A NARRATIVE IN THIRTEEN SKETCHES
Dedication Drama - September 12, 2004
A historical presentation prepared by Rev. Tharp for the dedication of the
JESSUP CHRISTIAN EDUCATION CENTER
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH - PENN YAN, NY
FIRST SKETCH “INTRODUCTION”
Presented by PASTOR JOHN THARP
Music: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name~~~~Picture: Clouds
Jesus prayed in his great prayer for the church, in John 17: “Dedicate them to yourself by means of the truth; your word is truth. I sent them into the world just as you sent me into the world. And for their sake I dedicate myself to you, in order that they, too, may be truly dedicated to you.” (John 17:17-19)
Jesus had a vision of how the word of God could bring light and love into a dark and loveless world. According to his design groups of people would gather to pray, read the scriptures, and encourage each other. Where two or three shared the spirit of Christ, Jesus would be with them. People who loved Jesus found that they needed each other and when they were together the miracles of faith, healing, and transformation took place. The church was born. Included in one of the earliest documents of the church at Penn Yan we find this scripture: Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith."
SECOND SKETCH: “PANDEMONIUM RENAMED”
Presented by DIANE DELOOZA
Music: Yankee Doodle ~~~~ Picture: Finger Lakes
In 1796, only seven years after Washington became our first president, David Wagner bought the land on which PennYan now sits. He was a follower of Jamima Wilkinson and was known as a steady plodder and an honest man. However, he died only three years later. His son, Abraham, took possession of the property. At that time there were three cabins along Jacob’s Brook and a number of Native American families.
The area was first named Unionville but there was a great debate over the name of the post office. The disagreements were so intense that some people called the area “Pandemonium”. Because the controversy was so divisive, Philemon Baldwin stood up on the high beam at a barn raising and declared that the new name should honor both the Pennsylvanians and the Yankees and should therefore be “Penn Yank”. Soon after the “k” was dropped and the town received its unique name - Penn Yan.
THIRD SKETCH:“FRONTIER LIFE”
Presented by BARBARA & TOM BURKE
Music: Davey Crockett~~~~ Picture: Log Cabin
By 1811, there was Baptist preaching in the area, but a Baptist society was not formed until 1829 when 20 members from the church at 2nd Milo came to Penn Yan to become the base for a new church.
In 1824, a Universalist preacher came to the area and received a rude reception. He told a prospective visitor to the area that the village was a “dirty, miserable, little village in the fartherest corner of Ontario County where the walls were plastered over with constables (orders of) executions and that there was a general reign of discouragement in that place.”
During this time there was a great swell of evangelistic fervor as the Great Awakening swept across the area with numerous revivals. There were was a large anti-free masonry movement, a great popular surge in favor of temperance, and much talk of the abolition of slavery. This latter question split the Methodist and the Presbyterian churches. The underground railroad brought many escaped slaves through Penn Yan.
FOURTH SKETCH: “PAYING FOR THE FIRST BUILDING”
Presented by SUE HOLTZ
Music: Hallelujah Chorus~~~~ Picture: Pioneer Church
The first of the buildings put up by the Baptist Church was completed in 1834. It was variously described as “a rather plain building”, “a meeting house of no mean pretensions”, and “one of the finest in this part of the country.” The cost of $9,000 placed a severe financial burden on the congregation. But an unexpected event helped the church to deal with this. One Dr. Underhill of Cleveland, Ohio, the editor of an “infidel paper” sought to use the Baptist building to give lectures on the subject of Infidelity. To prevent this from happening one member hid himself with the key to the building. However, the church was broken into and Dr. Underhill gave his lectures for three weeks. The friends of Dr. Underhill proposed to purchase the church building for his use. This raised such a furor among the members that a high spirit of faith resulted in a successful effort to liquidate the debt.
