OUR HISTORY

 

     Johnstown has been called the city of churches.  Yet in 1966 a young family moved here from Kentucky and could not find a local church they could happily call home.  Each Sunday, Seth and Alice Kegan, would gather up their four children and drive 40 miles to a Southern Baptist Church in Latrobe, inconvenient in the summer and a nightmare in the winter.  

     It was this need that inspired contact with the Southern Baptist district representatives.  A preliminary survey of the greater Johnstown area showed that thought there were a number of Baptist churches in the area, none conveniently served those living in Westmont and the West End.  An ad was placed in the Tribune-Democrat announcing a home Bible study at the Kegan's home, with the intent to begin a new Baptist Church under the sponsorship of the Grace Baptist Church of Altoona.  The response, though slight, was enough to continue.  On August 30, 1966, a second home fellowship meeting was held and Westmont Baptist Chapel became a reality. Weekly services followed, led by Joseph Waltz, Superintendent of Missions, from Pittsburgh.  In February of 1968 property including six lots and a new brick home was purchased with the aid of the Home Mission Board to serve as church and pastorium.

     Rev. Jack R. Smith was called as the first pastor in June, 1968, moving his family from Birmingham, Alabama.  When he and his wife joined there were six members.  The first baptism service was August 18, 1968, in a borrowed church when the seventh member was added.  With the help of some new members the basement of the pastorium was made into Sunday School rooms and the nursery was in the master bedroom.  An innovation to the Johnstown area was the deaf ministry; a sign interpreter was on hand for every service, meeting or program, opening an opportunity for deaf people to worship and hear the gospel in a traditional way with hearing people.  

     Pastor Jack Smith had an unusual method of reaching out.  With guitar in arm, he and a few young fellows with guitars, keyboard, and drums, named themselves "The Eternal Trip" and played and sang their way across the community, wherever someone was willing to host a "happening" as they were called.  Music accompanied by salvation messages were the means that brought many young people to the Lord and to Westmont Baptist Chapel.  Many of their parents followed.  There was a unique spirit of love and warmth that drew others.    

     The membership continued to grown along with dreams of a new building that would accommodate the crowds.   In October, 1970 ground was broken for the new building on Jeffrey Drive.  An all volunteer labor force went to work.  However, winter was well on its way, so many hours were spend chopping ice, melting snow, and pumping out the water so work could go on.  In the early spring, groups of men from sister churches in Alabama and the south began to arrive and the building began to take shape.  Work continued and many hours were  spent until January 30, 1972, when the first worship service was held there with 74 members and a Sunday school that enrolled 150; Rev. Bill Kunst, former pastor of the Grace Baptist Church, Altoona, Pa. the mother church delivered the dedicatory sermon.

     In an era when youth was rejecting the establishment and parents' values, young adults became the strength of the new chapel.  A youth choir crowded the platform each week, necessitating preaching from the floor.  Three buses were purchased, staffed with volunteer drivers, and captains, and folks were brought in from Moxham, Johnstown,, and the West End.  Church programming expanded to include an adult choir, puppet ministry, Vacation Bible School, Sunday evening Training Union, and R.A.'s/G.A.'s for youngsters.  Contact with the southern churches remained strong as, from time to time, youth choirs were sent to Johnstown to present cantatas and musical programs in the young church and shopping centers nearby. 

   In 1975, feeling the work at Westmont well-established, and called by God to start again in a new area, Rev. Jack Smith resigned.  Over the next five years, a series of short-term leaders pastored the flock.  Robert Hughes, William Crowe, Rex Lewis, Robert Fitzgerald, and Tom Baird, took the helm while men of the church filled in between.  However, attendance had dwindled to a handful.  

     Then, in November of 1980, David Streets, Youth Director at Emmanuel Baptist Church, agreed to come as interim pastor to minister to the 25 or so in the struggling church family.  Sunday and Wednesday evening were often attended by only seven or eight people, fewer yet when the roads were bad.  Nevertheless, the following year, David Streets felt God call him to be the next full-time pastor at WBC, and in July, 1981 began his ministry here with his wife Sandra.  Under his leadership, the ministry of WBC stabilized and began to grow.  In July 1990 the church debt and parsonage debt was paid off.

    Pastor John Browning was the next leader God called to help lead the flock of WBC.  Under his leadership the church was lead to remove ties with the Conemaugh Baptist Association and Pennsylvania South Jersey State Convention and partner with the Conservative Virginia State Convention.  This partnership would prove to be extremely helpful upon Pastor John's resignation as the convention would play a vital role in helping WBC locate their next shepherd and provide quality leadership in the meantime.  

     Currently, Pastor Dr. Garland Cline was called in January of 2016 to lead this congregation into the future as the Holy Spirit leads and guides him.  He is a native of western North Carolina where he has been involved in ministry for nearly 26 years.  Under his leadership, WBC has been challenged to return to loving, ministering, and serving the community and the greater Johnstown area that surrounds the church facilities.  The church realigned with the Pennsylvania South Jersey State Convention as well as reestablished a strong partnership with the Conemaugh Valley Baptist Association in 2016.  These renewed partnerships have helped open the doors to greater, more effective ministry opportunities for the WBC family.  During the summer of 2017, World Changers, a student mission ministry of Lifeway, was brought to the area by Pastor Cline.  This opportunity once again brought in southern churches to help with construction ministry in the Johnstown area, with hopes of seeing individuals coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Also during the summer of 2017, Pastor Cline partnered with the Johnstown Neighborhood Boosters Association to help with Block Parties throughout the summer months that will be held at several key locations throughout the city that touched over 5000 during the summer of 2017.