"Our Church is what those of the past have made it. The Church of the future will be what we help make it. In difficult days such as the present we must not fail in presenting Christ in message and by example for He is the hope of man and the solution of man's problems. Grateful for the past let us be dedicated to the future."
Rev. George Lee Fish, 1969
150th Anniversary Booklet.
Chesterland Baptist Church has a rich history that currently spans 200 years! Certainly a congregation that has lasted this long has seen its share of ups and downs. Studying our history takes us through huge changes in our country and society, and CBC has consistently stayed true to God’s Word.
In 1801, the first log cabin was built in Chester, and Chillicothe Road was laid out by marking trees and cutting through bush for a yoke of oxen and a sled. In the early 1800’s, residents of Chester met together with a circuit rider preacher.
The "Baptist Church of Christ in Chester" was organized on August 4, 1819 with seven members, with five others uniting with the Church by baptism that day.
In 1831, a Sabbath School was established and it has been maintained ever since. It was called Sabbath School since early meetings were on Saturday, but it is now called Sunday School.
It was the practice of the church to hold “Covenant Meetings” every Saturday for an hour of prayer and renewal of their covenant to God and to one another. They would express their feelings of joy and sorrow and get encouragement from each other. Many times their meeting adjorned only to meet a short time later for baptism at the river. For example, on a very cold day in February 1875, the congregation went down to the River, and two members were baptized. The ice was reported to be two feet thick!
An excerpt from March 7, 1839: "Resolved that Slavery is a moral and political evil and that it is the duty of the Church to manifest their disapproval of a system that violates the Law of God and the civil and religious privileges of man. Resolved that we believe that all power is with God and that we do and even will devoutly pray for the extension of the redeemed kingdom and the rights of man and the emancipation of the Slave."
In the early years, the church met in the old log town house at Sherman and Chillicothe. In January of 1870, there was a proposal to build a new church building, and our present building was dedicated in December that same year, free of debt. At the first covenant meeting in the new building, ‘all expressed their thankfulness to God for giving us success in completing a new house for His worship. A strong desire was expressed to go to work as earnestly for the salvation of souls as we did in the erection of the new house of worship’. With a membership in 1871 of 68, a 700-pound bell was purchased, and this same bell still rings each Sunday to call our congregation to worship.
In 1873, Chesterland was reported to be "quite a village now: one hotel, two stores, one wagon shop, one blacksmith shop, one basket factory run by steam, one paint shop, two churches, a Union hall, a new brick schoolhouse."
In July 1880, Albert Turner pledged $5.00 for the building of a baptistery, and five girls were the first to be baptized there in May 1882.
From 1904 to 1915, the Congregational (now Community Church) and Baptist Churches met together for their services. In 1911, the church changed its name to "Chesterland Baptist Church".
In July 1944 a financial committee to raise funds for raising the Church and installing a full basement was formed. By July 13, 1944 the building had been raised and a basement put under the sanctuary to provide a modern furnace, more Sunday School rooms and restrooms with septic tank.
Boy Scout Troop 195, sponsored by Chesterland Baptist Church, was organized in March 1954 and has been an active troop ever since.
In 1958, the facilities for education programs and social functions had become inadequate. Ground breaking on a new brick educational and all-purpose wing including a new kitchen was made June 22, and dedication held in November. The addition had folding room-dividers to house eight Sunday School classrooms.
The sanctuary had remained almost unchanged until 1980, when sanctuary was remodeled (under the direction of noted Cleveland architect Monroe Copper) and included an addition of a new baptistry, a choir loft, new pews, an enlarged front entrance foyer, new lighting, and expanded chancel area. The remodeled sanctuary was dedicated December 14, 1980, exactly 110 years to the very day the original building was dedicated in 1870.
In 1994, a two-story addition was added to the back of the sanctuary, housing meeting/Sunday School rooms, rest room facilities, a pastor's office with a private restroom, and a covered entrance.
Chesterland Baptist Church celebrated its 175thanniversarywith the congregation and physical facilities in excellent shape. The unceasing diligence of the congregation to remodel, replace, and redecorate, gives us physical facilities which should last for many more years of service.
In 1999, our Church began worshipping with two services, one contemporary and the other traditional. In the mid 2000’s, the services were recombined into one blended service as the congregation felt it was creating a divide in the church body. We continue operating a blended service with both traditional hymns and praise music today.
Our church has had vibrant Youth Groups for over 50 years, which were usually led by either adult or parent volunteers. We employed part-time Youth Ministers from 2004 to 2010. When the couple who ran the youth ministry became parents they felt, understandably, that their efforts needed to be directed toward parenting. From 2010 – 2015, the youth group was again led by parent volunteers. Currently several of our youth are involved in the youth group at Chester Christian Center, but we look forward to the time when we can once again have a youth group. Our church has always placed an emphasis on developing a group where youth can come to feel welcomed, safe, encouraged, and grow in their faith.
The Community Outreach Team was formed after our church’s Vision Team recognized both the need in the community and the desire of our members to impact our community. They have focused on coordinating and connecting the congregation to those in need in our local community as well as in inner city Cleveland.
Recent changes to the church facilities include a new roof, installation of a memorial garden and the upgrade of the A/V equipment in the sanctuary. Improvements to the parsonage have also been made. Currently, we are in the beginning stages of a renovation of our fellowship hall.
We are proud of our history, but we understand that we cannot rest on our laurels and that ships do not sail on yesterday’s winds. God’s Church is dynamic and we must be find ways to bring God’s unyielding truth to an ever shifting world. It is our goal that the bell that sits atop our steeple continues to ring as clear today as it did 200 years ago declaring the good news of Jesus Christ!