First Baptist Church of Jamestown is celebrating 185 years of life in Christ with a weekend of special events.
Starting Saturday and continuing Sunday events will be held, such as: an open house, a worship and installation service, a catered dinner, morning worship service with the Rev. Donald O'Polka, guest pastor, and fellowship time.
Over the course of the last 10 years the church has undergone numerous changes to improve the experience and sense of family for the individuals who attend it. One of those changes includes the induction of a new pastor, the Rev. Michael Childs. The service installation scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday will be held in honor of the blessing of his induction.
In 1984, several renovations began including the installation of stained-glass windows in the sanctuary. There are eight windows of 10 panels each, making a total of 80 individual stained-glass inserts that depict various biblical stories. At the bottom of the windows are medallions, all of which were given in memory of loved ones.
P-J photos by Dusten Rader
"The weekend will be a combined celebration that includes my installation service as pastor here," said Childs. "I was baptized here, married here, ordained here, and my son and daughter were dedicated here; so being here is like coming home. I've always felt that at some point in my ministry I would serve here. So, I'm going into this hoping and praying that God is going to bless this so that I'll be here for a while. Because some of the things that are needed here are stability to get back to a point of health and some self-esteem. So, this celebration will be a big event in the life of the church."
The celebration will begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday with an open house, followed by the installation service and a catered Swiss steak dinner at 5:30 p.m. The celebration will continue at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday with a morning worship service by Polka, and fellowship time at 11:35 a.m.
"Rev. Donald O'Polka has roots here in Jamestown, and also in our church," said Childs. "He grew up in the church, and was also an associate pastor from 1963-64. He and his wife are now retired to Florida, but they will make a trip out here to be a part of the celebration."
The church last celebrated an anniversary in 2002 for 175 years of continued tradition. During that celebration a puppet play was held to cover the long history of the church, which was founded on Christmas Day in 1827.
"We are a daughter church of the Baptist church in Busti," said Childs. "Several people from Jamestown were attending there, but they decided to settle in Jamestown and have a church. At that point Jamestown wasn't a very big community; it had somewhere around 150 people. The land for our church, the Methodist and the Presbyterian was provided by Judge Foote."
But, the church's history hasn't been completely smooth sailing, said Childs. It survived two fires, the first in 1914 and the second in 1979.
"Each time they rebuilt and continued on," Childs added. "It says a little about being stubborn, about being dedicated, and about having zeal for the mission that the church is here for a purpose. And, there is that old song that goes, 'The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place - it's the people.' Many things have changed around us, but the people are genuine, they love God and are followers of Christ."
Glenda D. Nelson, church secretary, has been a member of the church since 1984, and has been secretary since 1995.
"I've truly been blessed by this job," said Mrs. Nelson. "I love my work, I love the family here and it's been a gift in my life for a long time now. I'm really honored to be able to serve in this way. It's incredible that we have persevered through God's grace for 185 years. And, we're all happy that Michael (Childs) is coming home to our family."
Nelson's son Daniel, 23, also attended the church in his youth, and found it to be an experience that shaped his life in a positive way, he said.
"While growing up I went to church every Sunday with my mom and dad," said Daniel. "It broadened my horizons and made me who I am today. It's made me more caring, considerate and understanding."
Jean Ostrander, 87, church historian, was married at the First Baptist Church of Jamestown in 1975 and has been a member ever since.
"It's been a loving and fruitful church," said Ostrander. "We have a lot of members now that are faithful and good Christian people. A new member recently told me that this is the most friendly church, and they like the minister. I think our new pastor Mike is going to do good for us."
For Ostrander, working at the church has been a great experience because it has such a long interesting history, she said. So, as a result a historical room was created to commemorate the rich past behind the church. The room is available to anyone who'd like to view it.
First Baptist Church of Jamestown is located at 358 E. Fifth St. in Jamestown. For more information call 488-1136 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CARING FOR THE AGING
In addition to being a home to the many practicing Baptists of Jamestown, the church is also a place for aging members of the community to go to find companionship and understanding.
The program offers its members a socially stimulating group setting that practices meaningful activity. It can handle individuals suffering from chronic illness and mental-health issues as well as those who are looking to remain independent.
Frank Bercik, executive director of Chautauqua Adult Day Care Centers Inc., has the goal of helping older adults remain independent, self-sufficient and at home for as long as possible, he said.
"We want to give caregivers a break, and try to avoid or delay nursing home placement," said Bercik. "We have two sites in Jamestown, one in Dunkirk and one in Westfield. Our agency also has a program specifically for individuals with Alzheimers and memory loss."
According to Bercik, the day program was the first of its kind in the county. It offers transportation, three meals a day, supervision, case management and scholarship funding. The program is an alternative to entering a facility, however, about 60 to 70 percent of seniors who participate eventually do end up in a nursing home, said Bercik.
"We are a temporary solution, not the total solution," said Bercik. "I think the older adults in our community deserve this though. They've worked all their lives, contributed to the community and to society, and if folks can remain at home that's where they would want to be."
The program is a nonprofit, tax-exempt United Way agency governed by a local volunteer board of directors. For more information on the program call 665-4899 or visit seniordayprograms.com.