The Finger Lakes Baptist Association is a growing association of 19 churches and missions in urban and suburban Rochester and throughout the rural small towns and villages of the Finger Lakes Region. The association territory encompasses 11 counties, extending from Lake Ontario in the north down to the Pennsylvania border, and has a population of approximately 1.5 million people. Metro Rochester, with 1.1 Million people, is home to Kodak, Xerox, PayChex, Paetech, and Bausch & Lomb industries.
Southern Baptists work in Rochester, NY, began in Florida in the mid-1950’s. A serviceman, Calvin Ryckman, and his wife Irene, attended a Southern Baptist Church while stationed in Florida. Upon their return to Rochester, they wrote to the Home Mission Board for information about establishing a Southern Baptist Church in Rochester. The HMB contacted Arthur Walker, area missionary from the Frontier Association of the Buffalo, NY, region, who came to Rochester and met with the Ryckman’s in early 1959. As a result, Amherst Baptist Church in the Frontier Association sent Mr. Hawley to pastor the fledgling group, which, in May of 1961, became the Rochester Baptist Church.
The Rochester Baptist Church birthed the Bayview Baptist Church in Webster (1968) and the Calkins Road Church in Henrietta (1969). Together these three small churches formed an executive committee with the Frontier Association, known as the “Baptists in Western New York.” It was in this committee that groundwork was laid for the emergence of the Greater Rochester Baptist Association in October of 1969.
The association was formed with a resolution at the 11th annual session of the Frontier Baptist Association: “Whereas, the churches and chapels of the Rochester, NY, area have rendered unusual helpfulness to the churches of the Buffalo area in theses past 8 years and, whereas, they now possess three churches and two chapels, one of which, Sodus, will constitute soon, with the possibility of the church at Geneva joining their fellowship, and, whereas, their pastors and leaders represent the finest ability and dedication and who labor in deepening Christian love for one another and for the Kingdom of Christ, be it resolved, that we the messengers of the Frontier Baptist Association determine to pray the greatest blessings of God upon their constitution as the Rochester Baptist Association.”
From the beginning of the association, available evidence through annual reports shows that associational churches rallied early to have community impact for Christ through WMU, Children’s Camp, Mission Studies, Sunday School and VBS. The 1971 reports on VBS shows a total enrollment of 886 in 14 schools with an average attendance of 653.
From this humble beginning, there now are 15 churches and missions in the Greater Rochester Baptist Association. God has greatly blessed the work in the Rochester Association. Much has been accomplished in our brief history, but much still needs to be done. The fields are, truly, “white onto harvest!” May God send His laborers to the fields of Rochester that we might “touch the heart of Rochester with the Good News.”
In October of 2001 the GRBA changed its name to the Finger Lakes Baptist Association as part of a new BCNY strategy. Five additional counties and two churches were added to the territory of the association as part of the realignment within the state convention.