Venice Baptist Church has a rather remarkable history – one that we are thankful to have an organic connection to as we endeavor to keep and defend “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3)
The history of the church is told in the book “History of the Cayuga Baptist Association” by Rev. A. Russell Belden originally published in 1851. The book may be found on various websites including books.google.com and archive.org and is also currently in print. The history of our church opens that book and then is given again later in the book when the histories of the churches in the association are presented.
In the spring of 1794, Elder David Irish settled in what is now Cayuga County and in the Town of Venice (but at that time was the Town of Scipio). The westward migration in upstate New York was beginning, and this was frontier territory. Elder Irish commenced his ministry being the first man to preach in what is now Cayuga County.
On June 9, 1795, our church was constituted as the First Baptist Church in Scipio with fourteen members. The church has operated continuously since its constitution.
The church has seen times of remarkable revivals. In the period of 1800-1803 there were two revivals that together added 80 members to the church. From 1811-1815, another two revivals added 194 members to the church. In 1820, another revival added 92 members, so that the total membership stood at 347 making our church the largest church in the Cayuga Baptist Association’s history through 1850. These were revivals that yielded substantial converts and gave good evidence of being works of the Spirit of God. Our church records reflect that during the times of these revivals, church membership commitments were taken very seriously. Members were accountable to the church for giving evidence of living lives of Biblical obedience and church discipline was exercised with love and vigor.
As other churches were constituted the Cayuga Baptist Association was formed. As the previously mentioned history documents, this association grew to encompass many churches over a wide area encompassing much of the Finger Lakes and areas north of them, reaching almost to Rochester to the west and to present day suburbs of Syracuse to the east. The meetings of the association were often held in Venice, and it is fascinating to stand outside the church in such a rural area and imagine horses and buggies parked with pastors and messengers from so many churches over such a large portion of New York State.
The Cayuga Baptist Association’s statement of faith was what would be known today as a Reformed Baptist doctrinal position, and that statement of faith was in large part the same as adopted by Venice Baptist Church at its constitution. The churches in the association all held to the Doctrines of Grace (Calvinism) and expected their members to be of that same persuasion. As is well known to those who are familiar with Baptists in the eighteenth century and even through the first half of the nineteenth century, a Reformed doctrinal position was commonly held among the churches.
Sadly, Baptists in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century drifted from their doctrinal moorings, no longer holding to their Reformed heritage, and this was true of Venice Baptist Church. In the 1970’s, the church began a process of reform, seeking to recover Biblical doctrine and church practice. The process of reform in a church, like the process of sanctification in the Christian, is never finished in this world, but is on-going as we endeavor to bring all things into exacting conformity to what the Bible requires of us.
Venice Baptist Church today stands firmly on the position of our forefathers in the faith. We are a Reformed Baptist Church. Our statement of faith is the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. Our church practice is consistent with that of Baptists in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. We believe no new doctrines, and we are not seeking to find new ways of doing church.
But we are very insistent that we be entirely clear that we have not come to the positions we have because of historical nostalgia. It is not because our church held these things at its founding in 1795, nor because this is the heritage of Baptists, that we believe and practice what we do. Our only question has been and remains, “What does the Bible say?”. No doctrine or practice will be held so dearly by us, but what we will set it aside if it is not thoroughly Biblical. We believe that the reason that we share so much in common with our forefathers is because we share the same commitment to be Biblical.
Venice Baptist Church is firmly resolved to govern all that we believe and all that we do as a church by the Bible, God’s Word. We believe that those fourteen members who constituted this church well over two hundred years ago would are even now giving thanks to our God in the glory of paradise that He has so preserved this church, and that we stand so resolved.
© 2018 Venice Baptist Church