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Somerset Baptist Church: A Trip Down Memory Lane

somerset baptist church mt perry ohio auditorium
Somerset Baptist Church Auditorium after Remodel, 1992

In July of 1983, I started the Somerset Baptist Church in Somerset, Ohio. In 1985, we bought a Methodist church building near Mt Perry, Ohio for $5,000.00. The church, built in 1831 and one of the oldest Methodist buildings in Ohio, would be the church home until Polly and I moved away in 1994.

During the 11 years I was pastor, hundreds of church members came and went and we hauled thousands of kids to church on one of our four buses. For 5 years, we operated a private Christian school, open only to the children of the church. It was tuition-free.

bruce gerencser 1983
Bruce Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, 1983

Today, I uploaded over a hundred pictures from our time at Somerset Baptist Church in Somerset/Mt Perry, Ohio. I made the album public so readers of this blog could view them. You can see them here.

This was the church where I came of age as a pastor. In 1983, I was a hardcore, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastor. When I moved away in 1994 to co-pastor Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, I was a committed Calvinistic, Reformed Baptist pastor.  I went through tremendous intellectual and social transformation during these 11 years.

As I scanned the pictures, my mind was flooded with wonderful memories of the shared experiences I had with the church family. Yes, there were bad times, stupid times, dumb ass times. Yes, I was a fundamentalist and that brought all kinds of baggage with it. But, as I looked at the pictures, I didn’t think about beliefs. My thoughts were of the wonderful times we had. Yes, fundamentalism mentally and emotionally hurt and scarred me, but that does not mean there are no good memories. There are lots of them. In fact, the vast majority of the memories I have are good ones. Sometimes, when people deconvert they often become so fixated on the negative that happened that they forget the good times. I know I did.

bruce gerencser 1991
Bruce Gerencser, 1991, Somerset Baptist Academy

I also shed some tears. There were a handful of people in the pictures who are now dead. Cancer, heart attacks, and car accidents claimed their lives and all I have left of them is the pictures and our shared memories.

After I posted the pictures to Facebook, I heard from a number of people who were once part of the church. Most of the people I heard from were children when I was at Somerset Baptist Church. They are now middle-aged with families of their own. Their parents, like me, are old and gray. It was nice to hear from them.

I decided to upload to Facebook all of the old pictures I have. They aren’t very good – the best a $20.00 camera could offer. In fact, they are down-right terrible. But, infused into the photos are memories, and it is those memories that matter. In the coming weeks, I will find out if the lesion on my pancreas is cancer. If it is, I know the prognosis is, “it sucks to be me.” I am OK with that, not that I have any choice in the matter. I wanted to upload these pictures while I could. Even without the current health problems I have, I know that I am on the shorter end of life. The sun is long in the western sky and I thought it best to share the photos while I could.

bruce and polly gerencser 1985
Bruce and Polly Gerencser, Sweetheart Banquet, 1985

I feel old today, as a man who has lived a long life. But, I also feel blessed to have lived a good life, a life marked by contradiction, conflict, grief, and change, along with happiness, joy, and goodness. It is the sum of my life.

bruce gerencser 1990's
Bruce Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, Early 1990’s
bruce gerencser 1987
Bruce Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, 1987



  1. Avatar

    Wonderful memories! I’ve been guilty of what you said, so consumed with the bad, I forget the good. There were many good times 🙂

    (Btw, you looked like such an IFBer!! 🙂

  2. Avatar
    Thomas Whitten

    On the contrary. The photos are excellent. Gotta have a closer look. They tell stories. You know the narrative of the photos, I don’t. The door image with the thunderstorm approaching for instance…are the folks running home to get stuff closed off? Tornado warning on the radio? The girl’s face is full of excitement. I’d like to know why. I’m very happy you are back. You get my brain cells going.

  3. Avatar

    Your are right, I have forgotten about the good times. As a child during half of my church days, I was sheltered from a lot of the crap- all I had to do was obey and things were pretty good.

    Bruce, thanks for reminding us that there were good days among the bad. I hope the news from the doctor is good.

  4. Avatar
    Doug B

    I look at those pictures and see a pretty little church, a welcoming church that makes one want to find a pew and sit a spell, see what’s going on.

    You really accomplished something there and made an impact on a lot of people. As someone who was once for a brief time a Sunday School Superintendent and Sunday School teacher, I often look back and wonder about the impressions I left. Oh, like you, I regret the way I went about it (fundamentalism), yet my heart was in the right place and I wanted to good.

    Thanks for allowing us to walk down memory lane with you. And will you pardon me for saying I’m praying for you and so much hoping you get good news about the lesion. I’m thankful our paths crossed. You’ve helped me a lot.

  5. Avatar

    i saw the american flag prominently displayed below the cross in several of the facebook pics. i’d be curious of your evolution on thinking about that. ie, i presume you had a strong opinion about having it up at first. i’m guessing that towards the end of your ministry, you didn’t have one up, but don’t know for sure. i’d also be curious how common it was among your ifb peers to have a flag that prominently displayed, (right below the cross), vs off to the side, vs not shown at all. just a potential post idea, if it suits your fancy.

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Bruce Gerencser