The Second Hundred Years
It was in November 1904 that the Rev. W. H. Barker as the thirtieth pastor began his ministry, and participated in the Centennial Anniversary of the church held December 30, 1904. With him as leader, both church and community enjoyed a period of unusual activity and spiritual awakening. A three-week revival meeting brought in a large number of conversions. Heavy snowstorms and drifted roads could not hinder the eager from attending these services. With a full load of neighbors and friends the townspeople drove their teams and bobsleighs to the meetings.
An interesting story was told of the Rev. Mr. Barker who in answer to the plight of a farmer searching for help to gather his grain before a threatening rain talked freely omitting however his usual streak of profanity. Toward the end of the day he began to realize that it was a clergyman who had donned overalls and come to his aid. This was just the beginning of a lasting friendship and as the result of the day’s effort the church gained a loyal worker and staunch member. Eager to share the cares and burdens, joys and sorrows of others, Mr. Barker visited any who were in need regardless of creed or position. After three years of faithful service at a salary of $550.00 he concluded his work with us November 10, 1907.
November 24, 1907 Rev. C. W. Parks began his duties as pastor. With the assistance of the Rev. E. T. Liddell, an evangelist, revival services were held for a three-week period. The meetings were largely attended and there was a quickening of spiritual life throughout the church. Many conversions resulted, and during the next few weeks, eighteen were baptized and several others were added to the church membership by letter. Determined endeavors were made under the leadership of Mr. Parks to bring the church to the highest possible standard. Delinquents were investigated and upon recommendation of a committee consisting of the pastor and six church members, the membership list was revised.
Again, several months later, revived interest in spiritual things resulted in the addition of nine persons by baptism. During the seven years of Mr. Parks’ pastorate thirty-one were added to the church by baptism and eight by letter. There was a loss of seventeen by death and six were granted letters of dismissal.. According to records, thirty-nine new names were added to the register and forty names were erased from it.
According to one of the older members of the congregation, up until 1910 the water used in the baptismal service was pumped by hand into the baptistery from a well in the church basement.
On November 1, 1914 Rev. Parks concluded his ministry in Penfield, locating in Fairport for a time. He died some years later as the result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
An interval of two and one half months followed during which the church was without a minister and students from Rochester Theological Seminary supplied the pulpit for the most part. Among the candidates was the Rev. Edgar F. Hallock who had occupied the pulpit for three Sundays. On January 25, 1915, the church extended a call to Mr. Hallock to take over the pastoral leadership, and he entered upon his duties at once. Because he was a single young man, the church provided him with $10.00 a week and his board. After completing his course at the Seminary his salary was raised to $650.00 a year.
In the early summer of 1915 extensive repairs were made on the parsonage at an approximate cost of $1500. Soon after, Mr. Hallock brought his new bride here and they moved into the parsonage. Later, another student and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Childears, made their home with the Hallocks and together they engaged in the work of the church.
Under their leadership the Senior Christian Endeavor Society flourished, adding many new members. Unusual enthusiasm and unity prevailed. The Junior Christian Endeavor Society under the leadership of Mrs. Hallock likewise showed great interest. Regular attendance in the Church School made it possible to accomplish great things. In this work Mr. And Mrs. Childears gave their assistance.
In February of 1915, the Evangelistic Band from the Seminary came to us for a three-day revival. But because of a severe storm and impassable roads the meetings were not so well attended. Sincere interest was manifested by a few however, resulting in four baptisms. Later, these four united with the church.
Mr. Hallock served the church two years and three months. During his ministry there was an addition of thirteen members, nine by baptism and four by letter. On April 13,1917 Mr. Hallock was ordained into the ministry, the services taking place in our church. His resignation followed, taking effect on April 19th of that year. Subsequently he became pastor of Baptist churches in Pittsburg, Ks.; Nowata, Ok.; and Norman, Ok.
The thirty-third pastor to receive the call to service was the Rev. L. R. Johnson, who on May 20, 1917, at a salary of $650.00 per year, took over his new duties. According to record, he had been without a charge for some time and had been occupying the parsonage for several weeks.
Previous to this time, on different occasions, lengthy discussions had taken place as to the advisability of receiving members in good and regular standing from churches other than the Baptist denomination. After attaining the sanction of numerous Rochester ministers to receive without baptism by immersion persons who held membership in other Protestant churches, eleven persons were received into membership by letter. Two others united by baptism.
