DALLAS — Many national events happened 50 years ago in 1969 like Woodstock and the moon landing. One local credit to 1969 was the official establishment of Dallas Baptist Church. Friends and family members of the church celebrated this 50th milestone during the weekend of events from Aug. 16-18. The events were coordinated by the 50th anniversary committee.
The celebration began with an ice cream social Friday evening at the church. On Saturday afternoon, people gathered together at Frances Slocum State Park for a picnic where they enjoyed lunch under the pavilion, as well as played cornhole and badminton.
Attendees included three charter members of the church: Wendy Garrety, of Harveys Lake, and husband/wife Ron and Melba Boudreaux, current residents of Hazel Green, Alabama, who returned to the Back Mountain area to visit old friends of the church, which they became part of at its inception.
Ron, originally from Beaumont, Texas, had lived in many places, such as Houston and Irvington, New York before moving to Dallas for a job promotion 50 years ago. He remembers the church when it was Dallas Baptist Chapel and was located in the Eastern Star building. Not long after losing his second son, he received a knock on the door from Eugene Trawick, who invited him to be part of the fellowship meeting on a weekly basis.
“I told him ‘No, I didn’t have time for that,” he said. “But the real reason I didn’t want to be part of it was because I was angry with God.”
Ron said, a few weeks later, he and his wife attended a meeting in the Eastern Star building and met people who were in Sunday services.
“That’s where I met Wendy (charter member Wendy Garrety),” he said. “She was only 5 years old and her mother’s name was Peggy Anderson. She was also a charter member.”
Ron mentioned that, in 1969, services were moved to a building that was once a Free Methodist Church. He said Donald LaBar, who attended services, took his life savings, bought the building and rented it to Dallas Baptist Church for $1 per year.
“We met there in that building until we bought our current building (9 Briar Crest Drive) in Dallas in 1981,” he said. “During that time, the church continued to grow to capacity. We were able to purchase some land (at the Idetown property).”
The groundbreaking service for the church’s current building was held May 17, 1981. Ron said workers from five southern states — Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina — traveled to Dallas to help construct the building. He also mentioned the church started participation and leadership in the Bill Glass Crusade, named for the retired football player who entered the ministry.
“He (Glass) came here (Dallas),” said Ron. “From that, we were able to invite Bill back to the State Correctional Institute in Dallas and do a program there. We formed a Saturday morning Bible study, which has been in existence in the State Correctional Institute in Dallas for 44 years.”
Ron said the prison Bible study now has an attendance of over 100 inmates.
One of the church’s elders John Doerfler became a member of Dallas Baptist Church when he offered to help construct the building. He and his wife Maureen were members of a church in Wilkes Barre at the time. He recalls witnessing the church being built every day so, one day, he offered to provide help in building the church.
“We started to attend and become members,” he said. “It’s been wonderful. I mean we’ve had our ups and downs like anything else, but it’s a great association.”
Lead pastor Jerry Branch became pastor in 2004 after he was called by Dallas Baptist Church. He was a pastor of a church in Channelview, Texas at the time and agreed to move to Dallas to share God’s word at the church.
“The church (Dallas Baptist Church) is a very loving church,” Branch said. “They are very friendly. They care about people. They really reach out to folks, try to help them and share the love of Christ with people.”
The picnic was also attended by members of Plaid Community Church started by elder Stan Oschman. The church began when he and his wife had a Bible study at an old pizza restaurant at Heather Highlands in Jenkins Twp. three years ago. The Bible study is called LIFE (Love Is For Everyone) and has expanded into two more groups.
“There’s a group at Heather Highlands,” he said. “There’s a group in Evans Falls. There’s a ladies’ group starting in September in Wilkes Barre. So, we have all three little LIFE groups and we get together on Sunday nights.” The group holds Sunday services at the Hope Center of Northeastern PA in Luzerne.
Oschman also conducts baptisms for Dallas Baptist Church and sometimes baptizes people at Harveys Lake.
The Dallas Baptist Church 50th Anniversary Committee also put together a special Sunday service at the church, offering people the chance to learn the history and progress of the church.
Michael Johnson, left, 8, and Ayden Richardson, 8, both of Harveys Lake, play cornhole at the church’s picnic at Frances Slocum State Park.
Abby Mace, 7, of Trucksville, tosses a bean bag in a game of cornhole as Elliana Kontra, 8, of Trucksville, awaits her turn.
Charter members of Dallas Baptist Church are, from left, Wendy Garrety, of Harveys Lake; Melba Boudreaux, and husband Ron Boudreaux, both of Hazel Green, Alabama.
Abby Mace, left, 7, of Trucksville, and Elliana Kontra, 8, of Harveys Lake, play badminton at Frances Slocum State Park.
Jerry Branch, lead pastor of Dallas Baptist Church, with wife Gini.