FIFTH SKETCH: “THE CIVIL WAR”<
Presented by GREG & NANCY MARION
Music: The Battle Hymn of the Republic (on the fife and drum)~~~~ Picture: Civil War
By 1855, there were 3000 people living in Penn Yan and the issue of slavery was a red hot topic. People joining the church were urged to refrain from free masonry; unfermented grape juice was used for communion; members were to avoid "bowling and contrary behavior". In 1859, the church began to raise funds by renting pew space and two years later the ladies raised enough money to purchase a melodeon for the choir.
At the beginning of the Civil War, State Senators were given the responsibility for going to their district and raising a regiment of men , which amounted to about 1000 soldiers. In Yates County more than 2000 volunteers came forward to serve. Those who came to serve would “fall in” on the street in front of the Penn Yan First Baptist Church and march to the train station while the band played “Yankee Doodle” or “The Girl I Left Behind”.
SIXTH SKETCH: “THE PRESENT SANCTUARY”
Presented by TOM THARP
Music: Lord, I Lift Your Name on High~~~~ Picture: Church Picture
In 1870, the old church was brought down to make way for the sanctuary we presently use. During the construction, worship was held at the court house where a number of new comers were convicted … of their sins. By 1871, a new sanctuary and lecture hall stood as one of the grandest structures in our area. The news article about the new building closed with these words:
“With a membership of nearly three hundred, a new house of worship finished, with no embarrassing encumbrances upon it, and a young, zealous, and ambitious man settled as Pastor, this church should be a strong and mighty power for good in Penn Yan. May we not expect soon to see the revival spirit in their midst, and many of such as shall, be saved added to their numbers?
Thirty-one years later the mortgage was finally paid off. The sanctuary was filled morning and night on Sundays as Rev. Thomas de Gruchy gave illustrated sermons on Sunday evenings to large crowds. In 1915, a new Sunday School chapel was added at the cost of $9,000.
SEVENTH SKETCH: “THE ROARING 20’s”
Presented by flapper MARION MILLER
Music: Big Band Sound 76 Trombones~~~~ Picture: Baraca class
It was the “Roaring Twenties” and the church was rocking with excitement. In 1924, Boy Scout troop #44 started under the sponsorship of the church. In 1925, Rev. Wheatly accepted the challenge of the Conklin Avenue Baptist Church in Binghampton for a contest to see which church could rally the most men in the Baraca Sunday School Class. Penn Yan won the contest with 1,879 men. From this effort, 108 new members were added to the church. In one century, the church had gone from 27 people to 846 people.
Of our church’s first century, May Decker wrote: “It has been on the hilltop of glory and in the valley of humiliation. … Slavery was condemned. Some of our boys fought in the World War. Once the church faced disruption but, thanks to the guiding hand of God, it has weathered every storm and grown to a membership of 846.”
EIGHTH SKETCH: “A SPORTING CHURCH”
Presented by LYLE CONRAD
Music: “Take Me Out to the Ball Park” ~~~~ Picture: Old Sports Team
Five years later, under the leadership of Rev. Royal Jessup, the church formed a basketball team and a baseball team. “Pulpit teams” were also formed by the church people to take the gospel into many neighboring churches. In his seventeen years as our pastor, Rev. Jessup guided the church through the great depression and through World War II, ending his ministry here in 1947. He had a heart for the work of God in Yates County. His vision for the church included the development of the Yates Larger Parish which was devoted to helping smaller congregations.
NINTH SKETCH: “THE CHURCH AT WORK”
Presented by SHERYL ROBBINS
Music: “Anvil Chorus”~~~~ Picture: Old Back portion of Church
In 1951, the church hired an architect to remodel the church school building. Five years later Rev. Kuehn encouraged the church not to “indulge in memories of the past but do our best to be present now.” In response to this and other challenges, the church bought the property which is presently our parking lot for $15,000. In 1958, Miss Ethel Price resigned after forty-one years as the church organist. Following in her footsteps, Margaret Wilbur played the organ for thirty five years. In 1961, Eleanor LeGro retired as Sunday School Superintendent and was honored with a dinner.