After serving as pastor for less than a year, Rev. Johnson tendered his resignation to take effect at once. The record shows an increase in membership of thirteen. Rev. Johnson moved to Augusta, Kansas.
In January 1918, the church voted to have a service flag bearing the names of the men who had been “our boysrdquo; as members of the congregation or Sunday school.
During the period of the World War, 1917-1919, Union Services were held with other Protestant churches in the village for nine weeks of the year in order to co-operate with the government in saving fuel. After April 1st each church returned to its own house of worship.
The two years that followed brought two new names to add to the growing list of ministers. One was the Rev. A. M. Stewart who from July 16th, 1918 to June 16th, 1919 preached the Sunday sermon and took over the pastoral care of the church at a salary of $12.00 per week. He maintained his home in Pittsford. During his brief ministry here he was a frequent guest in the homes of many of the members after Sunday morning service. There appear to have been no additions in membership during Mr. Stewart’s ministry.
The other name is that of Mr. B. T. Leonard of Nebraska who came in the summer of 1919 to take a course at the Theological Seminary. After an invitation to preach on July 13th he was extended a call at a salary of $800.00. He served from July 28, 1919 to August 1920, residing in Rochester during that time. Nine were received by baptism and four letters of dismissal were granted during Mr. Leonard’s stay.
It is recorded that many of the congregation expressed a desire to have a resident pastor rather than a student pastor, as had been the custom during recent years.
Although cut short by the illness which later resulted in his death, the ministry of the Rev. George Keetch was a fruitful period in our church history. Accepting the call extended to him in August 1920 he and his family left Liberty, Missouri, to take up their residence in the parsonage in early September. All with whom he came in contact felt his thorough consecration to the service of his Master. Increased attendance and interest in all branches of church work was noted.
Mr. Keetch organized the first Daily Vacation Bible School in the summer of 1921. A large number enrolled with children from all churches in the village attending. Ministers and teachers from our church and others felt that the three weeks were well spent. Bible School was held each summer until 1940 when the prospect of building operations made it inadvisable.
The Christian Endeavor reached a peak in its history attaining a membership of fifty-five. Renewed activity and increased attendance were likewise shown in the Church School with several of its young members uniting with the church by baptism.
Extensive improvements were made in the Sanctuary. Classrooms were arranged in the front of the building as a permanent memorial to Elmer DeBack, President of the Christian Endeavor, whose death occurred January 20, 1921.
During this pastorate the Penfield Baptist Church was the recipient of a gift of $100.00 from the estate of Mrs. M. V. Willson, widow of a former pastor.
Under the strain of study together with the cares and responsibilities of church activity, the health of Mr. Keetch began to fail, necessitating his resignation at the end of 1922. The family then moved to Rochester, hoping that he might regain his health sufficiently to finish his studies at the Divinity School. But failing to rally, he was called to lay down his burden and receive his crown of rejoicing. His death occurred February 11, 1923. The tablet placed near the church entrance to commemorate his service with us fittingly marks the high esteem with which he was held in the church and community.
On February 18, 1923 the Adventist and Methodist churches joined us in memorial services for Mr. Keetch. On May 30, 1923, the urn containing his ashes was brought to Oakwood Cemetery, Penfield, for burial. A marker purchased by the church and community was placed at the grave. It is inscribed “2 Tim. 2:25.rdquo;
Mr. Keetch served his congregation faithfully and efficiently for two years and four months. During his stay in Penfield, there were added to the membership twenty-six by baptism and twelve by letter, totaling thirty-eight. Losses were three by death, and eight by letters of dismissal. The pastor’s salary at this time was $1000 a year.
A period of nearly three months followed during which the congregation was without a leader. Students and guest speakers took over the pulpit duties during the interval. It was on April 15, 1923 that the Rev. Finley Keech from Flanders, New Jersey was called. Filled with youthful enthusiasm, the new pastor entered on his labors with definite plans for future effort, and he enthusiastically pressed forward to that goal. Given charcoal and paper his ideas took dramatic form, and many good points were brought home with concrete illustrations. Although devised chiefly to interest young Baptists, all looked forward to the children’s cartooned sermon.
