Central Baptist Church History
Pastor Jim Townsley and his wife Janet arrived in Southington, Connecticut in the spring of 1975 to begin a fundamental, Bible-believing, Baptist church. After locating a place to live, they began many long hours of door-to-door visitation, contacting hundreds of people in their first few weeks. Although relatively few Christian families were in this small town, Pastor Townsley invited those he did meet to attend the first service.
On May 25th, 1975, Central Baptist Church met for the first time in the Knights of Columbus Hall. Mr. Michael Rossi, the Town Council Chairman, welcomed the sixty-nine people who were in attendance.
Moving to Holcolm School after one month, the church attendance improved greatly. On July 27, 1975, twenty-seven people signed the charter of the new church, indicating their desire to become a permanent body of believers in the town of Southington. At this time "Old Blue", a used school bus, was purchased to provide bus transportation for many who would not have been able to come otherwise.
This growing, active church was also a very mobile church. In December of 1975, services were moved to the small chapel of the First Congregational Church. Bus transportation, teen activities, and the desire of many to know Christ as their personal Savior caused the congregation to quickly outgrow this meeting place, as well. On March 21, 1976, services were moved to the main sanctuary to accommodate the growing congregation of believers. In one short year, Central Baptist Church was awarded a banner for the "state's fastest growing church"; three hundred one people attended the first anniversary service on May 25, 1976.
Once again, it became necessary for the church to change its meeting place. The William Strong School in the Milldale section of town served to house the dedicated people starting in June of 1976. In the summer of 1977, the church began several bus routes to bring in teenagers and added Hyles-Anderson graduate Ron Shirley to the pastoral staff to be in charge of the youth ministry.
The frequent necessity of moving prompted Pastor Townsley and the men of the church to look into purchasing property for a permanent church home. In May of 1977, sacrificial giving and the commitment of God's people made possible the acquisition of the old Gibbs Wire and Steel plant at 1505 West Street. This large building needed extensive renovations; God faithfully provided the necessary money and manpower so that the pastor, his wife, and their new son David were able to move into one of the apartments above the church. The other apartment was also completed and used for various purposes, including a prophet's chamber and housing for the pastoral staff.
Although the spaciousness and central location of this building was an answer to prayer, one major problem was the lack of sanitary drinking water; the well was contaminated with trichlorethylene and was unfit to drink. The pastor carried water in for many months while he and the people prayed that a solution would be found. God answered that prayer when the town installed city water on West Street. Building, renovations, and improvements continued for the next ten years.
In the late 1970's, the need for a Christian summer camp for the young people prompted Pastor to begin the New England Baptist Fellowship Camp. Forty campers came to Oak Ridge Camp site in Haddam for the first year with many lasting decisions made for Christ. The camp continued until the Academy began in 1984.
In January of 1984, Pastor Dave Lanquist, a graduate of Pillsbury Baptist College, returned to Southington, his hometown. He and his new bride Paula were seeking God's will for their lives. At the same time, Central was seeking for someone to work with the church's teens, Ron Shirley having previously left for Texas. God generously answered both prayers when Pastor Dave became the new youth pastor.
A new and ambitious outreach was begun in May, 1984, when the congregation voted to start a Christian school. In three short months, Pastor Townsley and the church members replaced windows, moved walls, and made classrooms to accommodate the students in grades K through 12 who would attend Central Christian Academy. On August 25, 1984, the school opened with ninety-five students, and on May 17, 1985, the first graduating class of six walked down the aisle.
Eleven years had passed; God had abundantly blessed Central Baptist Church with hundreds of salvation decisions. Several of the young people had gone to Bible college, and six men had been ordained in the church. All six of these men were serving in various ministries, most of them as pastors. Many of the people were becoming aware of the need for a new building. In May of 1986, a twenty-four hour prayer meeting laid the foundation for the Capital Stewardship Program, involving the entire congregation, which would raise the funds for the new church building. Many families spent time in prayer asking God to show them what part they should play in the building program.
