We read in the Old Testament how God’s people set up an “Ebenezer Stone” which reminded them “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” Now is the time to look back over the last 52 years and thank God for His goodness to our church.
In August,1960, Rev. John Fickett was called by the Conservative Baptist Association of Maine, which is now known as CB Mission Northeast, to begin the work of organizing a new church in Saco. He moved into the area and began visiting and meeting with a small group of believers. On March 5, 1961, Bible Baptist Church began holding services in Saco City Hall. Morning Worship, Sunday school, and Evening Services were held there regularly.
The founding meeting was then held on April 20, 1961 in the Saco Grange Hall on North Street. At that meeting the name of the church was chosen. There were several suggestions made for the name: Faith Baptist Church, Calvary Baptist, First Baptist, Immanuel Baptist, as well as First Bible Baptist. It was finally decided that the name would be Bible Baptist Church. That day, the church also elected to be part of the CBA of Maine and New England and voted in 7 eligible members, representing 3 families.
- Pastor John E. Fickett
- Mrs. Genevieve Fickett
- Mr. Leslie Williams, Treasurer & Deacon
- Mrs. Doris Demers, Clerk
- Mrs. Elsie Williams, Deaconess
- Miss Eleanor Williams
- Miss Dorothy Williams
There were several requirements decided upon for church membership – the most important of which was evidence of a conversion experience and agreement with the church’s statement of faith and covenant. If this was completed, the person would be recommended for membership and would have to go before the membership committee which would consist of the deacons, a deaconess and the pastor. They would then be voted into membership at the next business meeting.
In May 1962, Rev. Carll Grathwohl was called by the Conservative Baptist Association of Maine to establish the work here until it became self-supporting. Within a few months, the church adopted a constitution, became a corporation, secured a permanent mailing address (P.O. Box 390, Saco, Maine), and bought a parsonage located at 74 Washington Avenue in Old Orchard Beach.
No longer able to meet in the City Hall (the ceiling was coming down), the church secured the use of the Saco Grange Hall on North Street in which to hold services.
On October 4, 1962, a building and approximately one acre of land at 146 Ferry Road was purchased from Rev. E. Benjamin Currier. The price of the land and building was $6,000.00. The building had originally been an ice cream plant and consisted of a large meeting room, approx. 40’x40’. On November 18, we began holding services in our own church building. Much of the equipment, including the communion table, was made by Pastor Grathwohl or purchased with donations from our sister Conservative Baptist churches around the state or donated by Christian friends.
June 1964 came and the ministry of the “New Church Planter” was finished. Pastor Grathwohl moved on and Bible Baptist Church was on its own. Rev. Clifford Holmes was called as our pastor and soon after, construction began on the expansion of the sanctuary. Most of the work was done by men of the church. There was a nursery annex built sometime during 1967-68.
After Rev. Holmes left in February of 1969, Pastor John Beauregard faithfully came each week to preach and teach and help carry on the work. God graciously sent Rev. Bruce Kunkle to us in July 1969. During 1968-1969 many new members were added, some by baptism and others by letters of transfer. Several young people’s groups were active at that time as well.
Pastor Kunkle felt called to return to Pennsylvania and resigned from the pastorate of our church in February 1971. Although he was with us only a short time, a bond of love was established which continued until God called him home to Himself in January 1977. Rev. Eugene Chandler accepted the call to become our next pastor in March 1971. At that time, an organ was purchased and first used on Palm Sunday that year.
Following the departure of Rev. Chandler, Pastor Beauregard once again, came to minister each week. These were difficult days for our church but God’s people prayed and worked together in order to keep the ministry going. God was faithful and He was preparing us for His choice. Pastor Grathwohl and his family returned to Saco once more in September 1972. Under his capable leadership, the church prospered and a church library was set up and the addition of Fellowship Hall was built.
In 1976, there was an opportunity to expand our property. Additional land was purchased at the rear of the church site. The new parsonage was built on the property in 1977 and the one in Old Orchard Beach was sold.
When Pastor Grathwohl left in August 1980 to become dean at New England Bible College, one of our own members served as interim pastor. Pastor and Mrs. Stanton Gavitt took over the work from September 1980 to 1981. How we thank God for these precious servants and that He had led them to us!
In June 1981, Rev. Alan McIlwaine, Eunice, Janet & Mark arrived and the parsonage became a whirlwind of activity. How we had come to love their vivacious, friendly and warm spirit! Pastor “Mac” endeared himself to us with his unselfish dedication to the work and his willingness to guide and counsel and preach and teach God’s word. Under his tutelage, five students at New England Bible College have served as Student Assistants. They are Peter Leon, Mark McIlwaine, Thomas LaVallee, Barry Judd, and Kenneth Moholland. Each of these young men had contributed much to the work here. In more recent years, we have also had Jason Vigue who served as a Student Intern Pastor under Pastor Kenneth Kirby. In 2013, one of our members, Jamie St. Ours will receive his degree in pastoral ministry from New England Bible College.
A Hammond Organ was purchased in 1985 in memory of Elizabeth Curran who served the Lord so faithfully in the music ministry and many other areas of our church before God called her home in 1983.
About this time, it was becoming very obvious that our building was not adequate and in great need of major repairs. In 1986, a building committee was formed to make recommendations to the church about a building program. A small piece of land was purchased to enlarge the parking lot and plans were drawn up for a new building. The church voted to proceed and build the foundation and the shell. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on November 13, 1988. Though there were many obstacles, God provided.
Work began in November and progressed very quickly, in part due to God’s provision of a mild winter. By the end of the year, the shell was 80% complete needing only a few finishing touches to achieve a weather tight building for the remainder of the season. Once again, the people of the church came forward and those with expertise in electrical, carpentry and painting donated their time and talents to completing “God’s house.” The plumbing and heating was done by a Christian brother in Biddeford.