When he returned from vacation in August 1923, he brought back his new bride. Two dates in particular are red-letter events in the Keech pastorate---his ordination in Rochester on April 12, 1924 and June 12, 1924 when the Keech twins were born, probably the first twins to raise their voices in the parsonage at 1884 Penfield Road.
Early in the summer of 1925, the pipe organ was re-built at a cost of $850. This is the organ that was purchased in 1870 and placed in the building at a cost of $1100. In 1889 it was moved to a position near the pulpit. This 1925 renovation may have been when an electric blower was installed, replacing someone who manually pumped the organ since records show only $6.00 paid for an organ pumper in 1925
Sometime during the year 1923, thirty-five or more women of varying age gathered at the parsonage for the purpose of organizing a new ladies’ group. The few remaining active members of the Ladies’ Aid Missionary Society gave up their identity and became a part of the new society which organized under the name of the Dorcas Circle, with Mrs. Clark Dye as the first president, Miss Milly Sipple as secretary. Through the years the Dorcas Circle has not only contributed to the social life of the community by sponsoring suppers, banquets, and programs of various sorts, but it has contributed in great measure to benevolent and missionary enterprises as well. Decorating the parsonage, buying new dishes and equipment, furnishing choir robes and song books---these are just a few of the many contributions made by this group of energetic, hard-working women.
In response to the congregation’s call of July 19, 1925 the Rev. W. D. Golightly entered his new field as the thirty-eighth pastor of the Penfield Baptist Church since its organization in 1804. For nearly three years Mr. Golightly served the church during which time it gained largely in its influence in the community.
Good attendance and much interest were manifested in both departments of the Church School. A Bible class for young women was organized with Mrs. Golightly as teacher. The Philathea Class, as it came to be known, continued as an effective organization, contributing financial assistance to the church whenever needed. Mention must here be made of the Jitney Supper, which this organization has made famous. The Philatheas were faithful year after year in sponsoring all sorts of church activity. The Philathea Class and the Dorcas Circle equipped a new kitchen during this time.
It was during Mr. Golightly’s time that the growing need for more and larger rooms to care for increased Sunday school attendance first became apparent. A committee was appointed to create a Building Fund in 1925. From time to time money was set-aside for this purpose. To mention a few: $50 from the Fellowship Class, $55 from the Church School, $50 from the Philathea Class. Contributions large and small continued to be received.
An appeal by the pastor to engage in personal evangelism in winning souls brought in many added names. Forty-eight joined by baptism twenty by letter and experience, making a total of sixty-eight.
A new hot-air heating plant was installed in February 1928 at a cost of $476.
Mr. Golightly was ordained to the Gospel ministry at the church on December 7, 1926. He resigned June 3, 1928, and a few weeks later accepted a call in a larger field at Syracuse N.Y.
On July 8, 1928, Mr. Quentin Lightner was invited to preach as a candidate for the pastorate. Impressed by his pleasing manner and the excellence of his sermon, the congregation voted favorably. Mr. Lightner accepted the call at a salary of $1300 and on September 1 began his active duties.
The Building Fund, started in 1925 for the church School addition, continued to increase and by December 1928 amounted to $282 after deducting $150 for plans submitted by an architect.
In the summer of 1929, the church Sanctuary was modernized. The cost of new floors, new pews,sanctuary lighting and redecorating was approximately $3200. While this work was in progress Sunday services were held in the Grange Hall.
From October 13-20, 1929, the Penfield Baptist Church observed her 125th anniversary. Prominent speakers from Colgate Rochester Divinity School participated, among whom were President A.W. Beaven and Dr. Conrad Moehlman, professor of History of Christianity.
During the first twenty-five years of the second century of her history, the church was under the leadership of six student pastors. Her early struggles for existence forgotten, her prestige and influence in Christian guidance have maintained a steady growth from a congregation of 107 members in 1904 to a membership of 177 in 1929, an increase of over 60%.
The first annual reception for former ministers took place in 1930 on the Wednesday following Easter. The evening was spent largely in renewing old acquaintances. This reception established a precedent and every year invitations were sent out to our former pastors to come to Penfield to a banquet given in their honor.
Under the leadership of Rev. Lightner there was a gain in membership of seven by baptism and nine by letter. Mr. Lightner submitted his letter of resignation on March 29, 1931 and gave his last sermon on June 8th, leaving Penfield to become pastor of the Church of the Redeemer, one of Brooklyn’s largest churches.
