First Baptist Church: History (1875-2008)
Loving God and Loving Our Neighbors
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was in all of God’s law, He answered that it was to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. He went on to say that the second greatest commandment was like the first, and that is to love our neighbors as ourselves. First Baptist Church is a body of believers who seek sincerely to Follow the Great Commandments. We want to love God supremely, with everything we are and everything we have. And we want to love our neighbors as ourselves. So we extend the grace, the love, the mercy, the peace, the joy that God has given us through His Son, Jesus. And in so doing, we not only seek to Follow the Great Commandments, but to Fulfill the Great Commission. We want to help people from every imaginable background become fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.
As early as August 19, 1875 the question of organizing a church was being considered by Baptists residing in Clarion. The Rev. D. W. Swigart, pastor of the Strattanville and Mt. Pleasant churches was preaching in the court house of Clarion and during the first two months of 1876 he baptized 28 persons. On February 13, “members of Regular Baptist churches residing in Clarion” unanimously voted to organize and call a council of recognition” and on March 20, 1876, at a meeting held at the home of one of the original council members, about 42 brethren and sisters “unanimously decided to enter into an organization to be called the 1st Baptist Church of Clarion. Then solemnly in the presence of Almighty God, a covenant was read and unanimously approved. The New Hampshire articles of faith were then read and unanimously adopted.” On April 12, 1876 the organization was incorporated as First Baptist Church of Clarion.
Ground was broken for the erection of the present sanctuary building on June 29, 1876 and dedicated on October 20, 1877.
On August 30, 1880 the ladies voted to organize a Woman’s Mission Society. In 1910 monthly mission benevolence offerings were instituted. This giving has continued through the years and today mission giving is accepted weekly and continues to grow each year. The Missions Committee continues to identify and support numerous mission organizations, faith-based boards and individuals, offers hands-on mission trips in the U.S. and abroad and provides financial aid and physical help to those who have suffered natural disasters in the U.S. and abroad.
As membership and attendance increased space was needed for Sunday school classes and in 1949 an educational wing was added.
Twelve stained glass windows were added to the sanctuary in 1964 as part of a renovation project. The windows as a whole tell the story of the life and ministry of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
A pastoral assistant was added to the staff in 1984 and during that time the youth and college ministries expanded.
The converted parsonage being used for Sunday school classes was damaged by fire in 1986 which resulted in another expansion to the educational wing. For many years the benevolence budget has been increased each year and has been blessed with donations surpassing the budgeted amounts enabling additional money for the missions and individuals supported.
In May 1986, Rev. Dale Salico completed his Doctor of Ministry Degree at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
God’s hand of protection and guidance was evident when fire between the wall of the former parsonage used since 1979 as educational space and the educational annex of the church occurred July 3, 1986. The former parsonage sustained heavy smoke and water damage. The Sunday school classrooms in the educational annex and sanctuary received only smoke damage. A large number of the congregation turned out on July 4th to assist in clean up and the Lord’s Day schedule of events went uninterrupted.
The fire and demolition of the former parsonage forced the building program into a flurry of activity, but bids well over the estimated figures were rejected in October and construction was put on hold until spring of 1987.
At a special business meeting on March 16, 1987, the congregation voted to hire Delta Contractors of Clarion to build a three-story addition in the space occupied by the former parsonage at a cost of $390,794. The addition provided expanded space for Sunday school classrooms, new offices clustered around a library/lounge, and doubled the size of the fellowship hall.
Ground breaking was held on Easter Sunday, April 19, 1987. Eleven months later a dedication service was held on March 20, 1988.
An ordination service was held on March 29, 1987 and Mark Bolton received ordination.
On October 14, 1987 at a special business meeting the church adopted two official statements on abortion and homosexuality. These statements were sent to General Board of American Baptists of USA.
On September 14, 1988, the church voted to withdraw support of the World Council and National Council of Churches and so notified the American Baptist Churches. On another motion the church agreed to join the National Association of Evangelicals. The affiliation with NAE was discontinued in 2003.
After 10 years of faithful service and loving ministry at First Baptist, Rev. Dr. Dale Salico announced his resignation effective November, 21, 1988 to accept a call to First Baptist in Lockport, New York.
Assistant Pastor Mark Bolton served as interim pastor after Dale left and Mark resigned as interim pastor on December 26, 1989 to begin a church start in New Jersey. Rev. Scott Gibson, former pastor of First Baptist in New Bethlehem agreed to serve as interim in December 1989 until a pastor was called.
Rev. Rob Andrews was extended a call on April 1, 1990. Rob and his wife, Holly, and their daughter, Julie arrived in Clarion from Bellwood, Pennsylvania in June of 1990. Rob received his Master of Divinity from Reformed Episcopal Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1980 and has done graduate studies at Temple University and Westminster Theological Seminary.
July 15, 1990 was designated as Roof Sunday. A special offering was received to help defray the cost of a new roof for the 1949 annex. Again in 1991 a special offering was taken to offset the cost of a new roof for the sanctuary. The total amount needed to replace the sanctuary roof was received in July of 1991.
Tim Ferguson was called to serve as Assistant Pastor with an emphasis on youth on May 12, 1991 and an installation service was held on July 7, 1991. Tim completed the Master of Theology program in June at Dallas Theological Seminary.
