Open Door’s history is an account of God’s faithfulness through the years. It is a testimony of how God transformed an idea of two faithful men into a fully functioning and vibrant church. As the years went on, God placed people in certain positions to fulfill needed responsibilities. Because of the vision of Tom Hauser and Sam Hannah, the lives of countless people have changed forever.
The founding pastors of Open Door Baptist Church
In 1974, Tom Hauser and Sam Hannah met in speech class at Thomas Road Bible Institute. A life-long friendship had begun. They discovered that they had much in common. Even their differences were complimentary. While in school, their friendship grew into a deep bond as they ministered together for the Lord.
God called these men; however, they did not know where. They began street preaching and singing together. Sam would sing on the street corner with his “down home” style and Tom would preach to the gathered crowd. It was here that the Hauser/Hannah team began.
While in college, Tom and his wife, Char; and Sam, and his wife, Pam, prayed and talked about ministering together. After graduation, they agreed to meet in Rochester, NY. While they were here, the two couples toured the city together. They also met with pastors from this area to determine the necessity of a new church. At this point, they still felt unsure of God’s calling to plant a church here, so they departed and agreed to meet again in Rochester on January 17, 1977.
On January 17, Sam, Pam, and their two girls arrived as scheduled. However, Tom, Char, and their son and daughter were a day late due to a car accident and a horrific storm. Thankfully, not even a fierce winter storm could keep this young family from their destination. Tom and Sam soon found an apartment big enough for their two families on Thurston Road in the city of Rochester.
The two couples started a small Bible study in their apartment. Tom would visit door-to-door during the day while Sam worked at a local restaurant. As Tom prayed for financial support, God never failed to provide it, sometimes from the most unusual places! In the evenings, Tom and Sam would go out visiting. They also managed the teen ministry together. In addition, Char took care of the nursery and Pam taught the young children. As more people joined the church, the list of volunteers grew.
The small church eventually outgrew the apartment. They needed a larger place to meet, so they rented a building on Thurston Road. The adults met in the new location while the nursery and children’s ministry continued to meet at the apartment.
On August 28, 1977, New York State officially recognized Open Door as a church. The church appointed deacons, and Open Door moved from the building on Thurston Road to the Seventh Day Adventist Church. They rented this building for services on Sundays and Wednesdays.
The building at 174 Thurston Road
Open Door continued to meet at the Seventh Day Adventist Church until God provided an opportunity to purchase the former Trinity Emmanuel Lutheran Church at 174 Thurston Road for $165,000. The members of Open Door raised the entire amount! Pastor Tom preached the first service in the new building on July 6, 1980. Now, Open Door had a building to call its own, and God continued to grow the membership and ministries of the church.
Outreaches, such as Vacation Bible School, Round-Up Sundays, and participation in the annual 19th Ward neighborhood parade provided many opportunities to reach the community with the hope of the gospel. In addition to expanding outreach activities and events, Open Door also formed several ministries in that building. Among these were a bus ministry, a deaf ministry, and Word of Life clubs for children and teens.
The new building under construction in Churchville, NY
The church continued to flourish. As the membership continued to grow, Open Door needed a new building. In 1998, the construction was complete at 350 Chili-Scottsville Road in Churchville, NY. In addition to a new building, Open Door also required a larger staff. In April 2000, God provided a Missions Pastor and his wife, Bill and Dianne Finnerty. Bill had volunteered at the church for more than four years before the church decided to create his paid position. During this time, the church also added Pastor Lloyd McKee to the pastoral staff as the church counselor.
Dedication of the educational wing in 2007
All areas of ministry continued to grow. In 2002, as the youth department grew, the church hired Paul St. Denis to become the Youth Pastor. Paul grew up in the church. He had a calling from God to lead the Youth of Open Door in the right path.
Along with the growth of a lively and prospering church came many new challenges. One challenge was the church finances. Joe Lima, a man full of grace and truth, had been donating his time as the Financial Officer. In January 2003, Open Door decided to hire him. Joe also manages all business matters for the church.
In 2003, the church created a building fund for a large addition. Under Pastor Tom’s leadership, the staff decided that if God wanted the addition to be constructed, He would provide the needed funds to pay with cash. In June 2007, by the grace of God, the staff, deacons, and members dedicated the new addition. Classes, meetings, and special events now occupy this new space. In 2011, the church paid off its main building and celebrated with a “mortgage burning” ceremony.
Pastor Bill’s installation as senior pastor
After much prayer, Pastor Tom announced his plan to retire in 2013. His proposed successor was Pastor Bill, who was the Missions Pastor at that time. The church members voted in favor of Bill becoming the new Pastor. Together, Tom and Bill devised a transition plan beginning March 17, 2013. This plan allowed Bill to serve as Co-Senior Pastor alongside Pastor Tom. On July 21, 2013, Pastor Bill became the Senior Pastor, and Pastor Tom became the Pastor Emeritus.
As time went on, the staff at Open Door began to change. Jonathan (T-Bear) Stansel, formerly the Children’s Ministry Coordinator, was ordained as the Children’s Ministry Pastor on December 6, 2015. In 2016, Paul St. Denis moved out of the Teen Ministry to become the Pastor of the Adult Ministry. In addition, the church hired Jonathan Schallmo and Justin Hughes. Jonathan Schallmo became the Pastor of the Music Ministry, and Justin Hughes became the Director of the Teen Ministry.
Under the leadership of Pastor Bill Finnerty, we look forward to the Future of Open Door Baptist Church. Open Door will celebrate its 40th anniversary in August 2017!
Open Door Baptist Church
through Christ’s love
at work within us
We, at Open Door, desire to reach Chili and Rochester for Jesus Christ! We have a dedicated team of Pastors here at the church, who, together with their wives, are excited about God’s will for us in the future!