerage job begins Monday—now had a line through it.”
But that night at Constitution Hall began to change Chip’s perspective. The surprising peace followed him to bed that night. “I lay in bed and I said, Jesus, if you’re the Lord of my life, I need a job,” he recalls. “The next morning Bob called and asked me how quickly I could get downtown. I got dressed, and after a 25-minute interview at his bank, he shook my hand and pointed me to my desk. My job at the bank began the same day I’d been set to start at the brokerage firm, two blocks away.”
That began a journey of faith and calling that continues to this day. “Ever since then, I’ve been exploring the mystery of prayer,” says Chip, “of fellowship with the living God. I want to grow in understanding the mystery of Jesus. My journey has been defined by this asking, seeking prayer that I would get to know and love my Creator more fully, and thus love and serve my neighbors more joyfully and fruitfully.”
On that day, Chip also began to fight what he describes as a five-decade long battle to renounce his habit of trying to control his world and the people in it- bad habits for anyone, and occupational hazards for any lawyer. Here, he notes that prayer has been pivotal as well; through daily prayer, he seeks to replace self-sufficiency with God’s rule and wisdom.
“The fruit is incomparable,” he says. “God has been true to His promise that in His presence is fullness of joy. With growing joy has come growing humility, gratitude and appreciation of others. “ His relationship with God has provided a fertile field for tending relationships with others; nearly five decades of marriage and family with wife Kathy, their four children and their spouses, and twelve grandchildren; over four decades of legal practice with the colleagues at his firm; over three decades of prayer meetings with Christian brothers at his home each Saturday morning; and over thirteen years of joining with dozens of attorneys and other volunteers to provide free legal services throughout the DC metro area. “Decades of asking God what He’s planning, then joining Him in that plan is weaning me of self-lording,” acknowledges Chip. “It’s far less frustrating, far more satisfying and fruitful.
Gammon & Grange, P.C., began in 1977, when Chip met Jim Gammon through the Christian Legal Society. “Jim was a lawyer thirteen years my senior, and the sole-owner of a communications firm,” explains Chip. “He took pity on me and hired me as an associate. Less than six months later, with stunning generosity and faith, he offered me partnership.” Chip’s gratitude was tempered by theological reservations about partnership and about being surety for the debts of others, so he turned Jim down twice. But six months after that, when Jim patiently offered him partnership for a third time, Chip found himself reading a passage in Luke Chapter 5 that seemed to endorse partnership. “Peter had fished all night with James and John,” recounts Chip, “catching nothing until Jesus showed up. Twice, this passage refers to these men as ‘partners’.” Chip met Jim early the next day to thank him, accept his trust, and become his partner. “I told him, I’m trusting God to use the yoke of our partnership to keep us tethered while He works on me, and maybe you, so we can be more useful to Him, each other, our colleagues and our clients” remembers Chip. “I feel like He’s telling us to steward the firm, but hold it lightly, with open hands, ready to let it go- like when Peter, James and John dropped their fishing nets the moment Jesus called them. Jim agreed. This meant God could call us into new fields or tasks without entangling us in our nets. With that attitude, we knew we could happily walk away, so, for forty years, we have sought to steward the firm with energetic, all-in, but open hands.”
Today, Gammon & Grange is a DC-area boutique firm with a national reputation in nonprofit law and religious liberty law. Though G&G specializes in representing nonprofit entities, its 15 attorneys offer a range of services for individuals and businesses, including business formation, tax-exempt entrepreneurship, risk management; employment, communications, intellectual property; business, personal injury, and religious freedom litigation; alternative dispute resolution, workers compensation, and trusts and estates. “The motivation behind all these services is to foster the flourishing of each clients’ highest and best goals,” affirms Chip. “We tell each client that, while we offer our experience, we also come as students regarding their business and personal values, goals, culture and worldview. We want them to have the confidence that our expertise is well aligned with their objectives and values.”
“The motivation behind all these services is to foster the flourishing of each clients’ highest and best goals,” affirms Chip.
Core to G&G’s values is its religious freedom work. In fact, G&G is built on this fundamental freedom, quite literally; when the firm moved from D.C. to Northern Virginia in 1991, it was reincorporated as a religious entity. “Protecting our clients’ freedom to exercise their religious beliefs is as vital to them and their thriving as it is to our civic culture,” asserts Chip. “Living together as colleagues at G&G is grounded in more than serving clients well and earning a living. Lifelong friendships have been forged over the decades of helping each other grow in loving God and serving our neighbors as we would want to be served.”
Early in 2017, G&G Law established G&G Consulting Group, LLC, to pool the diverse talents of like-minded colleagues outside the legal profession. GGC’s services range from business creation to exit planning, from capital development to creative philanthropy, and internal risk management to cost-reducing insurance.
In short, Gammon & Grange seeks to be an others-focused professional services firm that regularly asks, how may we better service our clients and community? That question was the genesis of Good Samaritan Advocates, a free legal-aid service created by G&G in 2006. “GSA seeks to inspire and equip lawyers to follow Jesus by volunteering time to serve those who need, but cannot afford legal help,” elaborates Chip. “GSA also seeks to inspire and equip churches to include legal aid in their local mission work by spreading the word to potential clients and lawyers, and hosting clinics.” The project has taken hold, with GSA now holding seven different clinics in the D.C. metro area.
