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About Hartford

Visitor Information | Comments Off on About Hartford

Welcome to the Hartford Avenue Church of Christ!

What many people tell us after visiting Hartford for the first time is how friendly the congregation seems.  We hope that is true and we believe the reason for that is because the members here feel like family.  We not only love one another, we actually like each other!  We also love the Lord and consequently we are eager to see the church grow.  If visitors are Christians already and in search of a church home, we look forward to having them as part of the family here.  If visitors have yet to make that all-important decision about Christ, we would love the opportunity to share God’s love and the gospel of His Son with them.  We want Christ’s church to grow and  look forward to more and more people worshipping and working with us.  To learn more about who we are and what we are all about, including some of our history, click on the links below or simply scroll down as you read.  Thanks for visiting our website.  

OUR MISSION AND PURPOSE

Like any church that is serious about fulfilling its Christ-given purpose, the Hartford congregation exists to carry on the work that Christ began and for which He gave His life.  We seek to be Christ’s eyes and mouth, His hands and feet, and most of all His compassionate heart in bringing the lost of our community the good news so they too can be forgiven and look forward to their home in heaven.  Like God (2 Peter 3:9) we want all men to be saved and have the joy of being a part of His kingdom, church and family on earth.  We like to say, we are “a community of faith, a people of hope, and a family of love,” and you are welcome to join us as we seek God together.

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU VISIT US

  1. Most likely, when you arrive you will be met by our friendly greeters.  They will welcome you and be happy to answer any questions you have concerning where Bible classes and worship services are located.
  2. There are Bible classes for all ages, and usually a choice of several different adult and teen classes to choose from.  The greeters will have this information for you.
  3. You can expect to be greeted often by our members.  We enjoy having visitors join us for classes and worship.  Before class and worship begins, you will find folks visiting and enjoying each other’s love and fellowship.
  4. There is a break between Bible classes and worship on Sunday mornings, from 10:15 till 10:30. Bathrooms are located off of the main hallway and central lobby.  The worship assembly begins at 10:30 in the auditorium.
  5. An attended nursery is available for parents of small children.  Following the Lord’s Supper in our worship assembly, most Sundays there is a “Children’s Bible Hour” for children ages 3 through the 3rd grade.  Children are dismissed from the worship with a song and can be picked up in the Bible Hour room following worship.
  6. Worship usually begins with a song.  After that, one of the elders (church leader) welcomes all worshippers and shares a few important announcements.  He then begins our worship time together by leading our hearts and minds in prayer.  Several other songs are usually sung.  You may be surprised to see and hear that there is no special choir, or musical instrument (such as an organ or piano).  In that, we are trying to follow the faith and practices of the earliest Christians.  In their congregations, hymns were sung as a way of praising God and encouraging one another.  Please sing along to the best of your ability, and know that God is truly honored and pleased whenever people sincerely lift up their voices in praise.
  7. After singing several hymns, it is our practice each week to remember the sacrifice of Christ by sharing in the communion, or Lord’s Supper together.  A Christian will direct our thoughts by sharing from the Word of God and reminding us of the sacrifice made on our behalf.  Following the example of Jesus, we will give thanks for each emblem before they are passed–the bread which represents His body, and the grape juice which represents His blood.  The emblems are passed and as each Christian shares in that holy meal, they are encouraged to let their mind dwell on the love of God as seen in Jesus’ death on the cross.  If you are not yet a Christian, we do not want you to feel obligated to participate in this observance.  While in a sense, no one is worthy to partake of Christ’s body and blood, those who have been baptized into Christ are given that privilege.
  8. Following the Lord’s Supper, or some time before the conclusion of the service, a collection will be taken.  Whether the amount given is much or little, this too is done as an act of worship to God.  It is one way we have of expressing our love to God, and the funds collected go to help spread the gospel, help the needy and cover the church’s expenses.  Again, if you are not a Christian, we do not want you to feel pressured into giving.  The exhortation given before the collection is intended to inspire the members to give as God has blessed them.
  9. A sermon, or lesson, will be given by a competent teacher or preacher.  He will refer often to things taught in the Bible as he tries to teach people and encourage them about being a Christian.  If he says something that you do not understand, or perhaps agree with, please feel free to talk with him about it.  There is never any intention of insulting or offending any person, although when the truth of God’s Word is preached, it is sure to convict many hearts.    At the conclusion of the lesson, the speaker will usually offer an invitation, which is meant to offer people the opportunity to respond to God’s love and mercy.  Some people respond (come to the front), wanting to be baptized so they can become a Christian.  Some respond asking for prayers if they feel a special burden caused by sin or some problem in their life.  Some may respond expressing a desire to become identified with the congregation and still others may come asking for prayer for some special need they feel.  The elders of the church will meet those who come, assisting them with what is on their heart.
  10. When the service is dismissed, you will notice once again that people enjoy greeting and speaking to one another.  Worship times are like “family times” for Christians, and they look forward to each opportunity they have to get together.  Worship generally takes about an hour, to an hour and fifteen minutes.
  11. At some point in the service, you will probably be encouraged to fill out a visitors slip, which is on one side of the blue pad located in the song racks of each row.  By providing us with your name and other information, you afford us the opportunity to repay your visit or to give you a call.  We do that, not to “push our religion” on anyone, but simply to express our appreciation for their visit and to offer them our friendship.  We want to help as many people as we can in every way we can and especially to help those who are seeking God to find Him.  While we sincerely hope you will, we will never try to pressure you into coming back or meeting with us for study.

