Rev. Robert J. Ashcroft pastored from September 1944 to August 1948. So much good happened in his time as pastor. Rev. Ashcroft had a great heart for the Youth. A musician himself, he was proficient in a number of instruments and taught all who wanted to play an instrument. Soon there was a church youth band. Pastor Ashcroft took each of the young people into his heart. They were individually affected for the rest of their lives. Many were inspired to attend Bible School. Most became ministers. The church continued to grow in the Lord and in numbers.
It is almost impossible to tell of all that the Ashcrofts brought to the church by their ministry. Their influence on the church, especially the youth, was huge. The people who were pastored by them still speak of how incredibly their lives were impacted by this godly man and his wife. (Rev Harold Lenox, assistant pastor, 1947-1948.)
Rev. Norman Sponge was with us for a very short time. He arrived in September 1948 and resigned in October 1950.
Rev. Joseph Payne pastored from June 1, 1951 to November 12, 1955. (Rev. R. Lundstrom, Assistant) Pastor Payne died while he was still in office. It was a great loss to everyone: his dear wife, Mina, his children and the church. The time of his pastorate had been wonderful years of growth and blessing. Many were saved and added to the membership. The congregation doubled to more than 300. He loved everyone and everyone loved him. He cared about people in a personal, loving way. His ministry inspired the church. People were motivated to serve the Lord! Several outreach ministries from the church became very active: the State Prison and the Prison Farm, street meetings, the Cedarcrest TB Sanitorium, door-to-door evangelism, the Open Hearth Mission, the Sound Car Evangelism, and the Ladies Band who ministered in Nursing Homes.
In 1955, the Pastor and Board decided that the church was too overcrowded. It was time to build again! The first effort was to buy a Methodist church just a block away from their present location. Unfortunately, the Methodists were not able to vacate their building due to delays in construction at their new site. Pastor Payne and the Board turned to another property at 846 Prospect Avenue in Hartford. Negotiations began immediately and were completed in June of 1955. The new property included a 14-room mansion. The purchase price was $36,000. They planned to use the mansion for Sunday School and offices and to add a 700 seat auditorium for the new sanctuary.
The Tabernacle was known as the “Church that Prayer Built.” When they needed money or materials the congregation went to prayer and God met the need. The same prayerful self-sacrifice was again evidenced in them as before. When it became known to the congregation that they lacked $13,000 of the $36,000 purchase price, a special meeting was called. After they prayed, a member immediately pledged the full amount. God is always the same-- yesterday, today and forever! He never changes. What He has done before He is always more than able to do again.
Renovations to the mansion and construction of the new sanctuary were quickly put into action. Everything was proceeding on schedule when, quite unexpectedly, the beloved Pastor Joseph Payne took an attack and his well worn heart gave way. It came as a tremendous shock to the church. He was only 46 years old. As a former missionary, Pastor Payne had survived years of trekking across the frozen deserts of Mongolia, bringing the Gospel in temperatures of 65 degrees below zero. He had been interned with his family in a Japanese prison camp during World War II for three and a half years, where they all suffered malnutrition and abuse. It all took its toll on his frail, human body. What a challenge to every Christian. Help us, too, dear Lord, that we not rust out but wear out for Thee.
His death was an incredible loss for everyone. Dear Mina, his wife, and the children – how can we measure their loss? Only eternity will tell.
The church had lost their beloved Pastor and a personal friend; it was a very difficult time. The people mourned their great loss; but then rose up to finish the work God had given them. They were to face some very difficult times ahead. A terrible accident cost one construction worker his life. The church was saddened by what had happened. There was also a fire loss of $6,800. God, our Helper, once again was the strength and encouragement to carry on the work.
The new sanctuary was dedicated on October 21, 1957 with District (SNED) Superintendent Rev. George E. Flower officiating. With grateful hearts the church rejoiced in the completion and dedication of the sanctuary unto the Lord. The following week Rev. C. M. Ward conducted revival meetings.
The costs of the Prospect Avenue property, the renovation of the Mansion, and construction of the new sanctuary totaled $214,000. All glory be to God -- it was all debt free! In 1958 the old parsonage on Lockwood Terrace was sold for $15,200.00
Rev. Oliver Collier (May 17, 1956 until 1963) came at a time of great transition. Pastor Payne had died just as the church left the old building and was moving into temporary conditions in the newly purchased mansion. Rev. Collier found himself picking up the pieces of the former pastor’s vision, which is always hard to do, but especially so since he was inexperienced in building projects. He did his best. The renovations to the mansion and the construction of the sanctuary were completed in 1957. To God be the glory!