Coming from Lincoln, Nebraska, where he was President of Union College, the Rev. Paul L. Thompson began his ministry in September 1931. He entered Colgate Rochester Divinity School and despite his numerous activities in all branches of church work, he completed the customary three-year course in two years, graduating with the class of 1933.
A Young People’s Fellowship Club was organized with a membership of fifteen. Meetings were held every Sunday evening and were well attended. The Junior Christian Endeavor Society was also active and boasted an average attendance of eighteen.
Rev. Thompson served this church a little longer than two years, tendering his resignation on October 22, 1933. He received an appointment to the presidency of Shurtliff College at Alton, Illinois.
For a period of eleven weeks from October 29 to January 14, 1934, the church was without a pastor. During that time candidates or supply preachers from the Divinity School filled the pulpit. After taking charge of the Sunday services for seven weeks, the Rev. Homer Shafer was extended a call, which he accepted, assuming his duties on January 14, 1934.
The ordination of Mr. Shafer was an occasion when the churches of the community joined in the service held in our church on February 11th. On April 4, 1934 the fifth annual banquet was given for former pastors who had come to Rochester for Alumni Week. After the supper and the program the evening was spent in renewing old friendships. Mr. Shafer’s resignation was read October 27, 1935, but he remained for the rest of the year. On January 1, 1936 he accepted the call of a community church in Poland, N.Y. The minutes of the church clerk state the pastor’s salary at this time was $1300.
Although Mr. Shafer served but two years, much good was accomplished in that time. Under his guidance the Young People’s Society was aroused to new interest and greater activity. A mid-week Prayer and Study Group held meetings during the Lenten season with special speakers from the Divinity School in attendance. A Junior Choir was organized under the leadership of Mrs. Shafer, meeting at the parsonage regularly each week. They sang once a month during the Sunday morning service in place of the regular choir.
A period of ten weeks followed from January 5, 1936 to March 15th during which the church was without a spiritual leader. The Pulpit Committee was kept busy securing guest speakers for Sunday services. Among the candidates was Robert H. Beaven, son of President Beaven of Colgate Rochester Divinity School. Coming from a succession of ministers (his father and his grandfather having occupied the pulpit of the Lake Avenue Baptist Church in Rochester for many years) young Robert showed great promise. Despite the fact that he was a second-year student and his stay with us would not be long, he was asked to accept our call. On March 15th the Beavens began their work in Penfield.
Guiding the young people and bringing them into more active service was one of the primary objectives of their ministry. Sunday evening get-togethers at the church, parties at the parsonage, etc., were well attended. Vitally interested in young people, they chaperoned a great many of their activities: a roller skating party, hikes into the woods, a house party at Conesus Lake to mention but a few. Mr. Beaven was ordained at the Lake Avenue Baptist Church in Rochester, N.Y. on December 31, 1936. Many of our members attended the services.
The Baptist Union of Rochester and Monroe County was entertained on June 15, 1936, with about two hundred in attendance. Dinner and Supper were served in the Grange Hall. Daily Vacation Bible School with an enrollment of forty-five was held for two weeks with the Methodist and Adventist churches cooperating. Four “Missionary Suppers,rdquo; as they were called, were held during the winter months with guest speakers featuring the program. At the close of 1936 the church received a magnificent gift of $9000 from the estate of James H. Hebbs who died November 5, 1936.
During the Beavens’ brief stay of nearly one and a half years, six were baptized and one was received into membership by letter. Pastor’s salary was $1,040. Their ministry will be remembered for the many happy associations. After leaving Penfield in the summer of 1937 the Beavens went to England where he took further study at Cambridge University.
The fall of 1937 brought with it a change of pastors. Rev. Frederick E. Morse of Big Bend, Wisconsin began his duties on September 5 at a salary of $1,130. In August 1937, just a short time before the arrival of the Morse family, the old parsonage, which had been the property of the church since 1873, was sold for the sum of $5,000 less real estate agent’s commission. Left temporarily without a parsonage, the Morse’s resided in Rochester. Soon the Lincoln home on South Avenue, Penfield, was purchased at a cost of $4,250. After redecorating and making some little repairs, the Morse family took up their residence there.
