BEMUS POINT - A church spanning two centuries has become a staple in the Bemus Point community.
The Ellery Baptist Church's 200th anniversary celebration is scheduled for Sunday, with music and worship beginning at 11 a.m., followed by a picnic reception.
The event will also feature an inflatable slide and bounce house for children, historical pictures and memorabilia on display, CoCo the Clown and a Mr? J gospel magic show. To commemorate the anniversary, church members planted 200 flowers outside the church and are looking to complete 200 random acts of kindness, as well as participating in a "200 Minutes of Prayer" event.
The inside of the Ellery Baptist Church is pictured.
P-J photo by Daniel Swanson
According to Steve Malanowski, pastor at Ellery Baptist Church, the celebration is planned to bring in upward of 200 people - including out-of-town visitors with a connection to the church.
"The Ellery Baptist Church started with residents meeting in homes," Malanowski said.
Malanowski added that he has been researching the political and social climate of the church's early years. In 1814, when the church was first being organized, the British set fire to the White House and the Capitol. It is the same year that Francis Scott Key wrote the poem which became the national anthem.
"It was a volatile time," Malanowski said. "What's interesting is that people just got involved and kept the church going. There's a story about one lady who saw how bad the walls were in the church, and she decided to work on raising the funds to fix it."
Currently, the Ellery Baptist Church is focused on a variety of ministries, including AWANA clubs, a men's ministry and a women's ministry. According to Malanowski, the church also has a competitive church softball team.
Sunday services begin at 11 a.m., with coffee and fellowship at 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sunday School classes.
On Wednesdays, the church hosts Awana clubs at 6:30 p.m. and has 8 p.m. teen groups. Thursdays at 7 p.m. are Connect Bible Studies.
In the future, the church is looking to work toward a van outreach, an after-school ministry and mission trips.
Spanning 200 years, including name changes and multiple rebuilds, the church has amassed a unique history.
As the early lights in the church were oil, it was not unusual for church members to park an automobile close to the front door so the car's lights would illuminate the church. The church was initially wired for electricity by the Ellery Center Volunteer Fire Department - Clyde Smiley, Frank Sample and John Miller were responsible for the project.
Noted in the historical record is that the church's first Christmas with electricity featured an "extra special" program. The fire department built a temporary stage across the back portion of the church, and the church was filled to capacity.
In 1889, members became divided over changing the name of the church.
After discussion about the possible name change, the church's name was changed from the First Congregational Baptist Church of Ellery to the Baptist Church of Ellery. As time passed, the tension about the change eased and the name became permanent. Several of the older members rented a hall nearby for their meetings and retained the name of The First Congregational Baptist Church of Ellery.
When the church was first built in 1862, it had a gallery which opened in front with a flight of stairs on each side, and one room downstairs. The pews were located close to the front door. Heat for the building was provided by two stoves, one in the southeast corner, and one in the northwest corner of the church.
Malanowski has been pastor at Ellery Baptist Church for two years, after moving to the area from New Concord, Ohio, where he was also involved in ministry.
The church is located at 4487 Dutch Hollow Road in Bemus Point.