On the 19th day of September, 1809 the Holy Spirit inspired eight women and four men to meet in the school house in Batavia and they had a great vision.  There were only twelve of them, but they listened to God’s voice speaking to them and believed that they were enough to start a new church community in Batavia.  It was the first church in this area.  The church was poor in material resources and had a very hard time maintaining a public worship.  For fifteen years the members had no regular place for worship.  They met in barns, private homes, school houses, and even in the Court House. But through their faith and perseverance, their work was rewarded when the Holland Land Company made a free gift to the church of 81 acres of land so that they may build a church. Their vision was the seed for a great church which God continued to grow in love and faithfulness.  Our current church building on the corner of Main and Liberty was built in 1855.

We give thanks for the long history of our church in Batavia because we are a community of faith that has had our roots deeply rooted in God’s presence for over 200 years.  Through its history our church has been a place of transformation, moving people from being spiritual tourists to being true disciples who are committed to service and love.  We are inspired and awed by the many stories of mission and service that God has inspired through our congregation.  Here are a few highlights:

Caring for Orphaned Children: In 1919, God spoke and of one of the study classes of the church listened, establishing the Children’s Home Association as a shelter for children without parents or without suitable homes.  They rented a house at 19 Bank Street, and in November of 1919 there were three children living there. A Christmas party was planned to celebrate the children’s first Christmas together.  In March of 1921, the association bought the Farrall property at 434 East Main Street.  That year there had been forty-four children. Six years later, another house at 311 Main Street was bought for the same purpose.  That ministry continued until 1967 with hundreds of children’s lives being transformed through the love and warmth of people of faith.

Welcoming the Stranger: In 1978, God spoke to the people of First Presbyterian Church of Batavia about the needs of the Vietnamese people after the war.  They listened and the session voted to care for a Vietnamese family who were in the Philippines, awaiting a “sponsor” to help them start a new life in this country.  The Truong family was warmly greeted by 25 members of the church on February 1, 1978.  The church sponsored this family of an uncle, two parents and four children.  This was an incredible gift of love to a family who for five days and nights in September of the previous year were packed into a small boat with 56 other people.  They had walked several miles in the night with the children’s mouths taped to avoid alerting the enemy, to the shore where the boats awaited.  In Manila, this family lived with 13 other people in a room about 12’x15’.  Rice and potatoes were the only fare.  The father was dying of malnutrition because he gave most of his rations to the children.  He had spent two years in prison simply because he was a priest.  The church opened their hearts and gave of their resource to help this family which resulted in a great future for all of them.

Bringing Healing: In 2003, a tragedy struck one of our church families.  Emily Holt, who was a senior in high school and the daughter of Maureen Adams, died suddenly of cardiac arrest.  It was a tragic loss for Maureen and her family.  The loss which Maureen experienced was and is beyond any consolation. But God spoke to the members of our church to help keep the memory of Emily Holt alive among us. In 2004, the deacons of the church listened and established a scholarship fund for graduating high school students.  They work hard every year to raise funds to give as a gift to youth who live in the example of Emily’s life and faith.  Through the love of the deacons, Emily’s life will always be a gift of inspiration and faith for this church and its young people.

Supporting the Poor and Disadvantaged:  In 2003, God spoke to our congregation through two women who shared an idea with each other about a potential mission.  Ann Emmans talked to her dear friend Beth Stich about supporting fair trade in a local way here in Batavia.  Out of that conversation, the Holy Spirit spoke to Ann, Beth, and many in our congregation and community to develop the World Wide Christmas Fair which has become an annual event in our church.  Each year  we have vendors from Batavia and Rochester who follow fair trade practices by partnering with artisans in developing countries, helping them build better lives for their families and communities.  The idea is simple but powerful.  We provide the venue for these vendors to sell the goods at fair prices to help the workers get fair wages for their work.  We also have local not-for-profit groups who are supporting their organizations by selling gift items.  We have members of our congregation with home businesses who sell their merchandise at the fair, donating the proceeds from sales made that day to a charity of their choice.  Presbyterian Women provide a delicious lunch and our youth sell baked goods – both groups using the funds raised to support a mission of their choice.  And we provide the community with the opportunity to purchase quality, hand-crafted gifts at a reasonable cost.  This takes many hours of planning and over 50 volunteers to put this effort together.  All of this is done to help empower people who have good skills but need fair wages.  All of this is done because God spoke and people listened.

Loving the World:  In 2007, through the ministry of Rev. Bob Kaiser God spoke to our congregation about the work of Randall Shea in a small village in Guatemala.  The congregation eagerly listened and supported this ministry of education for children who would otherwise have no such opportunity.  We have raised money since 2007 to buy a refrigerator to keep antibiotics to treat illness in a timely manner, to support academic scholarships for individual students attending high school, and also to help with school instruction, library and to pay a portion of a teacher’s salary.  In the summer of 2013, a group from our church visit Guatemala to enhance our connection with the people there and to learn about their experiences, joys, and struggles.  This mission connection has helped expand our world and our outreach in the love of Christ to the community.

Our history speaks of God’s love story unfolding in and through us because ordinary people have followed the extraordinary vision and path of Christ.  God’s story is continuing to be told through us and we pray always to be faithful to that call in Western New York and beyond.