We hope you will visit us soon, and when you do, give us a chance to get to know you.  We think you are going to love our church family, and we know you are going to love our Lord!   Back to Top of Page

 A BRIEF LOOK AT WHAT WE BELIEVE

We are a congregation of Christians whose goal is to honor and glorify the Godhead (God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  We believe the best way to do that is to faithfully practice apostolic (New Testament) Christianity.  Sometimes we speak of “restoring” Christianity, which means getting back to what the Bible teaches concerning the beliefs and practices of the first century Christians.  Through the hundreds of years since apostolic times, many changes have crept into those beliefs and practices.   By carefully, and prayerfully following the Word of God, we believe it is possible for all believers in Christ to be one, and be united under ONE NAME AND ONE FAITH.  We do not claim to be perfect, or that we have arrived.  Restoration of Christianity is on ongoing task, but we believe it is a critical work and one well worth the effort.

We call ourselves disciples or Christians (Acts 11:26).

  1. We regard each other as fellow-members of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12).
  2. For that reason we often refer to one another as “brothers and sisters” (1Timothy 5:1,2).
  3. The Scriptures also speak of Christians as “saints”(Colossians 1:2), which means we are people who have been “set aside” to live holy lives of service to God.
  4. We do not append any other name to ourselves (such as protestant, Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, etc).  We are “just Christians.”

We worship as Christians did the in New Testament times

  1. We share in the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, which reminds us of the Lord’s death on the cross for us  (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
  2. We share in singing together, praising God and encouraging each other.  This is done, as it was in the first century, using only our voices to express what we believe and feel in our heart.  We sing without the assistance of any musical instruments.  (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 13:15)
  3. We share in a lesson together, a lesson drawn from the Word of God  (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  4. We share in times of prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-2; 8)
  5. We share in a collection, each one giving what they feel is a generous gift as a way of expressing our love and thanks to God, (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8:7,8; 9:6-8)

We preach the pure and simple, gospel of Christ

The word “gospel” means “good news.”  The good news is the message of God’s love and grace (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Titus 2:11).  It is the story of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  All of this was necessary because “we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  For God to be truly holy and just, every sin must be punished.  Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death,” which means eternal punishment away from God.   On the other hand, God is love and full of mercy, and does not want anyone to perish eternally (2 Peter 3:9).  That desire to justify men from their sins and to save them was what led God to send Jesus into this world.  He came to take our punishment!  He “tasted of death” for all of us (Hebrews 2:9).  His sacrifice makes it possible for God to forgive us and to make us His sons and daughters.  Thus after saving us, He adds us to His family (Acts 2:47).    This is the essence of the message we preach and teach and try to share with as many people as possible.  When people hear the good news, it is up to them to decide whether or not it is something they choose to believe.  If they begin to believe and put their faith (trust) in God, there are three things they must do…

  • Repent, which means to turn away from anything that is displeasing to God, (Matthew 4:17; Luke 13:3,5; Acts 17:30)
  • Confess, which means to make a verbal declaration of allegiance to Christ  (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:9-10)
  • Be baptized, or immersed into Christ so that His blood can wash away every sin (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3,4)

Following a person’s baptism, they are to do their best to live a faithful Christian life.  This includes being an active member of the local congregation (family of believers, Acts 2:41, 47; Romans 12:4-8; Ephesians 4:15,16; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Revelation 14:13).  Back to Top of Page

 

History of the Hartford congregation

Hartford began in 1958 as part of an intentional effort to continue the spread of the gospel in Ponca City. Members of what was known as the Palm and Grand church were facing a overcrowding situation. Several options to deal with that were considered, but eventually it was decided to begin a completely separate congregation to be located somewhere in the area of the community where the city was growing the most, to the north and east. The Grand Avenue congregation purchased twelve lots located on the corner of Hartford and Joe Street. During this time, discussions as to who would go become a part of the church plant and who would remain at Palm and Grand resulted in twenty-five families agreeing to form a nucleus for the new Hartford congregation.

Members, Leslie Parker, Frank Hastings, Gerald Cooley, Walter Beam and L.A. Keller were appointed trustees of the new congregation and took oversight of the construction. In the fall of that year, construction of a 400-seat auditorium was completed at a cost of about $100,000. On November 2nd the church had its first meeting with 297 people in attendance! That afternoon, 369 people participated in a special area-wide singing in the new facility and 202 returned for worship that evening. It wasn’t long until elders and deacons were appointed to lead and serve the new church. The first elders included: Frank Hastings, Warren Welker, Manly Jones and Leslie Parker. The first deacons were: John Sudbury, Rodney Smith, Walter Beam, Glen Riley, Jim Thompson, Bill Terry, and Bill Avery. These men were appointed for service on September 13, 1959.

