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Church brings old-fashioned tent meeting to Sanborn

Ministering to the needs of a congregation and raising a large family can be quite a challenge, but the Rev. John E. Britt has been up to the task for many years.

With the nest emptying out now, "to tell you the truth, it's kind of quiet around home," he said recently.

It won't be quiet this summer, when Britt's Cornerstone Bible Baptist Church brings an old-fashioned tent meeting to the hamlet June 19-24, across Buffalo Street from the church at the Sanborn Fire Hall picnic grounds.

"We bring in nationally known preachers to challenge the folks in the community," said Britt. "We set up a 40-by-60-foot tent. This event's designed after the great tent meetings of yesterday, held by preachers like Billy Sunday."

Sunday, who helped begin Community Missions of the Niagara Frontier in the years preceding the 1929 stock market crash, was determined to prevent "that [even] one man should freeze."

While a student of Tonawanda High School, from which he graduated in 1975, Britt said he was active in Young Life, a nondenominational youth group.

A clergyman took interest in his life and spent time with him.

"He was always trying to show me how important it was to have a personal relationship with Jesus," said Britt. Later, Britt, who attended Brockport State College, said he had "a great hunger for the word of God, and entered the Niagara Bible Institute," from which he earned a degree in pastoral theology in 1983.

"My wife and I joined Open Bible Baptist in January of '84," said Britt, of the church on East Niagara Street. "I was active in the Children's Ministries, and later when Pastor [Robert M.] Neisen decided to start a Christian Day School, I was asked to be principal of the school. I worked with Pastor Neisen for 18 years, in many different capacities."

That also included teacher in the Christian day school and assistant to the pastor.

At Cornerstone Bible Baptist since 2002, Pastor Britt oversees a church with a vibrant music program, aiming for a "warm, friendly atmosphere." The church also features an international missions ministry and Sunday morning children's worship service for those ages 5 to 11. A nursery is provided for babies and kids up to age 4. There's also a Ladies Monthly Fellowship, and a Faithful Men's Monthly Bible Study.

"For the past several years, we've given the men of the church an opportunity to preach, to challenge our hearts," Britt said. "What a blessing it is to have men who want to preach."

The church also will host a World Missions Conference the first week of April. And a Home and Family Conference in November. For more information on these offerings, and the old-fashioned tent meeting, call 694-2905.

"It's our goal to reach all people with the Gospel," Britt said. "It's my privilege to serve as the pastor of Cornerstone Bible Baptist."

While serving in his various ministries, Britt has included his family in the meaningful work.

His wife Lael is active at Cornerstone, and their oldest daughter, Jocelyn Troell, and her husband Stephen do missionary work in the Mideast.

Britt's son, Jeremiah, and Jeremiah's wife Sara participate in Cornerstone Bible Baptist's children's ministries.

Now grandparents, the Britts also have two other grown daughters, including "middle daughter" Jillian Allard, a Roswell Park Cancer Institute nurse. The couple's youngest daughter, Jenna Lee, recently graduated from Buffalo State College with a degree in sociology.

About 65 congregants attend services on Sundays at the church, 5810 Buffalo St.

Sunday school, at 10 a.m., is for all ages. Sunday morning worship is at 11, with Children's Worship at the same time. Evening Gospel Hour is at 6 p.m., with Wednesday Prayer at 6:30 p.m., followed by a Bible Study Service at 7.

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Have an idea for Religion News? Write to Louise Continelli, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240 or e-mail her at lcontinelli@buffnews.com

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