GSA offers a range of free legal services, such as immigration, employment, consumer debt, foreclosure, public housing, government benefits, family law, and criminal record expungement. “To come alongside and help our neighbors in need with our skillset transforms all involved,” raves Chip. “We encourage all our attorneys to be trained and volunteer. GSA expresses our desire to help neighbors in need get back on track and flourish.”
This desire has always animated Chip. “Fixing things and solving problems is a gift of faith,” he shares. “As people share problems, I’m pulled in, not put off. I’m motivated to find solutions. So, things that may deflate others—entity problems, legal confusion, relational conflicts, broken things—they energize me.” As a child, he took things apart to try to put them back together. His folks tell him that he disassembled and reassembled the vacuum cleaner before he could walk. “I was a slow walker,” he jokes.
Chip’s childhood was a joyful one, filled with good friends, play, and lots of freedom. He grew up in the D.C. suburbs of Alexandria and Annandale, Virginia. He has an older sister and a younger sister, and is very close to both. The three still have bi-weekly conference calls to keep current.
His parents were role models whom he adored. “Here’s one thing about my dad that sticks out,” Chip says admiringly. “On long car trips, back in the day when gas stations were full service, he’d engage the attendant, and really every person he met, with high regard and respect. He had no category for unimportant strangers. I’m sure that shaped me, and probably the work we are doing through GSA. He treated all people with affection and value—indiscriminately.”
Chip’s dad grew up on a farm in Maine, earned his college degree in agricultural economics from the University of Maine, and wanted to go to law school. But his father, who had dropped out of school at age 12 to run the family farm when his father died, nixed law school as way more education than could ever be useful. It was that “no” that led Chip’s dad, part of the Greatest Generation of WWII vets, to a 39-year career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ending as a Deputy Under Secretary. Chip’s mother was a stay-at-home mom who put a home-cooked meal on the table each evening. “My dad was actually the more compassionate, almost maternal one. He had a lot of nurturing characteristics, while my mother was more matter of fact,” smiles Chip. “One of her great qualities was, you never had to guess what was bothering her. She would always tell you exactly what was on her mind!”
“Here’s one thing about my dad that sticks out,” Chip says admiringly. “On long car trips, back in the day when gas stations were full service, he’d engage the attendant, and really every person he met, with high regard and respect.”
The Grange family of five lived in then-rural and picturesque Annandale. Chip remembers playing with his friends in the neighborhood and roaming freely the 52 acres of Brookhills and the hundreds of acres of surrounding woods and farms, before the bulldozers and subdivisions came. With little athletic or musical talent, he played the usual sports on a makeshift sandlot and earned a C in trumpet, but he found his identity in academic success. In grade school, he finished his work so quickly that he became a distraction.
His fourth grade teacher devised a solution—having Chip copy words out of the Webster Dictionary. The task gave Chip a lifelong appreciation for words. “That penalty became the prize,” recalls Chip. “I was fascinated by words. When I went to high school, I discovered the amazing 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary. Before law school, I got a Black’s Law Dictionary from my parents. For my fortieth birthday, my wife gave me the Oxford English Dictionary condensed version. It’s the entire 20 volumes condensed into 3 volumes that you read with a magnifying glass.” To this day, Chip considers the dictionary from his wife one of his prized possessions.
During his childhood summers, Chip’s family would visit his mother’s parents in Boston, or his father’s parents on the farm in Northern Maine. In Maine, they stayed in a cottage beside the aptly-named Pleasant Pond, swimming, fishing, and playing. Chip’s parents encouraged entrepreneurship and self-sufficiency; he had to earn his spending money. Since the paper routes were taken, he recycled newspapers. At the age of 14, he got his first “real” job making 95 cents an hour at Star Supply Hardware store in Annandale, working in the lumber yard. Later, he learned plumbing from F.W. Harris Plumbing & Heating, packing vans from Arrow Moving & Storage, brick laying as an apprentice to a brick layer, and door-to-door sales as a Fuller Brush salesman.
At Annandale High School, Chip remained a top student but had no inkling he’d become a lawyer. He remembers “liking everything,” and would have a chance to pursue “it” at UVA. There, Chip enjoyed the comradery of the 19 other guys on his floor of the Bonnycastle first-year dorm. But it was there that his faith flagged. The first Sunday, he went to an early church service as was his habit. But when he returned, he found his roommate and other 18 dormmates still sleeping. After a repeat the following Sunday, he worried he’d be seen as a “religious kook.” So, he decided he’d give up church, which he formalized in a letter to his parents declaring his new outlook. “The thrust of the letter was, I’ve been at school for two weeks and I’m now an agnostic,” smiles Chip. “My parents were wise enough not to dialogue with me, or push back, but instead gave me room to explore.”
