Randolph Congregation, New York: a story of courageous people
Randolph is the name of the new as well as the old congregation in the state of New York (USA). It is the spiritual home of a group of people who over many years testified of their faith and who, instead of seeing the challenges, kept their focus fixed on the possibilities and the potential. But let us start at the beginning.
The history of Randolph Congregation is the story of six or more congregations in the area around Twin Tiers. The term term refers to the collective counties that lie on the New York-Pennsylvania border. The region is rural and comprised of many small towns. Many people live on farms. They work hard to earn their daily bread. This is therefore the story of ordinary people who out of love for God have managed to achieve extraordinary things. They were people who followed His call to serve Him and to share their Christian love—often at great personal sacrifice—and testified of Jesus Christ and His return.
The beginnings in Cattaraugus
The journey started in Cattaraugus, New York, in 1906 when Anna Nentwig travelled from her home in Germany to join her parents in Michigan. She stayed. The United States became her new home. She married there and the entire family moved to Cattaraugus, to a farm on Snyder Hill. At this time, the nearest New Apostolic Church was in Buffalo, New York, and the ministers travelled from Buffalo to Cattaraugus regularly to conduct services in the Nentwig home. Neighbours began to join in the services being held every other week in the school house on Snyder Hill.
From this humble beginning, six congregations were ultimately born and grew within the same pattern. Small groups gathered for informal divine services at someone’s home. When the group expanded via their testimony, a rented building was found and formed into a church. The next step was a new church building. When the church reached a certain size, a new group formed in the next town, and the process started all over again—often by the same group of “church planters”. This is how the congregations of Olean, Salamanca, Steamburg, Gowanda, and Jamestown came into being.
Growth and decline
The membership reached its zenith in the 1970s and 80s. But then the trend reversed. There was a lack of economic opportunity in the region, and a natural migration set in. Families moved out of the area for jobs and warmer weather. Children were educated and followed their careers to larger cities. One by one the congregations closed and one central location in Randolph was chosen to consolidate the remaining members. A new church was built for this purpose and dedicated in July 2015. The new church meets all the requirements of a New Apostolic congregation in the USA: next to a sanctuary that comfortably seats 70, there are children’s spaces and a fellowship hall with modern kitchen facilities. Every inch of the space is utilized for multiple purposes and connected seamlessly with a good technology plan.
The dedication service brought District Apostle Leonard Kolb to Randolph. He paid tribute to the pioneers, the many women and men who decades ago applied all their faith in God in order to establish congregations and keep the gospel alive.
On Sunday, 26 July 2015, District Apostle Leonard Kolb dedicated the new church building. He based the divine service on Psalm 40: 1–2. For the dedication ceremony he read Matthew 9: 17, “Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” In New York State there are currently 26 New Apostolic congregations.