History of RBCPresented at its 40th Year Celebration
October 2nd, 2011
Part 1—The Early Years in North Wales: August 1968-May 1974 (5 years)
In August of 1968 two families joined together to form Central Baptist Church of North Wales. Those families were Steve and Edwinna Buck Sr. and Frank and Betty Robinson, who held services for 2 1/2 years without a pastor. When the group had grown to approximately 60 regular attendees, it called its first pastor, Joseph Martin. Eight months later in October 1971, Pastor Martin relocated the group to Chalfont into what was viewed as a higher-growth area.
However, several families decided to stay behind—the Bucks Srs., the Robinsons, Steve Buck, Jr. and his wife Sue, and Paul and Gloria Gillespie, believing that North Wales was still viable for a church-planting initiative. These families organized a Bible Chapel, and held its first meeting–a prayer service on Wednesday night, October 20, 1971–at the Boy Scout Center at 3rd and Chestnut Sts. in North Wales. The pianist at that first service was a young lady named Gloria Gillespie. Forty years later she is still at it! The speaker at that first Wednesday night service was a young Biblical Seminary student named Boyd Personett, who led the 23 attendees in worship. The following Sunday, October 24, the fellowship began its Sunday services in the Ladies of the Golden Eagle Hall in North Wales. Over the next few weeks several Biblical Seminary students filled the pulpit at the newly formed Bible Chapel. Boyd Personett returned to preach his first Sunday service on November 14, 1971. It must have been a very impressive sermon, because after the service, the two-man Board (Steve Buck Sr. and Frank Robison) extended an invitation to this notably gifted seminarian to preach on a regular basis, beginning in two weeks, on Sunday, November 28, 1971. He would continue to preach for the next 40 years and counting.
The congregation of about 40 members, now chartered in early 1972 as the Bible Baptist Church of North Wales, called Pastor Boyd to be their full-time pastor in November 1972, one year after his first Sunday message. The young church was also beginning to become familiar with the “the Doctrines of Grace.”
In 1973 the fledgling congregation appointed a planning committee, a building committee and a Constitution committee. The Constitution committee, comprised of Don Yerkes, Paul Gillespie, Richard Kleug, Steve Buck Sr., Frank Robinson and Pastor Boyd, worked to bring the constitution up-to-date with the church’s growing convictions in the doctrines of grace.
The following year the Yerkes family donated dozens of new Trinity Hymnals for the church’s use. The Trinity Hymnal is still the mainstay hymnal of the present congregation.
Part 2—Relocation to the Harleysville Chapel: June 1974-June 1981 (7 years)
A notable milestone for the young congregation was its move to a small vacant chapel on Maple Avenue in Harleysville, known as “the chapel by the old feed mill.” The first service there was held Sunday, June 2, 1974. That year a series of paid newspaper ads were launched, which continued for several years. Pastor Boyd’s prolific pen boldly championed the doctrines of sovereign and free grace to the surrounding communities.
In 1975 the relocated church experienced the largest growth in its 40 year history, admitting 33 new members, while dismissing one in its first act of church discipline. Among the new members was a young graduate from Westminster Seminary and his wife, Greg and Jeanie Hufstetler. In 1976 eight more members were added, spurring the need for a growing building fund and a new round of reviewing the Constitution in order to bring it into alignment with current doctrinal standards. That newly revised Constitution was adopted by the church on August 7, 1977, and still stands as the substantial portion of our present-day Constitution.
In accordance with the new Constitution, a new slate of officers was elected in August of 1977, which included three elders: Boyd Personett, Greg Hufstetler and Ken Kerr. Of the five deacons elected, two are still present with us—Paul Gillespie who still serves 34 years later; and George Van Camp, now in retirement in Florida, but with us portions of every year. Pastors Hufstetler and Kerr were ordained on August 28, 1977, with Pastor Kerr pursuing the US Chaplaincy in October of that year.
In response to the steady growth over the next several years, the Lord opened a prime 13 acre parcel on Allentown Road. After an initial bid on the old farm estate was rejected, the seller asked the church to resubmit its bid of $85,000 for the tract, which was accepted in December of 1979. Construction soon followed.
Part 3—Relocation to Franconia on Allentown Road: July 1981 to the present (38 years to date)
After 10 years in existence, the church entered its own new facility for its first service on July 19, 1981. A special dedication and time of praise for God’s abundant provision was held two weeks later on August 2, 1981. Soon afterwards the church voted to rename our congregation “Reformed Baptist Church of Franconia,” often shortened to simply “RBC.”
Highlights of the 1980’s
- In 1984 Pastor Boyd had major back surgery, requiring a 4 month medical leave of absence.
- In 1985 steady numerical growth in the membership required the auditorium to be lengthened for more seating. We also added a rear foyer.
- That same year a more contemporary music style was introduced into the worship service with the purchase of the Praise Hymnal to be used alongside the Trinity Hymnal.
- In February of 1985 Pastor John Elias became a third elder and served 3 years, until he accepted a fully supported position in pastoral ministry in Allentown. subsequently he and his wife Karen began their mission work to the Muslim community in London, England.
Highlights from the 1990’s to Now
- Throughout this period many of the believing children of members were graduating from high school and college, often getting married, then returning to RBC to serve Christ as a second generation. They are serving in leadership in the Sunday School program, the music program, VBS, and the deaconal board. Some are even working on producing a third generation of RBC torchbearers.
- Over this period the church has participated in a number of area-wide evangelistic initiatives, including the door to door distribution of the Jesus Film.
- The church has actively supported the local pro-life ministry, notably the Pregnancy Resource Clinic of North Penn, where Pastor Boyd served on the board for approximately 10 years, and where members of RBC have held various service and support positions. RBC is still actively supportive of this ministry.
- Various youth groups, Bible studies, community outreaches, and neighborhood prayer groups have been formed and are still active in the life of the church.
- More recently, a notable development was the church’s welcome in 2008 of Pastor Fred Zaspel and his family to our congregation. The church has profited immensely over the past 11 years from Pastor Fred’s preaching, teaching, writing, and pastoral gifts having been integrated into RBC’s ministries.
Well, in the time allotted, that just about covers the big picture of RBC’s 40 years of ministry.
We praise the Lord for His work 40 years ago in directing to Bible Baptist Church of North Wales a young, faithful and gifted seminary student devoted to the authority of Scripture. His name is “Boyd Personett” to the outside world, but to those of us who have gained and grown so much from his ministries, we know him as “Pastor Boyd.” Today we thank first the Lord Jesus, then we also thank his faithful servant, Pastor Boyd, for his perseverance through many difficult and challenging times at RBC.
Thank you, Lord Jesus!