TENTH SKETCH: “THE CHURCH IN THE 60’s”
Presented by KATHIE LAWRENCE
Music “Telstar” ~~~~ Picture: space satellite
beep beep beep
In 1968, Rev. George Munger resigned after ten years. His ministry was marked by much concern for social action including work with migrant workers, juvenile delinquency, and teen drinking. In 1970, the church bought a parsonage on Highland Drive. Rev. O’Polka warned that the “status quo” is not good enough. During this time, the house next to the church was torn down.
In 1971, the “In As Much Class” volunteered to paint the sanctuary and did a fine job. Edith Calvin left that year to teach English at the Shokei Girls School in Sendai, Japan. Four years later Lewis Potts was awarded the honor of being named “The NYS Man of the Year for his support of St. Paul’s Church in Geneva, for serving as director of the Upstate Home for Children, and for service to the Ontario-Yates Association.
ELEVENTH SKETCH: “THE MINISTRY OF REV. PASSAGE”
Presented by SHANE FURMAN
Music:~~~~ Picture: Passages
In 1972, Rev. Douglas Passage became the pastor and served here for fourteen years. During his ministry many improvements were made to the church building including needed maintenance, moving the church offices to the first floor, and complete refurbishing of the organ. 1979 was the beginning of a year long celebration of the church’s 150th anniversary. Numerous events throughout the year featured an historical play, visiting dignitaries, and all church festivities. Also during this year, the church building was added to the National Historic Registry as an example of “Romanesque Revival” architecture. The church reached out to the community by starting the Food for the Needy Program and by welcoming mentally and physically disabled adults.
TWELFTH SKETCH: “THE CHURCH IN THE ‘90’s AND THE NEW MILLENLIUM”
Presented by CINDY OVENS
Music: Sunshine Special~~~~Picture: Youth class
In 1988, Pastor John Tharp was called to the church. Soon after arrival he helped start the Yates County Habitat for Humanity. There was great interest in expanding the ministry of the church and yet the inadequacy of the church school building continued to loom as an obstacle. The first movements toward a new building were hindered by urgently needed repairs to the steeple and then to the sanctuary. But God and the congregation were determined to see this through and a sizable bequest from Rev. Jessup’s son, Paul, enabled us to move ahead with renovating the old “lecture room” and adding a beautiful extension. Many of our people stepped up to the plate and “purchased” rooms in the new building. A great many also volunteered a lot of hours to bring the building to readiness. In January of 2004, we took possession not only of a new building but of a great opportunity.
THIRTEENTH SKETCH: “WHAT LIES AHEAD?”
Presented by PAM SCUTT
Music: Our God is an Awesome God (sung by the people)~~~~ Picture: Jesus
“Our God is an awesome God, he reigns from heaven above, with wisdom, power and love. Our God is an awesome God.”
Already numerous community groups are enjoying the use of our building, and our own groups are gearing up for an exciting new season. But God’s work is not complete for Penn Yan First Baptist. God never makes such an investment without expecting a good return. We have many reasons to be grateful to God and we pray that God will use us to spread the word of our Lord Jesus Christ. This building is God’s way of saying “Yes” to the intention of our vision statement:
We, as God’s people, will use our gifts and talents
To seek out and bring people to Christ,
By maturing in our faith, By deepening our fellowship,
And by caring for people for the honor and glory of God.
"Our God is an awesome God, he reigns from heaven above, with wisdom, power, and love. Our God is an awesome God."
Picture of church people
Prayer of dedication - Pastor Tharp
Closing hymn - The Church’s One Foundation
The Church’s One foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is his new creation by water and the word
From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride
With his own blood he bought her and for her life he died.
Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war
She waits the consummation of peace forever more
Till with the vision glorious, her longing eyes are blest,
And the great church victorious shall be the church at rest.
Yet she on earth has union with God the three in one
And mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won
O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we,
Like them, the meek and lowly, may live eternally.