The building committee decided to concentrate on finishing the lower level and meeting there while completing the sanctuary on the upper floor. November 17, 1990 was moving day. Pulpit, organ, piano, pews, Sunday School equipment, etc. were all carried out of the old building and into the basement of the new one. The following day we held the first service in our new church. It was crowded, it was noisy, and somewhat inconvenient, but at last, we were in! During the spring and summer months, two morning services were held each week with Sunday School in between the services.
The regular church ministry was carried on each week and little by little more work was done on the building. The original building was demolished, the landscaping was done, and a new front entrance was built. To make our church “handicap-accessible”, an elevator was installed. Thanks to our good friend, John Beauregard, we were able to obtain solid oak pews from Gordon College. These were later refinished and in 2008 were donated to one of our sister churches, Oakridge Bible Church in Biddeford.
Work was completed upstairs, and on September 13, 1992 the first service was held in the new sanctuary. As we stood and sang “To God Be the Glory, Great Things He Hath Done,” many of us sang through the tears. They were tears of joy and thanksgiving as we realized how God had guided and led us through the years since that humble beginning back in 1961.
The paving of the parking lot in 1993 was a great blessing to all — no more “sloshing” through the mud.
Pastor McIlwaine retired on May 24, 1997 and the search for our new pastor began. Pastor James King began his interim pastorship here the next week and stayed with us until our new pastor arrived in November. Dr. Frank Accardy answered the call in 1997 and through his very fine leadership, he motivated us to strive for more…to not be satisfied until the work of Christ is spread. During the 4 ½ years that Pastor Frank was at Bible Baptist Church, he led our congregation in our Time to Build Campaign in the spring of 1999. This campaign raised the funds to expand our building and upgrade our facilities. Phase 1 of the construction was completed in November 1999 and Phase 2 was completed in 2002. He brought the AWANA youth program to BBC and led the Leadership Team in the restructuring of the church. In the fall of 2000, Pastor led the members and friends of Bible Baptist Church in the Millennial Members Campaign. This campaign was designed to teach and encourage the participants to deepen their spiritual walk with the Lord.
With the retirement of Pastor Frank in April, 2002, a new search committee was formed and Dr. Robert Frederich came to be our interim pastor. The search did not take long and by October 1, 2002, our new pastor, Rev. Kenneth Kirby and his wife, Susan-Jane, moved from Lancaster, PA to Saco and began their ministry at Bible Baptist Church. Pastor Ken and Sue were church planters with the Conservative Baptist Association for 30+ years. Pastor Kirby also served as the Dean of Men at Columbia International University in Columbia, SC for 4 years and then as the Dean of Spiritual Formation at Lancaster Bible College. He believed that God was calling him back to a full-time pastorate and resigned his position at LBC in June, 2002. God worked in a mighty way to bring the Kirby’s to Saco and we are so thankful He did!
The ministry of Pastor Kirby was essentially centered on teaching people how to live a joyful Christian life – in light of the incredible grace of God. His message and ministry of grace were such an encouragement to this congregation. During this time our attendance averaged 210-215 people in our morning worship service. Bible Baptist Church added Jason Vigue to our staff in 2003 as a Student Intern to assist in the ministry. Jason completed his bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry at New England Bible College in May, 2005 and was called to be the full-time pastor at church in Southern Maine.
The church has purchased more land adjacent to our property in 2004 in anticipation of another building program to accommodate the growing ministries at BBC.
Pastor Ken and Sue Kirby concluded their ministry here at BBC in October, 2006. They have retired from full-time ministry and moved to be closer to their family in NJ. Rev. James Beliasov, a retired pastor, came in November 2006 to lead us though the interim period. From August 2007 through January 2008, Dr. Allen Gregory ministered at Bible Baptist Church. Upon his resignation, Rev. Beliasov returned to minister to the congregation during a new search process. God continued to work at BBC – His faithfulness was evident and His love and grace became more real to many who so faithfully continued to serve in this ministry.
On May 17, 2009, the call was extended to Pastor David Karn to serve as Senior Pastor of Bible Baptist Church effective July 12, 2009. Pastor Karn and his wife, Christine, and their 2 children, Sydney and Tyler, were a blessing to us. Dave’s ministry from the pulpit was powerful and effective. Under Pastor Dave, BBC updated its constitution and operations manual, the adult Sunday School ministry has been reformulated, and the small groups ministry has been re-launched with great vibrancy. In October, 2013 Pastor Dave accepted a calling to the pastorate of a church in North Carolina. One of our elders, Jamie St. Ours, is serving as the Interim Pastor until a new pastor is called.
The accomplishments of the past 52 years at Bible Baptist Church have not just “happened”. Our God has blessed the faithful efforts of all His servants who have done their part. It would be impossible to name every one, but God keeps very accurate records. Someday, He will reward each one for their contribution to the work here.
We look back with joy, but we must not dwell on the past. Neither can we stand still. Let us now go forward by faith, for God does not call us to be successful, He calls us to be faithful.
There is still much work to be done in Saco. Should the Lord tarry, let us go forward by faith and continue to proclaim the Word for God has promised, “My word shall not return to me void, but shall accomplish that which I please and shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
Rev. John Fickett 1961
Dr. Carll Grathwohl 1962-1964
Rev. Clifford Holmes 1964-1969
Rev. Bruce Kunkle 1969-1971
Rev. Eugene Chandler 1971-1972
Dr. Carll Grathwohl 1972-1980
Rev. Alan McIlwaine 1981-1997
Dr. Frank Accardy 1997-2002
Rev. Kenneth Kirby 2002-2006
Rev. Allen Gregory 2007-2008
Rev. David Karn 2009 – October, 2013