RANDOLPH TWP.: The congregation at Friendship Bible Church is laying a firm foundation for its quaint colonial church building — literally.
“When we began the construction project to put in new bathrooms and give people better access to the building, we discovered that the church was standing on an old sandstone foundation,” said the Rev. Phil Ross, pastor emeritus. “It’s amazing that there have been no structural problems in all these years, but now we’re bringing it up to speed by pouring an ICF [insulated concrete form] foundation.”
The new foundation is part of phase two of a three–phase construction and renovation project that the congregation has committed to completing debt-free. The estimated cost of the project is $700,000.
Phase one, the remodeling of the sanctuary, has been completed. The freshly painted auditorium includes new carpeting, a new ceiling and ceiling fans, new lighting and a remodeled platform. The audio/video system has been upgraded; the more than 150-year-old wooden pews have been replaced with cushioned chairs; and the old gas chandelier situated at the center of the sanctuary is now electric.
Phase two, which is now in progress, includes the pouring of the new foundation, construction of new ADA compliance bathrooms and offices, expansion of the foyer area and the installation of an elevator.
Phase three will be the construction of a multipurpose and education wing.
The church, located at 1703 state Route 44 (just north of state Route 224), was built in the center of the township in 1860.
The goal of the congregation is to maintain its architectural integrity during the expansion and renovation project.
“It’s kind of been a landmark in Randolph and we want it to continue to look like a 1860s church,” Ross said. “We’re a community church and although we’re experiencing some growth, our intention is to remain a community church.”
The small church congregation has grown from about a dozen worshippers in 2006 to more than 100 today. The Rev. Bill Johnson, who has served as pastor of the church for about eight years, gives God the credit for bringing a diverse group of people to the church.
“We have just tried to be faithful to teaching the Bible. All the glory goes to the Lord,” said Johnson, who grew up in the church. “The church name truly reflects what it has become — a very friendly group of people who welcome and embrace everyone who comes through the door.”
The church traces its beginning to 1828, when a group from the Randolph Baptist Church organized to form the Disciples Church. The congregation, fostered by a Disciples church in Deerfield, later became the mother church to congregations in Mogadore, New Baltimore, Suffield and Rootstown.
The Randolph congregation experienced a split over the issue of slavery in 1845, after the official declaration that the church was “not to fellowship with slaveholders or apologists,” according to church records.
Throughout its history, the church name changed from the Disciples Church to Randolph Christian Church to Randolph Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
In 2009, the congregation voted unanimously to disassociate from the Disciples of Christ denomination and reorganize as an independent, evangelical church called Friendship Bible Church.
“The building is old but we have been blessed to bring it up to date, structurally and with technology,” Ross said. “But what’s most important is that we are a family committed to the word of God and committed to loving each other.”
During the construction phase, which is expected to be completed this fall, the congregation is worshipping at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays at the Randolph Town Hall, 3636 Waterloo Road.
For more information, go to www.friendshipbiblechurch.org or call 330-325-7836.