Faith United Church of Christ began as a mission church of the Evangelical and Reformed Synod in the late 1950’s, in order to reach out to the families who moved out of Buffalo and into the suburb of Amherst to raise their children. Northern Amherst changed from farm land to a residential community and this growing community required schools, libraries, recreational facilities and churches. Residents, Mrs. Robert Goehle, Mildred Fischle and Mrs. Blanche Dudley had written the President of the Western New York Synod expressing their desire for a church of this denomination to be built in northern Amherst. In the hopes that a church would be built on her land on Hopkins and Maple Roads, Sally Abt deeded this land to the W.N.Y. Association of the Evangelical and Reformed Synod on June 18, 1954.
The Board of National Missions called Rev. Marvin Englesdorfer of Wabash, Indiana to be the organizing pastor of the new church. Rev. Englesdorfer arrived early in 1959 and began an extensive survey of the area, and invited 12 people to attend a meeting on May 27, 1959 at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Daniel Dudley. The first worship service was held on June 7th at the home of Jane and Harry McCulloch on Clearfield Drive and a plan for establishing a new congregation was initiated.
A parsonage at 1210 Maple Road was completed on July 1,1959, for Rev. Englesdorfer and his family. Dr. Julius Kuck , the president of the W.N.Y. Synod officiated at the dedication on July 12th and the first of many services was held in the basement.
Sunday School classes were held in the upstairs rooms, including the kitchen. Young families of middle income were drawn to a place where Christian values were taught and fellowship was available for those whose relatives lived out of state. By the end of that year attendance had doubled to 32 adults and 30 children. Space and sound issues necessitated the moving of the class for 2-3 year olds to the unfinished family room in the home of Bob and Virginia Hastings on Hopkins Road.
A women’s guild, youth fellowship and a confirmation class were already actively involved in the work of the church. Meanwhile the men were busy finding the necessary furnishings and materials for services and the educational programs. Chairs, tables and hymnals were donated by other churches. An altar was created by covering an old desk and hanging a green drape as background and a choir of 4 voices was organized.
In 1960, the congregation adopted a constitution and a governing council elected Dr. Dudley as the first president. Shortly after the Maple-Hopkins Community Church chose the name Faith United Church of Christ as an expression of their faith in God and that their Christian faith was the foundation of their lives. On Sunday, June 12th seventy-nine members signed the official charter and Rev. Englesdorfer was installed as the first pastor on October 16, 1960.
Membership continued to grow and the pastor’s family moved into a rental home to better accommodate their needs and make additional room for classes. The architectural firm of Kideney, Smith and Fitzgerald worked with a building committee to develop a three phase plan for construction of a permanent space to house the congregation. Phase 1 consisted of a multi-purpose room to be used as a sanctuary and social hall with adjacent rooms for a kitchen, office, furnace and storage space. An educational wing with 4 classrooms and restrooms completed the project. Phase 2 added a church parlor and additional classrooms. A formal sanctuary with administrative offices was designated as phase 3.
Construction on phase 1 began with a ground-breaking ceremony on June 5, 1962. The estimated cost was $110,552. A Buffalo Evening News article entitled “A 50 Year Dream Comes True as Church Rises on an Old Farm” told of the Abt family’s desire to see a church built on their property.
On December 9, 1962, led by a person carrying the altar cross, the members of the congregation and Sunday School carried hymnals, candle holders and other materials from the parsonage to the new building where the first service was held. Adult membership had increased from 16 in 1959 to 170 in 1964. In 1962 the children out-numbered the adults.
Rev. Englesdorfer resigned his position in 1967 but will always be remembered for his diligent work in canvassing the sparsely populated area for potential members and bringing them together to form a new congregation. His excellent organizational skills and leadership enabled the mostly young families to come together for worship, fellowship and sharing in the years before the community offered recreational activities. Faith Church became the center of these families lives and a home for the many transient families that moved in and out of the area.
Rev. Kenneth Kolbe, a Buffalo native, began his official ministry at Faith Church on August 1, 1968. The church was blessed with his ministry for 29 years. He was known for his innovative worship services in the building known as the “church with-out pews”. His art exhibits, colorful banners with seasonal and apostolic themes, as well as his puppet “Chester the church mouse” were products of his gifted artistic skills. His banner, “Lo, the Dead is Living” was selected to appear on the nationally distributed United Church of Christ Sunday Bulletins.
Under Rev. Kolbe’s leadership, the contemporary contata “Jonah-Mann Jazz” and excerpts from the musical “Jesus Christ Super Star” were performed at Faith. In 1974 he lead Faith in an ambitious North Amherst Ministry sponsored production of Benjamin Britton’s “Noyes Fludde”. Youngsters from Faith, with others, portrayed the ark animals, wearing head dresses designed and made by Ken. Several choir members had singing roles in this enthusiastic community adventure.
Ken introduced the congregation to healing services and more contemporary hymns. He encouraged the congregation to share Holy Communion twice each month and introduced the congregation to the inspirational singing of “The Lord’s Prayer”.
By the 1980’s and 1990’s, movement from the city to the suburbs was the norm and a shift of the economic center followed. The University of Buffalo, community colleges and shopping centers brought people to the area. The people of Faith still held the dream of having a formal sanctuary for worship and three studies of congregational needs were initiated in the 1980’s. By the end of the decade a decision was made to enter into a building program. Tommaso Briatico, architect, and Patrick Development Corporation worked with the building committee to design a sanctuary and adjacent rooms. A three year capital fund raising campaign, “Faith for the Future” began with a goal of $350,000 to be raised by June, 1997. Through the theme “not equal giving, but equal sacrifice” $363,503 was raised. Construction of the sanctuary, narthex, sacristy and meeting room was completed in September of 1997. It was a bittersweet moment for the congregation sharing the joy of a realized dream but losing Rev. Kolbe to retirement in June, 1997. Rev. Kolbe stayed on as a member of the congregation and was given the designation of pastor emeritus.
Rev. Randall Forester received his call on October 11, 1998 and began his ministry in January, 1999. Randall is remembered for his boundless energy, enthusiasm and sermon dramatizations of biblical passages. Pastor Randall was always there when needed at the hospital, nursing home or in his office. He worked with the youth of the church and coached girls soccer teams. His cowboy hat and boots were his signature, and he even wore his boots under his ecclesiastical robes. His biblical knowledge and intellectual skills enriched the souls of those he taught. Many young families were attracted to the church and the average attendance at worship was 150 with 90 children registered for Sunday School. Faith celebrated it’s 40th anniversary with the three ministers who served the congregation, in attendance. Pastor Randall led the congregation in continuing spiritual growth and service to the community until he resigned his position in 2003.
Pastor David Martin was called on January 22, 2006. His worship services were innovative and inspirational. He fostered interest in outreach programs, such as Habitat for Humanity and the food shelf program. His puppet ministry, challenging book studies and support for a stronger youth program led the congregation down new paths of service to the community. Rev Martin resigned in January of 2015 to pursue other career opportunities
Fifty years ago the mostly young families that founded and supported the development and growth of Faith Church, sought to be a spiritually nurturing place for those living in the rapidly developing town of Williamsville. The desire for spiritual growth, Christian fellowship and a need to serve others has given this congregation an identity as an open, friendly, caring and welcoming congregation.
Faith Church is optimistic regarding its future. We value our family-centered ministry with an emphasis on Christian Education, youth activities, adult bible and book studies, outreach programs, evangelism and fellowship. Led by a strong group of lay leaders, we hope to offer expanded ministries in the future.