Fairton Christian Center History

Shouts of praise and songs of worship echoed from cottages and homes throughout the South Jersey countryside. These cottage prayer meetings were the beginning of the Pentecostal movement from which many churches have emerged. One such church was First Assembly of God of Millville originally located at 411 North High Street, Millville, better known today as the Gant & Forester Law Offices. From that congregation several believers along with Reverend Mabel Snyder answered a call of God to establish a church in the rural town of Fairton, New Jersey.

The first recorded history of Fairton Christian Center then known, as Community Memorial Church was that of May 29, 1960, when an offering of $405.50 was taken to start the new church. A storefront building was rented on the Millville-Cedarville Road from Alice H. Smith for $100.00 per month. The members joined to renovate this building and incurred expenses such as paint-$50.00; rugs-$13.62 and carpeting-$10.00. Operating expenses included such items as insurance-$13.00 per year and electric of approximately $4.00 per month. The members met faithfully and the church continued to grow during that first year.

According to the secretary’s report dated May 3, 1961, “On Wednesday evening, May 3, 1961, Brother Eide, District Superintendent and Brother Barnard, Presbyter, came to the evening service of the Community Memorial Church.

The church decided to accept the pioneer status in the New Jersey district of the Assemblies of God. The pioneer churches’ Constitution and By-Laws were read by Brother Eide and accepted. The church is to be called the Community Memorial Church (Assembly of God) of Fairton, New Jersey.

Reverend Mabel Snyder was appointed pastor and this was ratified by the church.” The total membership of Community Memorial Church as of May 1961 was sixteen members associated with twelve families. During the next months, it became evident that a permanent church should be established and the task to look for land suitable for a new church building began.

On May 10, 1962, Community Memorial Church was incorporated, which was the first stop in the process of becoming a sovereign church affiliated with the Assemblies of God. This status of a sovereign church is still in existence today.

The first recorded trustees and officers of Community Memorial Church, Inc. were Reverend Mabel Snyder, pastor; Miriam N. Sheppard, secretary; Gladys Robinson, Florence Howell, Benjamin G. Shepard, Benjamin F. Howell.

On December 4, 1963, after many months of hunting and much negotiation the general congregation of Community Memorial Church, consisting of twelve members met to vote on the purchase of a tract of land located on the Millville-Fairton Roads in Fairton, New Jersey. It was decided that the two acre plot of land owned by Evelyn C. VanMeter be purchased for the amount of $2,000. Settlement was held on February 29, 1964 at the law offices of Samuel Adler, esquire, Bridgeton, New Jersey. During the following months the Board of Trustees were challenged to make such
decisions as what type of building would be built, where the funds would come from and how large of a safety deposit box they should obtain from a bank. Through this time Sister Snyder exalted the membership to have faith. At one such meeting Miriam N. Shepard, the church secretary reported the following: “We discussed many angles pertaining to our new church, and the building of it. Sister Snyder encouraged us to make sacrifices to build God’s house. She also pledged her salary for one year, ($600.00) toward the church. She also got permission from the Board to sell more candy.”

On August 5, 1964, a special congregational meeting was held at which time the membership voted to construct a sixty-two by thirty-two foot hard wood floor, wood paneled building with a brick exterior at the approximate cost of $20,000.00. The church would borrow $15,000.00 from a local financial institution and on faith would raise an additional $3,300.00 to supplement the already existing building fund of $1,700.00. The membership which new stands at twelve people indeed made a step of faith on this date.

Another block in the foundation of Fairton Christian Center was laid on August 13, 1964, when Community Memorial Church had the ground breaking for their new building. “Reverend Lindale of Pennsville, District Presbyter, of the Assemblies of God, was the guest speaker. Sister Snyder, Reverend Lindale, the Board members and Mr. Earl Champion, the mayor of Fairton, took turns at spading the grounds.

Mayor Champion spoke, and then we placed a pail in the spaded hole. As each one desired they placed an offering in the pail. The amount of $160.83 was received. There were about twenty-two present.”

Construction progressed rapidly with the church being completed in October, 1964. The completed church cost $5,000.00 more than originally budgeted, which brought the total cost of construction to $25,000.00. On December 8, 1964, the new church building was dedicated. This building still stands today and serves as the entrance to the worship and education complex for Fairton Christian Center.

During the years that followed the church continued to minister to the needs of the local community. Sunday services were like those of many other churches with Sunday School commencing at 10:00 a.m. and the morning service starting at 11:00 a.m. and running into the early afternoon hours. Evening services, which normally started at 7:00 p.m., would sometimes end at 10:00, 11:00 or 12:00 at night. Many times after the message was delivered, the people would gather around the altar, pray, and worship the Lord for many hours thereafter.

To help supplement the tithes and offerings the church investigated other sources of revenue which included, the growing of fruit on the back potion of the church (this is the predecessor of today’s fruit sale) and the renting of space to the New England Country Day School. Additionally, Sister Snyder was known to knock on doors of local businesses for donations to further the work of God.