Numerous changes, additions and deletions were made to the constitution and approved at the Annual meeting in January 1992.
The Diaconate initiated a Food Pantry supplied with non-perishable food items in 1993. The donated items are used to assist members and the community.
The pipe organ was reconditioned and new leathering installed in 1993 by Ruhland Organ Company.
Several members accompanied First Baptist Church of Lockport, NY on a Mission trip to Haiti early in 1993.
It was with regret that the church accepted Pastor Tim Ferguson’s resignation effective September 1, 1993. Tim went to West Springfield Baptist Church near Erie, Pennsylvania as senior pastor.
The Children’s Ministry constructed a float to place in the annual Autumn Leaf Festival Parade in October, 1993. The float placed fourth in its category.
John Madden was called to fill the position of assistant pastor on Sunday, July 31, 1994. John graduated from Philadelphia College of Bible in May and began his pastorate on September 1, 1994. John was married in November, 1994 to Patty Blocker and the church honored them with a surprise reception in December.
In June 1994, the congregation agreed to create a part time associate pastor position and in July of 1994, Jay Flagg assumed the part time position. Jay provided ministry to young married couples and families and resigned due to time restraints in his various ministry obligations on September 30, 1996.
The steeple was painted and repaired in the fall of 1997 by Ray Cooper Steeplejack Contracting.
Under leadership of Pastor Rob Andrews, Building and Finance Committees were formed in January 1996 to explore facility needs and renovation projects. At a special business meeting on January 20, 1997, plans were presented and approved by the congregation to enlarge the narthex, renovate and refurbish the sanctuary, add a balcony, handicap restrooms, a new sound system, and a lift to assist the handicapped. With wise counsel by Associate Pastor Jay Flagg, construction did not begin until the current building debt was retired and with the agreement we borrow no money outside the church to complete the project. An anonymous donor offered matching funds up to $85,000 or about one half the projected cost for the building project. Delta Contractors and the church entered into contract at a total cost of $208,788. A groundbreaking service was held on May 17, 1998. During sanctuary renovations worship services were held in the fellowship hall. After months of delays, dust, and dirt, dedication of the narthex was held on July 18, 1999 during Dr. Don Dininny’s interim pastorate.
It was with deep regret we accepted Pastor Rob Andrews resignation in September, 1998 becoming effective December 6, 1998. Pastor Andrews went to serve at Three Rivers Baptist Church in Irmo, South Carolina. God in His perfect timing made available Dr. Don Dininny, a member of the church who just recently retired, to serve as Interim Pastor.
Pastor Keith Richardson accepted a call to come as Senior Pastor on September 12, 1999. He holds a Master of Divinity from Erskine Theological Seminary in South Carolina and is currently a Doctoral Candidate. Keith and his wife, Debi, and their five children arrived in Clarion to begin ministry in February, 2000. In July, 2007, Keith and Debi enlarged their family with the adoption of four girls.
In December, 1999 the church received the resignation of Assistant Pastor John Madden. John and his family left in March, 2000 to minister to youth at Onancock, Virginia.
Pastor Keith Richardson initiated “Table Talks,” a college outreach ministry, in the fall of 2000. A hot lunch is served and a time of discussion is held on issues pertinent to college students living on a secular campus.
Pastor Ray Selden filled the position of Associate Pastor with an emphasis on youth on June 10, 2001. Pastor Selden, his wife, Mary, and their two children began ministry on August 1, 2001.
A committee was formed in 2002 consisting of Pastor Keith Richardson, Pastor Ray Selden, Greg Chambers, Don Dininny, and Jim Weisel. The committee set to work to rewrite the constitution to include a board of elders. The new constitution was voted on November 17, 2003 at a special business meeting and adopted at the conclusion of the January 2005 annual business meeting with the election of the new elders to take place in 2005 as stated in the constitution Article VII, Section A, 5a. The Board of Elders began functioning in 2005.
A committee was formed in 2002 to rewrite the constitution to include a board of elders. The new constitution was adopted at the January 2005 annual business meeting and the Board of Elders began functioning in 2005.
At the annual business meeting in January, 2007 the membership voted to leave ABC/USA and research other denominations.
In January 2007 the membership voted to discontinue our association with ABC/USA and adopted the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy as a more complete expression of our beliefs concerning the Scriptures.
Pastor Ray Selden resigned in July of 2007 to answer a call to Orchard Park, NY Wesleyan Church to be Youth Pastor. A farewell dinner was held on August 25 with his last day on August 31, 2007.
In the interim Deb Morris, a member, and Seth Hampton, a college student maintained weekly meetings with the youth and special events. Deb also provided direction for the Kid’s Club during this time. Seth led worship services.
At the January, 2008 Annual Meeting the church voted to join the Southern Baptist Convention. We officially became members at SBC’s annual meeting in October of 2008.
Youth Director Mike Fraunfelter and his wife, Nicole and three children arrived in Clarion in August, 2008 to provide leadership and direction to the youth and children at FBC with an emphasis on evangelism.
FBC thanks the Lord for faithfully providing evangelical pastors who have preached and taught the Word of the Lord for these past 136 years. (As of 2008)