Originally from Chicago, Harry Williamson did not become a pastor until later in life. â€œI had said â€˜noâ€™ to God about being a pastor for over 20 years.
I tried to prove to God that he
was wrong about calling meâ€¦and I worked hard at it!
But he was relentless.â€ After an interim assignment preaching at First Baptist, he accepted the call to become its permanent pastor in May, 1998.
In an interview with The Good News Rochester, he
spoke with passion about the congregationâ€™s mandate to him to go into the community and minister to everyone, â€œnot just stand here and preach on Sunday.â€
When asked about stories from the churchâ€™s early years, Pastor Williamson
recalled a woman who approached him one day and asked, â€œIsnâ€™t your church the one where, in the 1930s and 40s, the women in the community met in the basement to knit hats and scarves for the poor children?â€ No he
hadnâ€™t known that, but wasnâ€™t surprised.
The spirit of outreach has been bone and sinew of this church body from its beginning.
When asked what would bring a person to First Baptist Church, Pastor Harry responded that people feel comfortable visiting his church because they already know him.
He is involved in village life, from supporting the Boy Scout Troup and Cub Scout Pack, to being a volunteer firefighter and chaplain for the East Rochester Volunteer Fire Department.
Perhaps because of his firehouse cooking talents, he earned his own cooking program on Public Access channel 12. â€œPeople have seen me cooking, so everyone knows Pastor Harry.
That allows them to come to churchâ€¦They know thereâ€™s a place in the community to commune with God.â€ He
added, â€œEven though theyâ€™re not part of the body yet, they know they can be and thatâ€™s hopeâ€¦ and God is hope.â€
First Baptist is a member of the East Rochester Association of Churches
Members of St. Jeromeâ€™s Catholic Church, the Koinonia Church
and others, bring gifts and food baskets to the fire house at Christmas to be delivered to families in need.
The Association of Churches
celebrates Christmas with Parkside Home, a residence for people who need some daily assistance. â€œThe whole village of East Rochester is very warm and giving and the church just wants to be part of that,â€ Pastor Williamson
â€œA woman from across the street came over with a (stray) kitten and asked if she
could put (a notice) on the bulletin board.
could come because she
knew this was a church that was open and welcomingâ€¦Thatâ€™s really what this church and congregation is about,â€ Pastor Williamson
said with a smile.
wouldnâ€™t have it any other way for the â€œChurch of Light."