Rev. Harold Brumback pastored from March 1963 until April of 1966. He was a fine preacher. The people enjoyed his ministry. It came as quite a surprise when he resigned and moved on so quickly. He said it was what he believed God was leading him to do. He blessed the church in his short time.
Rev. Allen Mitchell pastored from July 1966 until January 1969. (Rev. Michael Ciociola, Youth Pastor 1968-1969) The Mitchells were pastors of The Tabernacle for two and a half years. He had a solid teaching ministry that the people appreciated. During his tenure, the congregation purchased another parsonage on Linnard Road in West Hartford.
Rev. F. D. Cullens came to the church in September 1969 until February 1974. (David Burris, Assistant Pastor) Things went well, souls were being saved and blessed. Then a church (Faith Center West) in California bought a TV station (Channel 18) here in Hartford. Their intentions were to build a network of Christian stations across the United States. People from the church became involved in the TV station with
telephone counselling. After a while the station’s Manager approached Pastor Cullens about bringing The Tabernacle into Faith Center’s Ministry. Pastor Cullens and the Board were attracted by the offer. They saw great possibilities in it for the church. Many people were in agreement with them, but some were not. Eventually the proposal from Faith Center was adopted by the church under the direction and advice of the Pastor and Board. The Hartford Gospel Tabernacle’s name was changed to Faith Center East. The merger required that all of the church’s properties and chattel become the property of the Faith Center organization. It was also required that the church no longer be affiliated with the General Council of the Assemblies of God. Therefore, in accordance with the terms of the merger, the church withdrew from the Assemblies and became Faith Center East. Not long after that the Faith Center organization took some strong administrative actions. Leadership was changed here in Hartford and at Faith Center West. The whole organization was experiencing serious financial problems and deep internal conflicts. It began to unravel and bankruptcy was at their door. None of this would affect the Hartford church, thank be to God! The merger included a recourse clause that said that in the event the organization failed, The Hartford Gospel Tabernacle must be reimbursed for all of the properties and chattel invested by them. Thank God!
Rev. Jack Mackey, August 1974 – 1976. Although he was with us for less than two years, he and his wife were very talented, a pleasant couple who blessed the church with their music. Jack Mackey had become pastor by arrangement from Faith Center West. Surprisingly, he had no pervious pastoral experience. He was not ordained and had no credentials. Now, he inherited a very complex situation to sort out. It was not an easy time for him and there were difficult days ahead.
When the opportunity came to receive back all of the Hartford church’s property from Faith Center West it had to be acted on quickly. They would need to make a name change from Faith Center to avoid the financial crisis that the organization was in. The original name, The Hartford Gospel Tabernacle, was seriously considered but they decided to take the word ‘Faith’ from Faith Center and add ‘Assembly of God’. Earlier, the church had unanimously elected to come back into the General Council of the Assemblies of God. Therefore, the Hartford church is now named FAITH ASSEMBLY OF GOD.
Rev. and Mrs. George Hubbard came in January 1977 and he was with the church through the middle of 1983. (Rev. Robert Fullerton, Minister of Youth) Pastor Hubbard and his dear wife brought a spirit of warmth and love. The whole church brightened up. The events of the recent past over the Faith Center issues were behind now and it was time to move on. The Hubbards helped so much. Mrs. Hubbard was a marvelous Choir Director. She put a choir together that soon became a high point in the church. Things were going well when dear Mrs. Hubbard suddenly went home to be with the Lord. Pastor Hubbard took it very hard. Things began to change in the church and he eventually felt that he needed to make a change himself. He took a position of ministry at another church.
Rev. Michael Cavallaro came to the church in November, 1983 and resigned in June, 1994. (Rev. John Grenier, Minister of Youth 1985-1990) Rev. Cavallaro took the church in a new direction. Charter members had reached retirement age a few years earlier and many had moved south. Others were deceased. The church was not the same. People had become more mobile. Many were leaving the city for the suburbs. Hartford itself went through some years of shifting population. The change continued after the Cavallaros arrived. The church became diverse in its ethnic composition, reflecting the changes taking place in the community.
Rev. Colbert Sesanker with his wife, Ena, and their two children, Colena and Alex, came to the Assembly on July 1 st, 1994. The Sesankers are originally from Trinidad and Tobago and are presently laboring in this field with much prayer and determination to see a great harvest of souls saved and discipled to serve God faithfully.
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