A chapter in Fairton Christian Center’s history was closed on Sunday, July 26, 1970, when Sister Mabel Snyder preached her farewell sermon. A remembrance gift was presented to her from the church sponsored by the Christ’s Ambassadors. Reverend Charles Estridge of Panama city, Florida assumed the position of pastor. On August 5, 1970, a congregational business meeting was held at the church where according to Miriam N. Sheppard, the church secretary, they “discussed living accommodations for the pastor who is at present a single man, but expects to be married in September. Sister Sheppard told the congregation that the Board had contacted Mr. Boss of the Fairton Trailer Park about a rental unit. He showed us a very nice one at $90.00 per month, with air conditioner,
gas and electric to be paid by tenant. This mobile home is furnished except for domestics such as bed linens, dishes, pots and pans, etc. The members have agreed to supply the needed articles.” Also at this meeting it was decided that the church name be changed to Fairton Assembly of God. During the year that Pastor Estridge ministered at Fairton Assembly of God many missionaries both domestic and foreign were sponsored. Pastor Estridge served the church for approximately thirteen months at which time he along with his new bride were called to other ministries.

In December 1971, Reverend Jerry Bilstein was appointed pastor. Reverend Bilstein who resided in Cherry Hill with his wife commuted weekly to minister to the needs of the church. During this time and for many years to come Arthur Simpkins and Walter Johnson both trustees of the church worked diligently to bring the church to greater glory for the Lord.

On November 12, 1972, a new chapter in the history of Fairton Christian Center began when the Reverend Mrs. A. Leola Scholl was to pastor the church for over four years. During this time the church saw much growth with new ministries being created such as the Royal Rangers which was headed by Woodson Moore who along with his wife, Shirley joined Fairton Assembly of God on February 10, 1975. During 1976, Sister Leola Scholl, after a brief illness went home to be with the Lord. Woodson D. Moore along with his wife Shirley were appointed to the pastorship of Fairton Assembly on March 23, 1977.

Under the guidance of its new Pastors, the church grew rapidly during the next years with many new ministries and outreach programs being implemented. On February 28, 1978, after much prayerful consideration by the Board of Trustees the congregation agreed to step out on faith and start a Christian School in the fall of 1978. Fairton Christian Center Academy saw its first year of operation with 40 students in attendance.

On March 6, 1979, at the general congregation meeting of Fairton Assembly of God and members of the district office were present to talk about the approval of a sovereign status for the church. Also at this time, the church’s name was changed to Fairton Christian Center. On March 13, 1980, the general council of the Assemblies of God officially recognized Fairton Christian Center as a local Assembly of the General Council of Assemblies of God.

As both the church and the school grew, it became apparent that the church would soon have to expand its facilities to accommodate the growth. A decision was made on October 13, 1980 to construct a multi-purpose building, which would serve the educational and spiritual needs of the church body. Various designs and concepts were reviewed until a 32,000 square foot building consisting of an auditorium, cafeteria, administrative offices, and fourteen classrooms was agreed upon.

During July 1982, the first blocks were laid in the foundation of the new building. Due to the growth in both the church and school, additional property was acquired in 1982, which consisted of a cottage with a large warehouse attached. This facility was totally renovated and converted into the school facility, which was used until the completion of the new multi-purpose building. During these years, the church again saw much growth with the Board recommending the creation of a second morning service on Sundays to accommodate the large overflow of people. As noted in Pastor Woodson D. Moore’s annual report to the congregation for the year ending 1983, many new ministries came into being. As stated by Pastor Moore, “This year just completed gave to our body a satellite ministry, the Bible School, the expanded T.V. ministry capabilities. Other new ministries raised up by the Holy Spirit would be prison ministry to Leesburg State Prison and ministry to Ancora State Hospital. Both of these ministries have seen many salvations and healings. Pastor Moore stated, “The most important message to transmit, we believe, for the year ahead, is for us as a covenant body, to walk in love, faith and unity of purpose. As we flow under the authority of the Word and Holy Spirit, we can fulfill our call to be the light of the world, and the salt of the earth.”

The church continued to move on faith during these years even though numerous obstacles were placed in their way. On many occasions, the Board of Elders had to decide to proceed with new ministries and the construction on the new building even though there was no visible means to pay the bills. God always prevailed and the funds became available.

July 1983 marked a major setback for the congregation when a sudden storm severely damaged the new building. Construction came to a standstill until May 1984 when outside consultants were hired to assist in the completion of the new structure. Promises raised the congregation’s hope that the building would be completed by October 1984. As that date neared, it became evident that these promises would not be kept. On October 23, 1984 the first general congregational service was held in the new building even though the construction was not yet complete (roof was still not on the building).

New milestones were achieved through the power of God during the next years with missionary teams being sent to Haiti, Holland and China. Other outreach ministries were started which included, a Street Ministry, a Praise Dance Ministry and a Drama Ministry. The corporate vision that the Holy Spirit laid before us was happening.

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”

1988 was a year that a major vision became a reality with the completion of the Worship and Education Center. The congregation could once again worship as one body in the new building, thus unifying the church.

The Lord blessed the congregation with ministries from anointed men of god like Dr. Howard, the president and founder of ACE, who was the guest speaker at the first commencement service held in the Worship and Education Center and Lester Sumrall, well known evangelist and teacher. Other ministries came forth meeting the needs of the people.

The Lord has continued to move by his power since the dedication of the multipurpose building in 1988. The church and its ministries have continued to grow. The ministries represented by the vision of Fairton Christian Center have been used to bless people of all ages. Fairton Christian Center will with God’s anointing move into the future in faith, hope and love until the return of our Lord Jesus.

From the humble beginning in the storefront church of 1960 to the complex, which exists today, God’s miracles are manifest not through the buildings that stand but by the lives of thousands of people who have been touched by the ministries, which exist today.

A vision was seen many years ago, but the miracle continues today.