Our Beginnings: The Chicken Coop
The CFC journey began in 1973 when a young evangelist from Florida, Lonnie Langston, held tent meetings in Brier Hill, NY. People from around the region began attending the meetings, and in 1974, Lonnie moved the meetings to a rented building just outside of Ogdensburg, NY. The building, originally constructed as a chicken coop, became the site of a move of God’s Spirit. People from around the region came to the "Chicken Coop" to hear the message of Christ and to experience the touch of God’s Spirit. Many gave their lives to Christ and were filled with the Spirit. God used Lonnie to minister miraculous healings to many.
In 1977, Lonnie left the North Country and a young pastor was installed. Tom Wells, a 24 year old native of Ogdensburg, assumed the pastorate and led the church in an important season of spiritual growth and transition. Under Pastor Tom’s leadership, the identity of CFC as a functioning local church was established. After only a year of ministry experience, Tom led the church in purchasing land and building a brand new facility near Madrid, NY. CFC left the "Chicken Coop" and moved to their new location in the center of St. Lawrence County.
The Growth and New Church Planting
Over the next several years, Pastor Tom emerged as an excellent pastor and Bible teacher and a dynamic leader. People from all over northern New York and southern Ontario came to CFC to meet Christ, receive the Holy Spirit, and be discipled. As Tom considered ways to expand the work, he turned to church planting. In December, 1980 he began Sunday evening services in Massena, NY and laid the groundwork for a new church. In June, 1981 New Testament Church of Massena held their first Sunday morning service in a rented facility on Ober Street in Massena, and, in April of 1982, Pastor Tom left CFC to devote himself full-time to the new church plant.
When Tom left CFC to pastor in Massena, he installed Rick Sinclair as the new pastor of CFC. Rick had served under Tom for a year and a half, assisting him with the preaching, teaching and care of the church. Over the next 15 years, under the direction of Pastor Rick Sinclair, CFC planted three more churches:
- Grace Covenant Church, Ogdensburg – first public services in January, 1985
- Richville Christian Fellowship, Richville – first public services in November, 1992
- Grace Community Church, Moira – first public services in January, 1996
New Sanctuary in Madrid
In 1988, CFC embarked on a 3 year capital stewardship campaign to raise finances for a new sanctuary, one that would support continued growth. Through this “Growing in God” campaign, funds were raised to erect a new, 2-story, 70’x70’ sanctuary. This would add an additional 10,000 square feet to the church complex. Construction began in 1992, and services were moved to the new sanctuary in 1995.
Increased Pastoral Staffing
To accommodate the spiritual needs of the fellowship, another pastor was added to the staff in 1994. Mike Tomford, a graduate of RHEMA Bible Training Center and former college student attendee at CFC, was installed as Associate Pastor.
The Fire: January 20, 2001
A pivotal turning point in the history of the church occurred during the early morning hours of Saturday, January 20, 2001. A fire of unknown origin swept through the 20,000 square foot facility. By daybreak, the building was in ashes. Only a small portion of Pastor Rick Sinclair’s files and library had been pulled from the burning building — everything else was lost.
Within hours, the members and leaders gathered to pray for wisdom and assemble a strategy to cope with the loss. Arrangements were made to hold services the next day in a theater at St. Lawrence University. On Sunday, January 21, 2001, Bill Clark, a guest minister from Buffalo, delivered a stirring word, one that strengthened the fellowship to move forward in spite of the tragic loss.
CFC 2001: The Old Madrid School
At noon on the day of the fire, the CFC leadership team toured the Old Madrid School, to see if perhaps this old building might serve as a suitable location for the church to rent.
It turned out to be an ideal location:
—45,000 square feet of space
—53 acres of land, including a 9-hole public golf course
—a large gymnasium which could hold upwards of 500 people
—office space, classrooms, space for nurseries
An agreement was made to rent the facility on a monthly basis until the church could rebuild. But after several months in the Old School, CFC decided to purchase the school and remain in the new location. It was an ideal facility for the continued ministry and growth. What seemed at first like a disastrous loss turned out to be a wonderful blessing!
A Fruitful Decade
The first 10 years in the Old School was a time of continued growth for CFC. The congregation was blessed to have several gifted ministers serving on the staff in a variety of capacities:
—Pastor Daniel Paladin
—Pastor Jamie Sinclair
—Pastor Ben Levendusky
In 2007, CFC opened a ministry center at 57 Main St., Potsdam, to strengthen the outreach to local college campuses.
In 2008, the All Nations Institute was opened and began providing English as a Second Language training.
In 2009, Pastor Mike Tomford was sent out to Richville, NY, to replace the retiring pastor, Ford Reynolds, and continue the work there. In addition to Mike and his family, about 25 others from CFC joined in the move to Richville to help strengthen the work.
In 2011, a strategic partnership was established with believers in Spain, and Christian Fellowship Academy received its first international enrollments.
The Potsdam Launch
In the Fall of 2011, CFC launched a new work in Potsdam, NY. For several years, the congregation had considered reaching out to Potsdam. In February, 2011 a property at 41 Main St., the “Newman Center,” was purchased from the Catholic Church. And on Sunday, September 4, 2011, after several months of building renovations and ministry preparation, the new work was opened.
The Canton Launch
In November of 2015, Jamie Sinclair was ordained as a pastor with the hopes of soon overseeing a church launch in Canton. And so, on the first weekend in May of 2016, a service was held in Canton, NY. The Seventh Day Adventist Church graciously opened their doors, and they agreed to let this congregation rent their building for the next two years. CFC Canton now owns a building and is working on having services there.
The Journey Continues
The story is far from over. There is more exciting ministry ahead as we walk out the commission of Christ: to make disciples of all nations.
We hope that if you’re joining us for the first time, or if you’ve called this place home since the "Chicken Coop" days, you will continue to be a part of our exciting journey.
Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.