The year was 1978…. A gallon of gasoline cost $.63, and the average cost of a home was $54,800. The minimum wage was $2.65, and inflation was high. Nationally, Jimmy Carter was our President. Internationally, the Cold War simmered. At Camp David, peace accords were signed by Menachem Begin of Israel and Anwar Sadat of Egypt. The tragedy of Jonestown, Guyana shocked the world. Culturally, Grease was a box office hit and “Fonzie” a household name. Space Invaders made its debut, and 8-track tape players were cutting edge technology. In the world of sports, the New York Yankees were World Series champions, and the Dallas Cowboys were victors of Superbowl XII. Deaths included painter and Saturday Evening Post illustrator Norman Rockwell at the age of 84. This was the world of 1978.
It was during these days that, three local men – Rex Clouston, Jim Pangle, and Ray Killian – made the acquaintance (through Jim Pangle’s son) of Pastor Alan Taylor. A native of the state of Indiana and a graduate of Tennessee Temple College, Pastor Taylor shared a common vision with Clouston, Pangle, and Killian of planting an independent fundamental Baptist Church. The mission that guided these men was “to reach the lost for Christ and to build up the Christian through fellowship, service, and knowledge of God’s Word.”
At first, these men, their families, and faithful believers worshiped in the gymnasium of the former St. Pious Catholic School in Delevan, NY. The land where Central Baptist Church now stands was, at that time, a bean field owned by Bill Sprague. Pastor Taylor and the young church he shepherded purchased the bean field. Soon the sound of hammers was in the air. Trusses were built on site. The first physical structure of what is today Central Baptist Church and Christian School was under construction.
Much has changed over the decades. The first sanctuary was located where is now the junior high and high school classrooms of our school. Where today is the girl’s locker room, then was a choir loft. Where today is the boy’s locker room, then was Pastor Taylor’s office. Where today is the school library, then was the church kitchen. The trim that framed the platform and railings were made of cherry logs from trees that once stood on the grounds of Odosagih Bible Conference. Wayne Neudeck had, years prior, obtained these cherry logs, not knowing at the time for what purpose. He meticulously prepared and finished the lumber. Then he waited, confident that one day this lumber and his labor would come in handy. And the day did come, a day when these once tall and deeply rooted trees of Odosagih, found a home as the finishing touches in our first sanctuary.
Recognizing that one of the primary ministries of the church is a ministry of teaching, Central Baptist Church became the home of Central Baptist Christian School in 1982. Students and teachers met in classrooms in the basement below the sanctuary. The numbers of students and staff were few, but dedication ran deep, and before long it became clear that it was time to expand to meet the needs of both church and school. Thus in 1987, the building that now houses the computer room, a classroom, and a variety of offices was constructed. But in the early 1980s, it was a stand-alone building, a mere shell that served as an impromptu multi-purpose space. Sometimes it was a gymnasium for the school. Sometimes it was a dining hall for fellowship meals.
Pastor Taylor – founding pastor of Central Baptist Church – led the church for several years. He is remembered as a dynamic man who knew well the Word and was enthusiastic in preaching and teaching. Worshippers at the time recall “Seven Sundays of Revival” and close-knit fellowship. For a time, there was an associate pastor, Pastor Ken Heacox, who worked alongside Pastor Taylor. Pastor Taylor’s tenure came to an end when he decided the time had come to return south. During the mid-1980s, a number of men pastored the church, including Pastor Lockwood, Pastor Pickle, and Pastor Dunbar. A bus ministry began. For a couple years, the church owned a full-sized school bus. Church members behind the wheel of the bus would pick up a handful of kids for Sunday service and other church programs. The idea of developing a radio station was pursued during the days of Pastor Lockwood. Call letter considered included WORD, WCBC, and WILL. Ultimately, the radio station idea remained just an idea, but it demonstrated the heart of the church to reach the lost and grow the saved.
The 1980s flowed along. As do people, the church, too, experienced good days and bad, high points and low. Troubled waters marked the late 1980s in the life of Central Baptist Church. These were days of doldrums and discord. These were days in which our church teetered on the verge of dissolution. A change was needed. Revival was needed. It was into this situation that Pastor Paul Phillips and his family were called. All through the 1980s, Pastor Phillips was the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Wyoming, NY. Their church needed a gym, and they contacted Morton Buildings in Warsaw, NY. The manager at Morton Buildings was a man named Earl Phillips (unrelated to Pastor Paul). He and Pastor Paul became friends. At some point, a part-time secretary position opened up at Morton Buildings, and Joyce Phillips – Pastor Paul’s wife – stepped in as that part-time secretary. It was here that she met long-time Morton Building employee and Central Baptist member, Wayne Neudeck. He would walk through the office humming hymns, and before long the Phillips family and the Neudeck family were friends. At a company Christmas party in 1989, Wayne and Nancy Neudeck joked with Pastor Paul that he should come and be the pastor of Central Baptist in Yorkshire. Pastor Paul commented, “Well, we could work that out.”
