THE HISTORY OF FIRST CHURCH OF GOD OF ROCHESTER, NEW YORK

The FIRST CHURCH OF GOD OF ROCHESTER had it’s beginning on Favor Street about the year 1922 in the home of Rev. Lewis Johnson, the “First” Pastor. They worshipped at his home for two years. The Assistant Pastor, Rev. L. J. Miller became Pastor and moved the Worshippers to his home on Hudson Avenue, here they remained for two and ½ years. They later moved into a storefront on Ormond Street. Here they remained for four years. The storefront was sold, and the Worshippers were forced to move into a second storefront on Ormond Street. Rev. Blake was called to Pastor, with Rev. Cobbs as Assistant Pastor. The two worked together for five years forming an interracial congregation. Circumstances forced the Worshippers to move again to another location, still on Ormond Street near Kelly. They remained at this spot for four and ½ years under the leadership of Rev. Downer. The Rev. Ottie L. Cook was called and accepted the Pastorate in 1940. At this time they remained on Ormond and Kelly Streets for approximately one year. Rev. Cook moved the Church from Ormond Street to Clarissa Street. She was able to persuade the Members to purchase a large house in 1941 at 408 Clarissa Street. The interior was remodeled into a SANCTUARY with living quarters in the rear. The dedication took place in 1942. The mortgage was completely liquidated in 1943.* The Church had grown to 38 active members, with about 48 enrolled in Sunday School. Rev. Cook served as Pastor to both our Rochester Church and the Caledonia Church, until her death in 1950. Rev. J. C. Williams succeeded her and served the Church until 1951. Rev. Harold Mars was called in 1951. He was not only a Minister, but also an excellent carpenter. He immediately undertook the Pastorate. He also redesigned the church into a design featuring a Church structure. Now it was very visible that a Church was at 408 Clarissa Street. He also did interior work, such as enlarge the Sanctuary, the kitchen was moved upstairs, ladies, men’s and choir rooms were installed on the first floor and the basement. This instilled the members and Pastor with a great sense of humble pride in accomplishment! The Fellowship grew from 38 active families to 60, with approximately 75 in Sunday School in 1962. The Sanctuary could now seat approximately 100 people. A very up-to-date apartment was on the upper level, which served as the home for Rev. Mars, his wife and four children. Due to ill health, Rev. Mars moved back to his home in Kenyon, Rhode Island in 1962. Rev. Amos Alexander and Rev. Willie Drayton, both Associate Pastors under Rev. Mars, served as Interim Pastors until Rev. Herbert C. Shankle was called to take over the Pastorate. Rev. Shankle began his Pastorate in May of 1963 – by this time, the Pastor and Members felt the need for a larger Church.

Through the relentless efforts of the Pastor, a site was secured for building a new edifice. He inspired the Church to undertake the project. At this point, the “fundraising” began. Rev. Allen Turner, an Assistant to Rev. Shankle served as Chairman of the Building Fund Committee. Over the years, various Members and Groups sponsored projects – Members paid “sacrificial pledges” and even “Friends” gave “donations” – all for the purpose of financing the construction for the NEW CHURCH BUILDING. Rev. Shankle resigned as Pastor prior to the completion of the new Church building in 1972. At this time, without a Pastor, they re-called Rev. Mars to see if he would consider returning to Rochester. Thanks to God, he did consider the pleas of the Membership and returned to assume his Pastorate in 1973. Rev. Mars and the Members “dedicated themselves” to the completion of the NEW CHURCH and “the work” was accomplished on July 8, 1973. On this date, the NEW BUILDING located at 334 Clarissa Street was dedicated to the Glory of God! Rev. Mars remained as Pastor of First Church for six years. This, his second Pastorate, brought his total years of servitude to 17 as Pastor and “Friend” of all First Church. Rev. Mars recommended to the Membership that the Pastorate be taken over by his Associate Pastor, Willie Drayton. The Assembly voted and Rev.Drayton became Pastor in 1979. Under his leadership, God did many great things; the Church grew in numbers. He envisioned the day when the entire Church Body would flourish spiritually. In 1987, Rev. Drayton expressed that he had taken the Church as far as God had led him to take them. He received a “calling” to go to another Church, a “Sister-Church” in Buffalo, New York – High Street Tabernacle Church of God, where he served from 1987 through his retirement. We had another brief interim when the Rochester Church was without a Pastor. Rev. Harold Mars was called up, yet again, to serve as Interim Pastor and he complied until June of 1988, when he and the Church voted Associate Pastor, Rev. Dr. Dwight Fowler, to the Office of Interim Senior Pastor. 

Rev. Fowler served as Interim Senior Pastor for about 6 months, after which he was voted in as Permanent Pastor. Under Pastor Fowler’s leadership many Ministries have been developed, including our Prayer Band, Youth Ministry, Youth Choir, and a Board of Spiritual Advisors/Elders (to assist the Pastor in the work of the Ministry). Other Ministries have been enhanced: Doctrinal Class, New Converts Class and Christian Dating Class. In 1990, Pastor Fowler started two new Ministries: A Home Fellowship Group and Welcome to the Family of God Class (taught by Rev. Fowler). Since 1990, under Pastor Fowler’s leadership, other Ministries that have developed are: Tutoring Program Friday Night Hour of Prayer New Converts Class Seniors Ministry Pastor’s Adult Growth Class Revived Women’s Ministry Prison Ministry Soul Winning Ministry 

* Under Pastor Fowler’s leadership, the existing mortgage for the First Church of God of Rochester was completely liquidated in 1996!