Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hungarian / Austin Street / Charity Baptist Church

One tends to think of older churches as large buildings built of stone or brick, or maybe of clapboard like a hallmark greeting card. Then there are what is known as storefront churches, which are usually located in buildings that started out with some other use.

In between there are small churches, which many times served as a starter building for a congregation back in the day. Many have changed hands numerous times. Some have not retained their religious purpose. To the untrained eye, such as mine, they may appear as a mere house with stained glass windows.

However many are being born again as a new congregation takes root within its walls. Until last week I had never been inside of one of these small churches, many of which are scattered throughout the City of Buffalo. One such treasure is at 350 Austin Street near Military Road.

Many times I passed by, never taking the time to learn about the building or the people inside. I had thought it to be a church moving on to another use years ago. I was mistaken. When I went over there to take pictures I noticed it was in the process of being renovated.

Then I met Pastor Pete Wigdor, who graciously invited me inside. I had never imagined that such a beautiful church would be inside those walls!

I learned that there has been a continuous active church at this location for the past 91 years. It started out as the First Hungarian Baptist Church, as an outreach to the new immigrants. From there its name changed to the Austin Street Baptist Church to better reflect its changing congregation. Eventually that group moved to Grand Island. The church would later be known as Maranatha, which suffered dwindling numbers as the years went by. Now it is being revived both physically and spiritually as the Charity Baptist Church.

At a time when many feel the need to flock to a mega-church, I have always preferred a smaller church. This fits the description and more. Very welcoming. Services begin at 10!

More historical info can be found on the site of Houses of Worship: A Guide to Religious Architecture.

UPDATE: As I was wandering around the Buffalo Historical Society this afternoon I came across 2 artifacts from the original First Hungarian Baptist Church. Both a drum and an organ were donated at some point in time.

What a coincidence!


sundownrunner said...

I used to go to this church when I was little and it was called the "Austin St. Baptist Church." I know quite a few who remember it as the First Hungarian Baptist Church. This is so great to see that it is being kept up, maintained, and still used as a church.

David Nagy said...

I attended Austin St. Baptist Church as a boy, and am the son of Hungarian/German immigrants. It used to be that pretty much everyone at church was somehow related to someone else at the church, but God has blessed the congregation at WRBC in the years since with much growth. And I'm also glad to see the church building continuing on in spiritual use!

CD said...

Thank you so much for posting these notes and photos. My grandfather was a Hungarian Baptist Minister in training in 1928. He listed this address as his contact in the US when he was crossing the border to Canada in 1928. I had no idea it was a church! Will have to stop in next time I am in Buffalo!