The future looks bright for the strategic partnership of two Fredonia area churches.
On the corner of Church and Temple streets of Fredonia stands the beautiful, stained glass-adorned, brick building which houses the village clock and has been home for 204 years to a group of dedicated, yet unobtrusive community servants. These people, known as the Fredonia Baptist Church, have faithfully sought to follow the teachings of Jesus to minister and serve in His name, both God and fellow human beings - across the street and around the world. In the early years, they sought to promote the rights and education of women and immigrants as well as through the Underground Railroad in the mid-1800s, actively participated in the abolition of slavery. For the past 48 years, the church has conducted a quality Christian nursery school which has been a gift to hundreds of local families. Since the late 1950s, they have supported the ministry and mission of Chautauqua County Rural Ministry, while sharing their building with human service and recovery groups.
The Fredonia Baptist Church of 2012 is a local body of about 25 people, most of whom are retired and unable to continue the outreach and mission for which the church was dedicated. But their desire in their waning years is to see this legacy of service carried beyond their current financial, energy and life span constraints. It is this heart-desire which prompted the Fredonia Baptist Church to unanimously seek a vibrant congregation with whom to join forces for continued ministry and mission.
Fredonia Baptist Church (above) and Harvest Chapel (below).
The board of deacons of the baptist church has been considering their situation and pursuing creative options for several years, acknowledging the demographics of the church and the community. Their deep desire remains - to continue a "church-based" ministry in the village. About a year ago, the Rev. Dr. Ronald Howard inquired as to Harvest Chapel's willingness to walk this journey of faith-legacy. Upon completion of a feasibility study, the congregation and leadership team of Harvest Chapel have agreed to do so. This opportunity to acquire the Fredonia Baptist facility aligns beautifully with the strategic foci established by Harvest Chapel four and a half years ago.
After considerable evaluation, the Harvest Chapel Leadership Team has decided that, in addition to the populations currently served through this building, they will aim to connect with the college student population and other young adults. This decision was reached based on two primary observations: the first, the baptist church facility sits at a strategic location in the center of the village where the college population passes by on a regular basis and second, it is this generation of young adults who is most energetic and passionate to wrestle with modern day issues of social justice. Who better to carry the faith-legacy of the historic Fredonia Baptist Church into the future?
Harvest Chapel envisions embarking on this connection with three main initiatives: first, an intentional, residential community of eight students, guided by Harvest Chapel resident directors, who are passionate about exploring and addressing modern-day issues of social justice; second, a mid-week service of worship designed for the college generation; and third, to open the facility as a welcoming space to relax, gather or step away from the college pace, a safe place in which to explore faith issues or take time to study, all while enjoying a cup of coffee or a home-baked cookie.
With the proposed changes, Harvest Chapel recognized the continued ministry of the Fredonia Baptist Church. With their shared ministry, the ongoing programs of the nursery school and outreach support groups will remain and be enriched.
The Fredonia Baptist Church building is on the National and State Historic Site registry, thus the exterior of the facility will remain as a symbol of its heritage and service to the local and global community. The congregations look forward to a faithful, united ministry that will continue to offer a positive presence to the college and community in the heart of the beloved Fredonia village.