Mid to Late 19th Century
In the 1850s, several Christian families from the Alford community sensed a need to start a church. Over the following years, these believers met in the local schoolhouse. By the later part of the 19th century, the church in Alford recognized the need to officially establish and construct a church building. During the course of one year—1896—a new building was constructed. This is the same building that the church meets in today. At the time, the church was officially named Alford Methodist Episcopal Church.
Early 20th Century
During the late 1800s—and over the coming years—the pulpit was primarily filled by circuit preachers who ministered at several rural churches in the Susquehanna County. In the year 1912, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad was relocated from the east to the west side of the valley. The church of Alford was moved from its original location to its present location across the street. The railroad company built the new foundation and moved the church free of charge.
Mid 20th Century
Through the 1950s and 1960s, the church in Alford was pastored by student pastors from Davis College (formerly Practical Bible Training School) in Johnson City, New York. Sometime between 1953 and 1957, the name of the church changed from Alford Methodist Episcopal Church to Alford Community Church. In 1967 Roger Blanchard began preaching exclusively each Sunday while he attended seminary at Practical Bible Training School. After graduation in June of 1970, he accepted the call to become the full-time pastor at what was now known as Calvary Baptist Church of Alford (the name being changed in June of 1969). A mobile home was installed on the church lot for the new pastor and his wife, Nancy, and a study built in the basement. The church family grew and many of the neighborhood families became members of the church. The church had a thriving Sunday school, along with morning worship services and youth group followed by evening service on Sunday night, along with a well-attended Wednesday night prayer meeting. During this time, indoor steps to the basement and an indoor restroom were added to the building, replacing the old outhouse. The pot belly wood stove was removed and an oil furnace was installed by the men of the church. A Ladies Circle met one day a month to work on projects inside the church, fix sunshine baskets for people in the community and have devotions and a prayer time. In 1974 Pastor Blanchard accepted a call to an evangelistic ministry in Michigan and left the pulpit at Alford.
Late 20th Century to 21st Century
Pastor Walter Sears filled the pulpit from February 1975 through October of that year, at which time Pastor Collins was asked if he would be interested in preaching at Alford. Pastor Collins was with the church until May 1976. The church was then open and closed at times until December of 1977 when Pastor Walter Sears was called back again to Alford—holding his first service on December 18, 1977. He faithfully pastored the church for 37 years until his death in December of 2014. During his time at Alford, the church basement was used for a Christian school during the late 1970s and 1980s. Sunday school and morning worship were held on Sundays along with a Wednesday evening prayer meeting.
The attendance at the church grew as new members were added, then as the years passed, attendance declined as members moved on to other larger churches in the area. As is the case with other small country churches in the area, it often seems that the ideal of a small church community is dying out. Nearly gone is the idea of a ‘little flock’ of believers meeting in a small church building for worship and fellowship and reaching unbelievers for the cause of Christ in and around their own neighborhoods. In keeping the heritage and legacy of the Alford church, after the passing of Pastor Walter Sears, we as a church family prayed and asked the Lord to show us what should happen to this little country church. We asked if it were His will for the church doors to remain open or closed.
Our ‘little flock,’ though few in number, continued to meet each Sunday. We had no piano music so CD hymn music was purchased. We reached out and contacted our former pastor Roger Blanchard (who now pastors Lakeland Baptist Church in Lake Villa, Illinois). He was more than happy to help us through this period of loss of our pastor. He sent master copies of messages he had preached recently and through the years. Through email he graciously and lovingly advised us on what we should do and look for in getting someone to fill the pulpit. He checked out Summit University (formerly Baptist Bible College & Seminary) in Clarks Summit, PA, and told us that—in his own words—‘they are teaching the Bible there!’ Most importantly, he and his church prayed along with us that we would be sent a man of God to preach, teach and lead—a man of God’s own choosing and not our own.
We posted the opening on the Summit University website and continued to pray. In March 2015, God brought to us Jared August (a Baptist Bible Seminary student) and his wife Allie (who was also attending Summit University). Along with Jared and Allie, Faith Baptist Church—the church they faithfully attended in Peckville, PA—their pastor (Rob Vigil), and the Faith Baptist Church family came along side us to not only pray with and for us, but to stand beside us as we move forward and into the future.
This is where we are today in 2017, with the same vision that those people, in 1896 had when they first graded the lot for the church, built the foundation and laid the cornerstone. Looking back, we can only marvel at God’s faithfulness through 119 years, some lean years some prosperous. But everything being done to glorify God, to get the Gospel out to the community around us and to keep Calvary Baptist Church of Alford, the little country church we love, alive.
Compiled by Lisa & Larry Tompkins