Two years later, Chip found himself transformed by his experience at Constitution Hall. His 180-degree turn left his family shell-shocked. “I was pushy. My parents said, ‘It’s like the preacher’s come to dinner’ when you’re here!” Chip grimaces. “They had a point. There was some arrogance, self-righteousness. But I was just figuring things out.”
Chip had joined Sigma Chi fraternity but did not live in the fraternity house. Instead, he received free room and stipend as a Resident Advisor. This role, coupled with his newfound faith, led him to deepen relationships with other truth-seekers in the Economics Honors Program. Ken Elzinga, a new Economics Professor, began a Bible study on the Lawn and became a mentor to many students, including Chip. In addition to his economics courses, Chip minored in computer science and tutored in his free time. He also DJ’d at WUVA, the college radio station.
Chip continued to excel academically and was admitted to Harvard Law School. But on Prof. Elzinga’s advice, Chip sought both a one-year deferment of his admission at Harvard and a Rockefeller fellowship to attend seminary at Yale Divinity School. After a year at Yale, Chip had to decide whether to continue down the path of seminary, toward professional ministry, or to go to law school. It was a big decision. So, he did something he’d never done before: he fasted. On the third day of his fast, he read a Bible passage about Paul employing his tent-making skills to earn a living so that he could minister the gospel free of charge. “I felt that Scripture was my call to law school,” he recalls. “Practicing law would be my tent-making.”
Within 10 weeks, Chip and Kathy were engaged. Six months later, they married and packed up for Boston where Chip finally would enter Harvard Law School.
But Chip would not attend Harvard, yet. His older friend from UVA Law School, Sam Manly, was fighting to save the UVA YMCA. That beloved YMCA was undergoing closure with all assets to be donated to UVA’s religion departments. Sam’s research of public records revealed procedural errors by the nonprofit entities involved. Sam’s efforts also helped replace some of the YMCA’s Board with visionaries like Prof. Elzinga. Chip joined Sam for the summer to help, but found a mountain of work. So, Chip obtained another deferment from Harvard and remained at UVA. He built a little team to get the UVA YMCA – rebranded as Madison Hall – running and thriving again. All the while, he was learning pre-law-school lessons of operating nonprofits according to best practices and with attention to detail.
During that year at Madison Hall, he met his younger sister’s best friend, Kathy. Within 10 weeks, Chip and Kathy were engaged. Six months later, they married and packed up for Boston where Chip finally would enter Harvard Law School. In Boston, they were hired as the House Parents for the International Fellowship of Boston, where they ate many of their meals with the men in the house. Kathy joked that she’d “married one man but got twenty extra thrown in.” Between those duties and Chip’s intense law studies, the first few years of marriage were challenging.
After those stressful years, they headed to D.C., where Chip took his first legal job as an associate at Zuckert, Scoutt & Rasenberger, a boutique aviation firm. He enjoyed the work, but after two years he received the offer from Jim Gammon that led to Gammon & Grange.
Chip and Kathy credit the growth of their marriage and family to God’s grace, flowing through the kindness and prayers of family and friends. They eventually raised and home-schooled four children. All four now live in the D.C. area and bring the 12 grandkids to Kathy’s buffet most Sundays. And since 9 of the 12 live within sight of Chip and Kathy’s home, they are over for “Grandma treats” virtually every day. Chip praises Kathy’s mothering and grandmothering in glowing terms. “She is a consummate mother, and now grandmother, strategically capturing the calendar to make meaningful memories weekly and monthly with each of our adult children, their spouses, and the grandkids.” Chip muses. “I’m spontaneous. Kathy’s the planner. So, she has learned to plan to be spontaneous! She makes me better in countless ways. She is my best critic, best encourager, and an amazing mother and grandmother!”
Through it all, Chip committed himself to leading with an eye toward encouraging and supporting others. “Helping others flourish,” he explains, “requires asking the God who wrote each strand of DNA how He has uniquely gifted each person, and if there might be some way I can help them thrive and flourish. I need to warmly embrace them in my heart, but hold them with open hands.”
It’s no surprise that his advice to young people is to pursue a relationship with the God who created them for joy in His presence. A key Bible verse for Chip is Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Chip reflects, “I was looking for joy, but didn’t know where to find it until that night at Constitution Hall. Most people are on a journey looking for joy. It’s a great privilege if I can join them for a stretch—if there’s openness. I don’t have a passport into somebody’s life unless they invite me. If they do, it’s a joy to process together the search for joy, the suffering that impedes it, and the path God has provided to the Source of Joy through Jesus.”
As to the future, Chip is excited about his younger colleagues rising into firm leadership. He also is energized by the expansion of Good Samaritan Advocates. “I love inviting lawyers and other friends who have God’s heart to volunteer with GSA. I know how transforming to client, volunteer, and community this simple act of neighboring strangers with gospel justice can be. It is immensely satisfying to be working with caring people, both at G&G and through the growing network of GSA where we are helping each other walk out the ancient wisdom of the prophet Micah. Micah 6:8 says, “’He has told you, oh man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.’” “I want to stay in these trenches where I am finding lots of joy,” he smiles.