As Baptists, we are part of a Christian heritage that values “the priesthood of every believer.” God can speak to all of us individually, so it is the right and responsibility of every person to have a personal relationship with God that is voluntary and not dependent on any institution, clergy or creed. But this does not mean that the local church or larger denomination and body of Christ is not part of the process of discerning what we feel God is speaking to us.
Being Baptist means that this freedom of every individual believer extends to every individual church. This principle, often called local church autonomy, means that our individual church must constantly seek God's will and follow in the way we determine God is leading us. No larger body or denomination determines our membership or leadership, tells us who we can or cannot ordain for ministry, orders our priorities, or defines our mission and vision. Under the lordship of Christ, we make these decisions on our own. Some Baptist churches are independent. We are not, but are part of the American Baptist Churches U.S.A. and the New York State ABC. The pastor also attends gatherings with ministers of other denominations.
Given the importance of individual freedom, another vital part of our Baptist identity and heritage is the affirmation of religious liberty and the separation of church and state. For centuries, Baptists have argued that government must not interfere with the free exercise of religion. In the same way, even as our faith shapes our individual political values, our church is not a forum for political posturing or promotion. At First Baptist Church of Newfane we have those from different political persuasions, and that seems healthy.
These commitments represent our best understanding of Scripture, as the centrality of Scripture is another core Baptist belief. Each individual is responsible to interpret the Bible diligently and freely. Given its importance in our lives and in our church, we work hard to be responsible in our interpretations of the Bible. Every private interpretation of the Bible is not necessarily a correct interpretation. Thus, we need the larger body to sharpen and discern our private understanding of Scripture. Our church uses various translations of the Bible and do not require that everyone be conformed to one version. The pastor often uses the New International Version and the New Revised Standard Version.
Finally-- and most importantly--being Baptist means affirming the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We are followers of Jesus, doing our best to live out his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Christ is the center of our faith and practice. It is important for each person to come to an affirmation of faith, then follow up on that commitment with water baptism, which is a testimony to the church community.
Much of the above description was taken from the website of another Baptist church in New York City and edited for this site. For an intro of Baptist heritage and identity, check out Walter Shurden's book, The Baptist Identity: Four Fragile Freedoms.
Community life is a very important part of our church. Often our greeting time on Sunday gets too long as people mingle and share news from their week. People care about one another here. We laugh together and grieve when there is a loss. We ask each other to pray for personal needs and concerns. We don’t take ourselves too seriously.
We have a committee known simply as “Christian Fellowship” which plans and prepares special events. We enjoy eating together! Our women’s group prepares meals for funerals and luncheons, and our fellowship hall is decorated throughout the year according to seasons and holidays. The Christmas tree in the hall stays up all year, but takes on a different look from time to time.
On Wednesday when our food pantry is open (1-6 p.m.) you will also find church folks gathering around the table downstairs enjoying coffee and conversation with those who come in for food. Or a work project might be on the agenda that day. We have a small team of diligent workers and they have made great improvements to the property in recent years.
One phrase that might aptly describe our church group is “down-to-earth.” Yes, we are serious about our faith and are reverent about the word of God and worship, but we see each other as being on the same level--all of us needing work done in our hearts and minds, but finding caring people here to help us in that journey.
Church is largely about what goes on after Sunday morning worship. Sunday is just the beginning, not an end in itself. One of the blessings of our property—as old as it is—has to do with the relationship we have with other organizations who use our building. Weight Watchers has meetings here, as does an organization known as Rainbow of Help.
We tithe our weekly offering and designate it to our benevolent fund, which provides both local and world-wide financial assistance. We also take a special monthly offering on communion Sunday which goes to a designated mission or ministry. Our budget is small but we are committed to reaching beyond our walls.
Our main ministry of the week is our food pantry. With a relationship with the Food Bank of Western NY, we provide bags of groceries to families and individuals on a weekly basis. There is a strong volunteer base at the food pantry.
Occasionally we sponsor a coffeehouse in our church hall. Among the music guests we’ve had a couple who do folk music, a young worship-driven contemporary group, and a solo singer. In the summer of 2016 we had an outdoor concert. Held on a Friday nights, we have pizza and some baked goods and of course coffee too. Check this website in the future for more information about our coffeehouse.
