A History of the Portsmouth
Seventh-day Adventist Church
In 1944, a branch Sabbath school with 23 members from the Rochester, NH church was formed and started meeting in the Kingdom Hall on State Street.
Most of these members went back to the Rochester Church in 1948. However, eight stayed and rented the Pythian Hall (Constitution Hall in Kittery, ME). Services continued every Sabbath until 1950 when they too were forced back to Rochester because of financial and leadership difficulties. A new church had been built in Rochester at this time.
The dream and desire for a church in Portsmouth, however did not die and on April 27, 1963, under the leadership of Pastor George Rice, the Portsmouth Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church was organized. Since that day, the church has not ceased to be. There were times when the meetings would go to Rochester for short periods because of meeting place difficulties. They met first in the Lutheran Church, then the Temple Israel, then again in the Pythian Hall. When they had to go to Rochester, the meetings would be held in the afternoon. "We felt like Israel of old having to keep moving". During this same time, there were several pastors. After Pastor Rice, we had Pastor Clarence Johnson, then Pastor Clayton Childs. By this time, a search for our own property was on, even looking at the Pythian Hall, but it was too expensive.
The search continued for almost a year, looking at places such as a place on Middle Road, the Central Baptist Church, and the J. W. Kingdom Hall. All of these were out of our financial reach. Eventually, providence led us back to the Middle Road property. The price had been reduced. Instead of $16500, they now asked for $11500!
Our building fund of a little better than $8000 still didn’t cover the asking price, however with generous help from the conference and commitments from members, the Lord provided the required funds and we were blessed with a permanent home for our church family.
This property was purchased with the expectation that one day, a new church building would be built; but for the time being the old 18th century house would become the church. With the dedicated work of Pastor Childs and the members doing carpentry, electrical, cleaning, and praying; the old house became our church. In January, 1967, the sanctuary was completed: We had a church!
Sadly once again we found ourselves without a pastor and this was so for nearly a year until Pastor Merle Tyler came to us. While he was here, Portsmouth and the Rochester Church built a new church school for our children in Rochester. We also got an active Pathfinder group going as well as an MV group.
The Miracle of Middle Road
Stage two of our Church
It was the dream of all to one day have a "real" sanctuary on this property. A building fund had been established after the mortgage on the house had been paid. In the summer of 1979, our pastor Jack Baker presented plans for a new church building!
By this time the building fund had about $15,000. When Pastor Baker proposed that construction should start right away, some thought it presumptuous. "It isn't possible to build a church with $15,000!"; but a promise was found in God's word that said; "all the gold and the silver is mine", "the cattle on a thousand hills is mine", (Hag 2:8), (Ps 50:10). Therefore it was agreed that although we couldn't afford to build a church, God could! And so the twenty-two members launched out in faith.
A contractor, Doug Evans, was contacted and told that we were looking for a "rock bottom" price for the excavation work. He said, "I will do it for nothing. How does that sound?". After digging only about 3' deep, solid ledge was struck, and it took $5,000 of the $15,000 to blast it away. But hadn't the Lord directed us to build our house "on a rock that the gates of hell would not prevail against"? After the excavation was finished, the contractor asked, "Who is doing the foundation?" When he found that no one had been obtained, he volunteered to do that as well! When at last his work was finished, he gave us a donation of $300 in addition to all the free work.
A gold and silver collection was taken in the church and Willis Collins, then treasurer, took it to Boston and got over $1200 for it. This money was used to buy the stained glass window that overlooks the baptistery today. A letter was written to all the churches in the conference asking for donations to the building fund and an additional $1300 was raised. Individuals came forth with further donations and the building progressed.
A catholic neighbor, Ernest Cole, donated the carriage lights for the front of the church. A lady, Thelma Barret, a relative of an Adventist, sent hundreds of dollars for the building fund. The non-adventist contractor who laid the sewer line wrote across the bottom of the $750 bill, "My gift II Cor 9:7".
The steeple and baptistery were purchased from a Midwest firm and was to cost $1000 to ship. Paul Chapman of the Rochester Church who owned a refrigerator truck brought them back from Iowa with frozen meat stacked around them and then made a sizeable donation in addition to delivering them at no charge.
Impressed with the building plans, a newly baptized member from out of state gave a gift of $500; and when her husband came with her the next week, they gave another $500. After they returned to their home, they sent an additional love gift of $1000!
Our faith was tested as our membership declined with three members dying, five retiring/moving away and one being lost to apostasy. The membership now stood at twelve. Could we do it? The Lord promises; "We can do all things through Christ".
Flossie Cotes gave $6000 in memory of her husband to be used for the pews. John Williamson, personal ministries secretary for the conference and master electrician, did the wiring at no cost. Pastor Baker (?) did the plumbing, the conference builder did the construction, Pine Tree Academy kids drove nails, and even a crew of three ladies did much painting.
On the first Sabbath service in our new sanctuary, our guest speaker was Pastor Carl Anderson, who gave not only an inspiring message but a sizeable gift as well. On that day in April, 1981, three precious souls were baptized, another was accepted by profession of faith, and eight babies were dedicated! The church had not heard the sound of children's voices for some time. The carpet was not yet down nor the pews in, but we could now worship and praise the Lord in a "real" sanctuary!
The Book of Acts Continues
Stage three of our Miracle Church
Since that spring Sabbath in 1981 much has been completed under the roof our “miracle” church. The carpet has not only been laid, but it is now showing signs of it’s age. The pews have stood strong to the test of time. We have been blessed with the music from both the organ and piano that mark each corner of our sanctuary. A PA system has been in use allowing those within our parent’s room and in our fellowship hall to enjoy the blessings of our time of worship. A number of seminars (Daniel, It is Written, and Amazing facts) have also been conducted successfully at our location.
Many blessings and miracles have come to pass and it is those blessings we praise the Almighty God for! We rejoice in Him as our membership is currently over 100 members! Recently we were even blessed with the need to start the process of planning the expansion of our sanctuary. God is great!
Praise, honor, and glory to our loving Lord and Savior, our Heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit; who made our church a possibility Our desire is that we may continue to grow as disciples, and attract new members to the honor and glory of our God. May our actions hasten Jesus' return!
"Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who built it.” PS 127:1
Written by: Edna Ames & Russell Cook Jr.
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