On May 11, 1986, the ground breaking for the new church building followed the morning service. Mr. Angelo Fusco, the State Representative, was present to take part in the ceremony. Preliminary site work and the pouring of the foundation preceded the actual construction, which began in October, and continued through the winter months. Many of the church people were involved in the building. As the time appointed for the first service approached, Pastor Townsley and many others worked around the clock to complete the building on time. On March 22, 1987, God was glorified as the church held her first service in the new auditorium with some making decisions for salvation and with four hundred one people in attendance, including many who had been at the very first service in 1975.
In 1989, God led Pastor Dave Lanquist to become the pastor of Feeding Hills Baptist Church in Massachusetts. Consequently, Alan David (once a member of Central's youth group) came to fill the youth pastor's position. He and his wife Jeannette were both graduates of Tennessee Temple University. Pastor David served here until 1992 when he and his wife felt the Lord leading them to Missouri.
During the winter of 1990, God directed Pastor Townsley to focus more attention on worldwide missions and to hold an annual missions conference each fall. God also impressed upon him the importance of making the conference the major event of the year, a very special occasion. In October 1991, Central Baptist Church held its first missions conference with twenty missionary families and the theme "Send the Light". The conference, a great blessing to the church family, enabled the church to double its missions giving that year, and to increase it in subsequent years.
David Crichton, a 1992 graduate of Tennessee Temple University, arrived to serve as youth pastor after Pastor David left. At the same time, his wife Cindy, also a Tennessee Temple University graduate, became the church secretary until the birth of their first child. Pastor Dave was from Johnston, Rhode Island, where his father pastored the Greater Rhode Island Baptist Temple since its beginning in 1975. Cindy was saved at Central as a teenager and had been a member since 1982.
By the fall of 1992, growth in the Academy necessitated the building of additional classrooms and a gymnasium. The groundbreaking was held in May, 1992, and the facility was completed in December, 1993.
God led the church to undertake one of her greatest challenges in 1994. New England School of the Bible opened her doors under the direction of Dr. Bob Elzey. The night college offered a three-year degree in Bible. Under the direction of Dr. Robert McKeever, who came in January of 1997, the student body and the curriculum have both grown. The school now offers a four-year Bible degree.
The church continued to expand and bought additional property (14 acres) in 1996 and another acre in 1997. The church opened Central Books, a Christian bookstore, in a former photography studio on the last acre of property purchased. Also in 1997, a new staff member was added, Joe McCoy and his wife Sarah, from Knoxville, Tennessee. Pastor McCoy became the Youth Pastor, and Pastor Crichton was appointed as the Assistant Pastor.
In May of 1999, New England School of the Bible held its first commencement exercises, graduating nine. In August, two new staff members, David Townsley (Pastor's oldest son) and Jonathan Marshall, joined the ministry. David became the Music Pastor of the church, leader of the senior adult ministries, and music teacher for the Academy. John oversaw the buildings and grounds and directed the church orchestra.
In 2000, John and his wife Jessica moved to Florida. In June, Pastor David married Annette Johnson, a PCC graduate and MK from Africa who had come to teach in the Academy in 1999. In the summer of 2001, Jonathan Townsley came to serve as the youth pastor. Jon and his wife Tracy were both graduates of Crown College.
In 2002, the Lord began working in Pastor Townsley's heart about starting a resident Bible college as a ministry of Central Baptist Church. In May 2003, the church voted to go ahead with a feasibility study of the property to see if it would even be possible for a college to be built upon the property the church had acquired. The results came back that it would be possible to build a college able to hold up to 800 dorm students. The church then voted in September, 2003 to start New England Baptist College and to build a 2 million dollar dormitory.
David and Sharon Blaser were hired in the fall of 2003. Dr. David Blaser had been pastoring a church in Texas, but upon learning of New England Baptist College he felt the Lord lead him to resign his church in Texas and to come direct the college. Dr. Blaser became the Executive Vice President of the college. David Townsley produced a DVD to promote the new college. The church closed and renovated the bookstore to become the new administrative offices for New England Baptist College. On October 26, 2003, the church held the ground-breaking for the new dormitory, Founder's Hall. In the summer of 2004, David Townsley trained a singing group that traveled with Dr. and Mrs. Blaser spreading the news about NEBC to churches all over the Northeast. Since the college would need a kitchen and dining hall, CCA underwent an extensive remodeling project that produced a new foyer, school offices, classroom, a larger Fellowship Hall, and a commercial kitchen.
