IBC History

The Beginning:

The first pastor of the Independent Baptist Church of Towanda, Pennsylvania, William L. Peck, attended Practical Bible Training School in Johnson City, New York, for two years and then the newly formed Baptist Bible Seminary of Johnson City, New York, in 1932. He graduated in the first graduating class of the Seminary in 1933.

When he came to Towanda, he worked as cook for a work crew on the Lehigh Valley Railroad. He had a great burden for the people of Towanda, which led him to witness and call on people. In the Spring of 1942 he started holding Sunday morning and evening, and Wednesday evening, services in a little building in South Towanda called Young's Chapel. The rent for the Chapel was $10 per week. It is not known if he received any income for his leadership in these services, but he did receive a chicken every week during the winter of 1942-43 from one individual.

Among the first Mr. Peck led to the Lord during this time were Irvin Moyer, his mother Margaret Meadows, and his sister Phyllis Collins. A nucleus formed and services were held in the Chapel until the spring of 1943, when they decided to rent a vacant store front at 406 Main Street in Towanda.

Fred Gardner moved his family to Towanda in 1931 from Binghamton, NY where they had been members of Park Avenue Baptist Church. After unsuccessfully trying to find another denomination to affiliate with, they learned of the services at 406 Main Street and began to attend. Also in 1943 Dr. and Mrs. George Maxwell, a dentist in North Towanda, began attending.

In late summer of that year this group began to think seriously of organizing into a church. A Constitution and by-laws were formed using the Philadelphia and New Hampshire Confession of Faith and Hiscox New Directory for Baptist Churches. Due to the poor public image of a former Baptist Church in town, they questioned whether to include Baptist in the name of the church. But, due largely to Mrs. Maxwell's influence, it was decided this would be called a Baptist church. An organizational meeting of Independent Baptist Church, Towanda, PA, was held on December 16, 1943. On December 29th at a second business meeting the Constitution and By-Laws were adopted unanimously by the eight people present and William Peck was elected as Pastor.

When the Main Street store front was rented to someone else without their knowledge, they found their belongings on the curb. So in March of 1944, services were moved to Dr. and Mrs. Maxwell's home in North Towanda for two months.

The following first nine members were accepted on April 6, 1944: Mrs. George Maxwell, Mr. Hugh Rogers, Mrs. Hugh Rogers, Mr. Irvin Moyer, Miss Barbara Gardner, Mr. William Peck, Mrs. William Peck, Mrs. Dorothy Gardner, and Mr. Fred Gardner.

On April 12, 1944 the church voted to purchase the E. A. Thompson home at 101 York Avenue for $6,500, to be paid for by 1st mortgage“ Farmers Bank of Rome $4,500, 2nd mortgage“ Fred and Dorothy Gardner $1,000, and $1,000 to be raised by subscription at once.

At the end of their first year as an organized church, they had 21 members.

Affiliations:

On September 18, 1944, the ordination of Pastor Peck and the recognition of our local church as a Regular Independent Baptist Church took place. The decision to fellowship with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches was made at the regular prayer service held on January 10, 1945.

September 1, 1948 it was decided to be represented in the American Council of Christian Churches through the Empire State Fellowship.

On June 7, 1950, the church voted to fellowship with the newly formed PA Association of Regular Baptist Churches. On Sept. 19, 1951, the statement of faith and by-laws of PARBC were accepted and approval given to affiliate.

Organizational ties with International Council of Christian Churches and American Council of Christian Churches were severed on October 7, 1969.

Pastoral Leadership:

After bringing our church through the early formative years, in January of 1950 Rev. William Peck resigned as pastor to accept a call to Springbrook Community Church in New York State. At this time church attendance was about 50. For a few months Louis Jones filled in until Darris M. Hauser was called from the Baptist Church in Hunts Corners, New York, to be our second pastor in September 1950. We were blessed with his leadership until his retirement on August 31, 1993. At that time, his son and our missionary to Alaska, Donn Hauser became our third Pastor.

The first assistant to the Pastor, Dennis Cartner, began working with our youth on weekends while he finished his senior year at Baptist Bible College, and began serving full time in 1974 as Youth Minister and Pastor's Assistant.

After Denny Cartner's resignation on September 30, 1980, Mark Steckiel was called as Assistant to the Pastor to begin on July 15, 1981. During the summer of 1985 one of our young men, Brian Houser, worked as an apprentice with our church.

After Mark Steckiel's resignation, in 1988, Susan and David Shanks were appointed as Youth Ministry Coordinators until the church called a new Assistant to the Pastor. Dana Neer, was called to be Assistant to the Pastor starting July 1, 1989 and served until January 1, 1991.

