THE DEVELOPING OF OTHER CHURCHES
During this period (1910 to 1920) we see the development of other churches. In 1912 Vera Davis reports the opening of the work in Oneonta and their expectation of Rev. Simmons taking charge of the new work. In 1915 the building in Oneonta was completed with a mission hall downstairs and living rooms upstairs for their pastor. We might observe many of our early church buildings were similarly constructed, such as Utica, Brushton, Binghamton, Haverhill, Schenectady, Northville, Amsterdam and number of others.
Moving ahead for a moment — among other factors, Oneonta becomes important as it was the place of an epochal change in our church history, “For better or for worse,” something of a marriage was consummated here. This meeting became the 17th and last Annual Conference under the name Pentecostal Rescue Mission and the First ASSEMBLY of the international Holiness Church.
Further north in the state, another revival movement was breaking out that ultimately merged with the work of the Mission Association. Similar to the Binghamton beginnings, the Lake Placid Church originated in prayer meetings. God was using such men as Dan Hazelton, Cassius Shumway and Charles Shumway in the spread of the Gospel through the Lake Placid area. The crowd soon became too large for most homes so that a hall was rented for their Holiness meetings. These services in the homes and in the halls were marked with Gospel success. As God was blessing and the work was growing it became apparent to many that even the rented hall was somewhat inadequate. Through sacrifice, cooperation and faith, in 1918 a beautiful church building was erected. The Lake Placid building, for this period of time, had a unique distinction in that it was built as a church and not as a refuge center, with living quarters upstairs and a mission hall on the main floor.
The Lake Placid work became a revival canter in the North. For its size, no other church in our Conference history (to this writer’s knowledge) has given so many of its sons and daughters to Christian ministries. Rev. 0. L. Fay and Rev. Donald Hardy are two prominent ones that could be mentioned.
In the year of 1915 the Rescue Mission started a work in Allentown, Pa. Rev. Stuart Tompkins was appointed pastor. Refuge work, as you have noticed, figured predominantly in the beginning movement of our churches. This was also true in the work at Troy and Utica. Mary Berg had started refuge work in both of these cities. The history of Amsterdam begins during this period. The Northville Mission did not officially join the Conference family until 1958. However, its history also dates back to this time. The Northville Church, incidentally, did not start as a refuge work.
In tracing the goodly lines of our early heritage in this retrospective gaze, we have traveled back to the very start. We have watched the formative movements and ministries of the Pentecostal Rescue Mission develop. In this 24-year period, the first phase of our Pilgrim Conference, we have observed also the interesting expansion of this movement, with its widening influence breaking out from the birth-cribs of Binghamton. To use again the analogy of water: what started as a little spring, blessing and refreshing the saints of those early prayer meetings in 1896, had by the 1920’s taken on something of the proportion of a river. And oh, how we thank God today for this flow of influence! It is now 1972, while there have been several turns in its course, still there IS a river; and it is still flowing, it is still rising and widening. I believe it is a river, “the streams thereof shall make glad the city of God.”
By and large, the vanguards of the church were ordinary men and women; but some possessed uncommon amounts of passion, faith, unction and dedication. It was true then as it is now, “Little is much if God is in it.” These men and women, led and blest of the Holy Ghost, enjoyed spiritual liberty. They were not bound to forms or fashions. The preachers denounced sin but they also declared salvation. No sacrifice was too great for these hardy soldiers. Many of them slept on planks, lived in tents, prayed and fasted for days on end and suffered ridicule and jeers. A few were thrown in jails and several were run out of towns. We thank God today for those battle-scarred warriors. It was with these men and women that our church had its beginning. What a great reservoir of holy heritage! And well may we pray for our beloved Zion in terms of a moving poem by Ralph Cushman, entitled “The Spirit of the Pioneers.”
“Renew their breed, Almighty God!
Those pioneers of yesterday,
Who through the wilderness and wastes
Undaunted pushed their westward way.
Renew their breed, those giant men.
Those women of the rugged path,
Who smiled at fears and daily gave Impossibilities the laugh.
Renew their breed; we owe them more
Than we can pay with whines or tears;
Almighty God, renew in us
The spirit of the pioneers,
The writer closes with a concern beyond the mere recording of the incidents of our early days. While it is certainly true that not all past experiences were glorious and every saint was all victorious; yet, there were these observable elements of strength, sacrifice and courage. It is these factors that need to be reproduced today if our heritage is to be spared dilution and if the river of holiness is to flow endlessly on. Ladies and Gentlemen: “Hats off to the past, coats off to the future!” Our past has been good; our future can be bright.