Not long after that, the church reported an average of 205 for Sunday morning worship, 169 for Sunday evening, and 143 for Wednesday night Bible study. They had a weekly budget of $425. The congregation continue to grow and prosper, taxing the new facility. Plans were drawn up for a $60,000 classroom addition and work began, reaching completion in December of 1964.  It had been just six years since the  congregation’s initial beginning! In 1972 they began a bus ministry, eventually developing a fleet of three buses and two vans, transporting people of all ages to Bible study and worship three times each week. In 1975, Walter Beam printed a small history of the congregation, which indicated  the church had grown to over 125 families with an average age of less than 40. He indicated that a budget of $140,000 (approximately $2700. weekly) was being planned for 1976.

In 1975 plans were initiated to expand seating in the auditorium to 600, and to add additional classrooms, including a large basement area that could be utilized for times of congregational fellowship. Those additions were completed at a cost of $400,000 in April of 1976. Eleven years later, in 1987, a small medical clinic located east of the church property was purchased and completely renovated and expanded to become the congregation’s fellowship center. The spacious facility included a large, well-furnished kitchen, bathrooms and often serves as a classroom and work center for many types of effort.

Very early in its history, the congregation became mission-minded. In 1968 they began supporting Juan Blancas, first in Coin and then Cadiz, Spain. They added Diego Teruel in Alcorcon, Spain in 1972.  Miguel Quesada was added in 1974 to work in Malaga, Spain, and in 1978, they began supporting Jesus Nava to work in La Coruna, Spain. In 1980, the church launched its first domestic mission work, sending Dale Rhodes to Fort Dodge, Iowa. The following year they took on the support of another worker (Chris Thurber) in Mason City, Iowa.  The church made numerous trips to help support these domestic mission points, conducting VBS and other types of outreach efforts. In 1985, the church began supporting a Jamaican preacher named Michael Roberts in Lluidas Vale, Jamaica. Roberts had been trained in the Jamaica School of Preaching, a training program begun by brother Carl Maples who had served as a missionary to Jamaica for several years. In 1994, the Hartford congregation also helped to finance the construction of a new church building in Lluidas Vale. We continue to support a full-time preacher for the Lluidas Vale congregation, a young man named Jacques Small, who along with they wife Maydene works hard to bring the gospel to more people.

In the mid-1990’s, through the influence of brother Juan Monroy of Spain, the congregation began taking on a new mission field–Cuba.  Since the initial beginning of that work, we have provided support to a number of Cuban preachers, and as of 2015, we are supporting six men in the island nation just 90 miles off the coast of Florida.  We are supporting brother Jose Sori Cancio in Sancti Spiritus; Luis Sori Cancio in Trinidad; Manuel Manrique Garro in Matanzas; Leodan Leyva in Las Tunas, Lazaro Leon Lopez in Cienfuegos, and Nelson Romero in Sancti Spiritus.

Including its efforts with the Joy Bus ministry, the congregation has also been very active in local outreach. For many years the church has operated a clothing and food ministry to the poor and needy of Ponca City. Thousands of people have been helped and tons of clothing and food have been given away to the glory of God.

During the years of its existence, the church has been served by very capable ministers. James (Jimmy) Bays was the first full-time preacher, serving from August of 1958 to July 31, 1962. He was followed by Darrell Denny who worked with the church from September of that year to October 1968. Tim Watson followed Denny in January of 1969, preaching until the end of October, 1971. Carl Maples was the church’s fourth full-time minister, coming in January of 1972, and remaining until April, 1976. Edwin Myers followed Carl in May and remained until July 1978. For several months the congregation was without a full-time preacher, but brother Monte Ginnings was hired in May of 1979, remaining until August of 1983. Leland Rogers began work in November of that year, remaining for almost seven years, leaving in June of 1990. Rogers was followed by Ty Cross in September of 1990. Cross left in March of 1992 and for a year and half, the congregation was without a full-time minister, but blessed by the preaching of Dr. James Baird and Guy Ross of Oklahoma City. In August of 1993, the church secured the services of brother Stephen Parker who greatly helped the church regain its direction and momentum. In 1995, the church conducted an intensive “WE CARE” evangelistic campaign with brother Larry West of the Whites Ferry Road School of Preaching. During that campaign, more than 50 people were baptized! After Parker left in June of 1996, he was followed by Don Huddleston in February of 1997.  In July of 2015, Huddleston retired to a part-time role, serving the church as an associate minister with an emphasis upon personal evangelism.  He was followed by the present minister, Dennis Fulks.

 On November 2nd, 2008, the congregation celebrated its 50th anniversary.

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