A year later, in March 1992, one of our members, Brian Houser, became our new Assistant to the Pastor until 1995. Another of our young men, Steve Ayers, worked as Assistant to the Pastor during the summer of 1994.

In 1995, our own Lloyd Vaughn took retirement from our local school system and was called as our Assistant to the Pastor. During 2002 and 2003 one of our youth, Andy Shanks, worked as an intern with our pastors.

Then in January 2005 we began discussion of hiring a 3rd pastor. In recognition of the need to more aggressively reach out to our community, it was decided to create a new position, and job descriptions were formed. Pastor Vaughn became our Minister of Outreach and Visitation and our own Mike Shanks was called to be our Minister of Music and Youth.

Buildings:

By the mid-1950s the need for more space was becoming apparent. Early in 1959 the Cherry Street property was purchased from the Hospital Association. Construction of a new building was begun in October 1959. Pastor William Peck returned for the dedication of the new building on May 22, 1960. Services were held each night of the following week, with speakers from Practical Bible Training School and Baptist Bible Seminary. The original building at 101 York Avenue, which was purchased in 1944, continued to be used for parsonage and extra Sunday School rooms until it was sold in 1965. In January 1966 a lot next to the new church building was purchased to build a parsonage.

The church continued to grow, and only two years after the new building was finished, discussion began concerning an addition for more Sunday School rooms and construction began in 1965.

Since the original mortgage on the York Avenue building was burned at the Wednesday night service before Thanksgiving 1950, this second mortgage was burned at a Fellowship Supper on November 17, 1972, just 22 years later. This supper had already been planned as a surprise recognition of our pastor and family for 22 years of faithful ministry.

Just six years after the first addition was completed a committee was appointed to look into building more Sunday School rooms, and a dedication service for another building addition was held on April 14, 1974. On Christmas morning 1983 the mortgage was burned.

In 1981 the Ross property on York Avenue was purchased for housing for the Assistant to the Pastor.

In the 1980s it became evident there was a need for additional space to hold our worship services. Construction began in 1992 on our current facility, and the mortgage was paid off in January 2003.

Reaching Out:

From the beginning, there was recognition of our responsibility to reach out to the local community, as well as the whole world. In February 1945 the church voted to support their first missionary, Lila VanBarriger (Gardner), to Liberia, West Africa. A second missionary, Hugh Rogers, was sent to West Virginia in 1951. These were the first of several missionaries to be sent from our own membership. In addition many other missionaries have been supported over the years, resulting in nearly 50% of the budget going for missionary endeavors.

Realizing the need for training pastors and missionaries, in June 1945 the church began to support Baptist Bible Seminary (now Baptist Bible College & Seminary in Clarks Summit, PA), and has continued to do so through the years. In an effort to encourage our own young people to follow God's leading in their lives, a small scholarship to Baptist Bible College is offered to our youth who are part of our membership.

In an effort to reach out to our local community, broadcast of our evening service over a local radio station began January 1960 and continues today. Our tape ministry started in 1973 and still continues to tape our services for our missionaries, shut-ins, etc.

One of the earliest efforts to reach out to children included starting Sunday School services on Sunday afternoons in Terrytown beginning in September 1955.

Early Vacation Bible Schools were just for children from 9:00 to Noon for two weeks. Later, by changing to an evening school, we were able to expand to include classes for all ages, bringing in college professors for the adult class. Attendance also increased with the use of vans and a bus to bring children from nearby communities.

We began a Training Hour before the Sunday evening service in July 1962 with classes for all ages, pre-school through adult. Today it is called the Family Discipleship Hour and has expanded to include elective classes.

In 1969 and into the 1970s the church conducted Joy Clubs, where members opened their homes to neighborhood children for weekly summer Bible clubs.

In another effort to reach out to those in need around us, our church has been actively involved in PA Baptists for Life and Families since October 1991. Some of our members are involved locally, as well as on the State Board of Directors.

For the past several years we have taken a booth at the Riverfest held in Towanda in August to let our neighbors know we are here to help them.

Recently we have hosted events specifically for community groups such as our public school teachers, and programs such as a Dessert Concert for the general public.

In 2008 a children's ministry began on Wednesday evenings for children in 1st through 6th grades. This began largely as an attempt to reach the children who have come to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School from nearby communities on our vans. Attendance has been good and several children have come to know Jesus Christ as their own personal Savior.

We will continue to reach out to our community and the world through whatever Biblical means is available to fulfill our marching orders to "go ye into all the world."