During his labors ten united with the church by letter and three were granted letters of dismissal. Six babies were dedicated on Children’s Day.
Through the persistent effort of two faithful workers, Mrs. Howard Sherman and Mrs. Irene Gerlach, a new Junior Choir was organized, made up of youngsters from eight to twelve years of age. Every Sunday morning these boys and girls contributed their songs to the worship hour.
Howard Whalen, whose family had been members of this church for years and had contributed much to its welfare, left a trust fund of $1,000 to the church at his death. During the summer months of 1938, improvements were made to the church building. The cost of painting the auditorium, putting in a new ceiling, and shingling a part of the roof was approximately $500.
Rev. Morse tendered his resignation on May 14, 1939, to take effect June 15th that he might take up work as assistant to the rector of the Church of the Ascension, an Episcopal Church in Rochester. He served the Penfield church one year and nine months.
Rev. Charles H. Schmitz began his work in September 1939 as the forty-fourth pastor of our church. With whole-hearted energy he attacked the problems before him, and under his leadership the church awakened to more diligent effort. The average attendance at Sunday morning services increased noticeably. The membership stood at 186.
It was in 1940 that plans actually began to materialize for the addition of a long needed education building. The need for more room and better accommodations for the growing Sunday school had been long apparent. The following Building Committee was appointed to study the church’s needs and to consider various plans: Forrest Rothfuss, Margaret VanDerzell, Mattie Keyel, Fred Rissinger and Harvey Thomas. After weeks of deliberation, the following set of plans was adopted as best suited to the church’s requirements. The new building would provide six additional classrooms for the Sunday school and a recreation room in the basement. A large auditorium capable of seating two hundred people at tables and a stage for presenting plays etc. was included. A kitchen complete with modern equipment (thanks to the ladies of the Philathea Class and Dorcas Societies) would provide adequate service for banquets, etc..
In October 1940 this $12,000 project was started, made possible by the generosity of Mr. James H. Hebbs, (exclusive of $500 for equipment). The old sessions building erected in 1861 for prayer meetings and used by the Church School was razed in early October. It was not without some sentiment that this old landmark was erased. Built by Holtby and Steinfeldt, Rochester contractors, the new building was completed March 1, 1941. Formal dedication took place Sunday evening March 9, 1941. Pictures of old building and new addition?
Rev. Schmitz left to accept a call from Calvary Baptist Church in Syracuse. Mr. John T. Wilkes accepted the church’s call on August 2, 1942. Mr. Wilkes was a student at the Divinity School. Jack was very interested in the young people and Youth Fellowship meetings were held every Sunday which drew young people from the town as well as church members. A Canteen was opened for the young people to enjoy.
In 1946 pledges of $3200 were made to the World Mission Crusade.
The merging of the Philathea Class and Dorcas Society was an outstanding accomplishment in 1947 carried out by the untiring Christian efforts of Mrs. Lois Wilkes. The new society was organized under the name of “Fidelis Societyrdquo; and Mrs. Wilkes was the first President. Thus all the women of the church worked together as a group, and it has been proven that this was a very wise decision.
The Wilkes had two children while they were here, a girl and a boy. Rev. Wilkes resigned July 13, 1947 after a five-year pastorate.
From July 13th to November 16, 1947 the Church was without a regular pastor. During that time the pulpit was filled with supply ministers and two candidates. Rev. Kenneth Estey was given a call on October 12, 1947 at a salary of $2,184, assuming his duties with Mrs. Estey on November 16, 1947. While Mr. Estey was with us, Miss Mattie Keyel presented the church with a three manual Aeolian organ in loving memory of her mother. The old organ, purchased in 1870 at a cost of $1,100, was given to Lincoln Baptist Church.
The new organ was dedicated on Sunday, March 14, 1948. Mr. Harold Harper, the organist, gave a demonstration of the various features of the organ and a very beautiful program of music. The music from the organ has been a joyful addition to Worship. The mortgage placed on the church property in February 1941 for the education building was paid in full on March 15, 1948. The amount was $3,000. On June 15, 1948 another mortgage, not to exceed $5,500 was obtained. This money was to be used for a new heating plant for the sanctuary, painting the church and making necessary repairs to the church and parsonage.
The Penfield Federation of Churches, which included the Methodist, Baptist and Advent churches, instituted a plan of religious instruction on released time from school for children of the third grade.