Early in the summer of 2004, Doug Sanford came to fill the maintenance position that had been vacant since John Marshall left in 2000. In June of 2004, Assistant Pastor Dave Crichton, his wife Cindy, and their four children left to start Lakeside Baptist Church in Peoria, Arizona. For some time, Pastor Barry J. Brown from White Oak Baptist Church in Stratford, Connecticut had felt the Lord leading him to become involved full-time with a Bible college. After resigning from White Oak, he and his wife Lynn came to Central. Pastor Brown became the Assistant Pastor of the church and Academic Dean for the college, as well as the college food service director. The last inspection of the new dormitory was completed the morning the students arrived on September 7, 2004. New England Baptist College opened with 23 students enrolled. At the start of the college, after one month of classes, Pastor Townsley had developed a voice disorder that prevented him from preaching and speaking. Later it was learned that this disorder, Spasmodic Dysphonia, was considered incurable by the medical profession. After three years of prayer and seeking help, Pastor Townsley’s voice returned and he again began preaching and speaking normally. During the trial of affliction, God led Pastor Townsley to write books: Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt; Search Me O God; What Shall I Do Lord and one on the family, A Heart for the Home.
During the summer of 2005, a singing group made up of girls from the college visited churches with Dr. and Mrs. Blaser. In the fall of 2005, the college began its second year with 46 students enrolled. The College continued to grow each year and by 2008, the dormitory was filled.
Central Baptist Church has remained involved in church planting and in March of 2008, Pastor Townsley’s son-in-law Barney and oldest daughter Elizabeth started a new Baptist church in Loudon County Virginia in 2008 with 131 people attending the first service. with immediate plans to start a new church in the Fall of 2008 in Glastonbury, CT.
The first four-year class of eighteen graduates completed their schooling entirely at NEBC in May of 2008. With the college dorm available, Central Baptist Church has been able to host campers for Basketball, Volleyball, Soccer, and Music Camps during the summers.
In July of 2009, Michael Winningham joined the church staff as Music Director. He and his wife Danielle also teach in the college and the academy. They both graduated from Pensacola Christian College.
With the help of Pastor Ron Scott from Trinity Baptist Church, in Flushing, Michigan, Central Baptist Church held it’s first Youth Fest on Columbus Day, 2009. It is a huge event geared toward winning lost teenagers. Approximately 700 attended the first Youth Fest and continues to draw hundreds every year. Using both familiar and innovative games, the annual event has brought many young people to Christ through godly, inspirational, exciting speakers and dedicated counselors.
2010 the April Bible Conference brought another annual event: a Church Planting Conference which emphasizes the need for church planting in New England. New England Church Planters are given a chance to present their ministries to area pastors in order to gain support to start more churches in New England. Cory Stickles joined the church staff as Youth Pastor in 2010 and also taught in the school and the college while ministering to Central Baptist Church’s youth. He served in many capacities including soccer and basketball coach and he ran the Youth Fest amongst other events throughout the year until 2013 when he left to serve the Lord as an Assistant Pastor down south.
Pastor Townsley’s oldest son, David who worked on Central Baptist Church ‘s staff for 10 years started Riverside Baptist Church in Terryville, Connecticut in 2010 where he remains as its pastor. His next son Jonathan also worked on staff for 10 years and now is the principal of a Christian school in Florida.
In 2011, Central Baptist Church’s theme was “A Time of Prayer” and had a week long of prayer before the Fall Revival. The theme continued through 2012 with many great sermons emphasizing prayer.
In 2012, Pastor Townsley’s youngest daughter Sarah and her husband Paul, missionaries to Japan with BIMI left for the field.
Central Baptist Church’s theme for 2013 is “Make Him Known Unto All Nations” emphasizing the need for reaching the lost.
Central Baptist Church has started 15 churches and hopes to continue to start more churches in the future.