In the summer months of 1990, Marvin Wilson (head of the deacon board) and John Hill (one of the deacons), contacted Pastor Paul to see if he would fill in as a visiting pastor for a couple of weeks. Pastor Paul agreed. After this, he was invited to officially candidate for the pastor’s position. The congregation at the time included Al and Mary Bishoff, Charlie and Betty Barber, Becky Newland (long time church secretary), John and Jean Hill, and Nick and Veronica Glasner, Wayne and Nancy Neudeck, Dan and Terry Nuernberger, Maybelle Becker, and Verna Brown. They, their families, and other faithful members stayed the course and fought to keep Central Baptist Church alive. At the end of August, the small and struggling – but determined – congregation of Central Baptist voted to offer the position to Pastor Paul. He and his family accepted the call.
The Phillips family loaded their belongings into Charlie Barber’s cattle truck and moved into the parsonage on Old Olean Road over the Labor Day weekend. It was a step of faith, for they accepted the call to pastor the church despite the reality that the church could not guarantee a salary. Paychecks would be week to week and would depend on whatever was put into the love offering box. There is beauty in walking by faith, fully aware that God will and does provide in His good timing. Pastor Paul came to Central Baptist and, by the grace of God, led the congregation from the brink of church extinction. It was no easy task, but God does great things through willing people. Pastor Paul was and is a faithful man of God who was driven to “rightly divide the Word” and communicate the Word in its depth and truth to all with ears to hear. He is a man who “sees people” and cares about their eternal souls and spiritual walk. Under his watchful care and by the mercy of our Creator-Redeemer God, spiritual health returned to the body of Central Baptist Church. Fellowship again became sweet.
During the mid-1990s through 2003, the footprint of the physical church expanded. The buildings were connected and reorganized. In 2000 – or thereabout – the current gym and kitchen were raised up. As the number of young people in the school and church increased, a growing need for space was felt. There were nearly 100 students enrolled in the school at the time, and space was tight. Pastor Phillips encouraged the congregation to step out in faith and fund the construction of the gym. The congregation did just that. The gym was paneled with wainscoting, of which each piece was lovingly finished and stained by Del Ressler. This was no small task for Mr. Ressler, for he had only one hand with which to work. His right hand had been severed years earlier in a farming accident. This loss, however, did not prevent Mr. Ressler from serving the Lord. Without a doubt, as he sanded and stained the wood, he also prayed over his beloved church and for the people of God. For us, this humble man of God stood in the gap, a prayer warrior on our behalf to the glory of God. In 2003, ground was broken for a new auditorium. The storage garage that now rests behind the church used to sit where today is the stage of the auditorium. Would it need to be torn down? Dismantled and reassembled? No, these would not do…it was instead skidded, concrete slab foundation and all, to its current location by heavy equipment operated by Dan Nuernberger. And up went the new auditorium, the one in which we today worship.
These were the days of Wednesday night prayer meetings, AWANA, mother-daughter banquets, sportsmen’s dinners, occasional southern gospel concert, cantatas, and hymn-sings. Pastor Ben was simply, “Ben,” a young man playing street hockey in the parking lot of the church or inside the building itself, a young man growing in his knowledge of God, a young man who would someday – as did his Dad – candidate to become the pastor of Central Baptist. These were the days when Mary Bishoff began her ministry of creating quilts for our graduating seniors, Donna Fiedler documenting the history of our church with her camera (the old-fashioned kind), Steve and Melanie Hammond were crafting an early vision of Biblical Nouthetic counseling for our local community, our Christian school, administered first by Kay Conrad and later by Greg Reger, was growing roots and providing academic instruction within the framework of a Biblical worldview. It was also during these years that associate pastors and youth pastors were woven into the fabric of Central Baptist, many of whom dually served both within the church and the school. These included Gary Briggs, Dana Linderman, Jim Butler, Josh Sexton, Brett Moody, and Paul Williams, Jr.
In 2012, Central Baptist Church welcomed Pastor Ben, Candace, and their family. They arrived enthused and eager to lead the congregation into a new season of outreach and worship. The now familiar Pi2 (pray, invest, invite) concept was introduced, the children’s ministry expanded, discipleship as a way of life for new and seasoned believer alike was prioritized, and the value of small group ministry as both fellowship and accountability grew roots into the spiritual soil of our church. In 2015, Central Baptist welcomed Pastor Isaac, Abigail, and their family. Taking the reins of Pastor of Administration, Pastor Isaac labors alongside Pastor Ben to lead and teach the congregation Scriptural truth to apply to all of life.
2018 marks the 40th year of Central Baptist Church. The mission of our church is “making passionate followers of Jesus Christ.” May we continually grow in our knowledge of the Word and faithfully pursue this mission to take the whole truth of the Gospel of Christ to the ends of the world and to the unique mission fields to which we each are called. And always, may God be glorified in all we think, say, and do.