Tim Schultz became pastor of First Baptist Newfane on June 1, 2015. After years of serving other churches out of state he returned home to western NY and to Niagara County, where he lived during high school and graduated from Royalton-Hartland High School in Middleport, NY. His parents were antiques dealers so he grew up in a culture of moving furniture, having other dealers around, and working for antique show events.
Tim’s initial call to ministry was to the urban scene. Following training in Queens, NY he spent several years serving ministries in Buffalo and worked at a mission in Atlantic City. He loves the city but loves the rural areas too! He previously served churches in New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Like ministry places, educational experiences have also been quite varied in Tim’s life. From Bible schools, to community and state colleges, he then graduated from Eastern Mennonite University and Colgate Divinity School, where he received his M.Div.
Tim enjoys the simple things of life, such as going out for coffee and meals, taking walks in cities and country parks, and hanging out in libraries and bookstores. Over the years he has written for various Christian publications.
He would enjoy meeting with you over coffee or at the church, where he often is during the day on Wednesday. Living about five minutes from church, it is convenient for him to meet with you whenever you like.
Newfane's historic First Baptist Church was organized in 1829 — five years after the Town of Newfane was incorporated.
In many ways, the church and town have grown up together. We share the same beginnings, starting with the early pioneer days on the Niagara Frontier and continuing until the present Age of Space in the 21st Century.
Our 186-year-old church, with its landmark cobblestone building, has been the spiritual home to generations from Newfane and surrounding communities for so long that no one today can remember when our house of worship did not exist, when the peel of the church bell did not call us to Sunday services, or when the sun's rays did not cast their rainbow of color through our stained -glass windows.
As part of the American Baptist Churches in the USA, we are a loving, caring and giving church that serves the local area and larger world. Though small (our membership is about 125), we support a variety of missions. These include ABC Ministries, Habitat for Humanity, CROP Walk against world hunger, our First Baptist Church food pantry for the community, a grief support group, children's Sunday School and adult Bible study.
Over nearly two centuries, the life of First Baptist Church has included many highlights. Among them:
May 27, 1829 — First Baptist Church is founded as the First Baptist Church and Society of Newfane. The first church meeting is held on June 6, 1829 with the Rev. Jehiel Wisner as pastor. Early meetings and worship services are held at the home of congregation member James Van Horn in Burt. His stately 1823 brick house, now known as the Van Horn Mansion, also is where the Town of Newfane was incorporated.
Nov. 2, 1843 — The church's new house of worship - one of only a handful of cobblestone churches in the nation - is completed and dedicated.
April 1845 — First Baptist Church goes on record opposing slavery. It is 16 years before the outbreak of the Civil War that was fought to end the breakaway of Southern states from the Union and to abolish slavery.
1861-1865 — More than a dozen men from the church serve in the Civil War, including a number who are killed.
February 1907 — Extensive renovation and remodeling of the church is completed. The project includes construction of the present bell tower, installation of stained glass windows in the sanctuary and creation of today's seating configuration for the congregation.
1922 — Memorial Hall, to honor Newfane men who served in World War I, is constructed at the rear of the church. For 25 years, the hall is home court for Newfane scholastic basketball games and numerous church, public and club activities. It continues to host church and non-church community functions.
1930 — A used pipe organ is purchased for $1,500 from the Seventh-Day Baptist Church of Alfred, N.Y. Though no longer in use, the huge organ pipes are a prominent backdrop behind the lighted hanging cross at the front of the sanctuary.
2004 — The church building, which has witnessed so much local and national history over the years, is accepted for listing on the New York and National Registers of Historic Places. The honor notes the building's "significance in American history and culture."
May 27, 2015 — The First Baptist Church of Newfane celebrated its 186th anniversary as a religious institution preaching the Gospel and teaching the lessons of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
But no matter the length of our past or depth of our roots in the community, we do not wish to dwell in the past. It is the present and future where we intend to thrive. And as always, we reach out to everyone.