Nov. 28, 1922 – Feb. 18, 2016
The Rev. Alan Townley Forbes, who inspired thousands during 45 years of ministry in Buffalo, died Feb. 18 in Boca Raton, Fla. He was 93.
As director of the nondenominational Buffalo Christian Center, he provided facilities and programs for youth and adults from more than 800 Protestant churches in and around Western New York.
In the early 1960s, he purchased the center’s four-story building at Pearl and West Tupper streets in downtown Buffalo, former home of an aerie of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, and hosted Christian recreational programs for youth and other religious activities, including teen revivals, concerts of sacred music and Bible study meetings.
It contained a 1,000-seat auditorium, an 18-hole miniature golf course, a swimming pool, a gymnasium, a roller-skating rink, a broadcast booth, a snack bar and a Christian bookstore. The auditorium later was named the Forbes Theatre in his honor.
“The idea of the center is to provide social, recreational and spiritual activities for churches that don’t have them,” he told The Buffalo News prior to his retirement in 1992.
Born in Brooklyn and raised as an Episcopalian, he was an outstanding singer as a youth. He was inspired to enter the ministry at age 16 while singing as a paid vocalist in the choir of a Methodist church in Danbury, Conn., where he graduated from high school.
He went on to attend Eastern Baptist College and Theological School, near Philadelphia, where he earned two degrees. While in Philadelphia, he was a member of evangelist Rev. Percy Crawford’s Young People’s Church of the Air Quartet.
In 1947, Rev. Forbes moved to Buffalo to become assistant pastor and director of youth and music ministry at Prospect Avenue Baptist Church. The next year, he became director of Buffalo Youth for Christ, which later became Youthtime Christian Center. He changed the name to Buffalo Christian Center in 1964 to correct the impression that it served only young people.
He also helped start Christian radio station WDCX in the 1960s, broadcasting four programs daily. For many years, he hosted a daily program, “Good News at Noon,” first on WXRA, then on WDCX, from a booth on the center’s fourth floor.
Among the young people he inspired was the late Rev. James W. Andrews, founder and pastor of the Chapel, the mega-church in Amherst, who attended a youth rally Rev. Forbes led in 1950.
“It was exciting and vibrant,” Andrews told an interviewer in 1992. “It’s because of his ministry and his program that I am in the ministry myself. He has been an influence on thousands of lives. He has provided activities for young people where old-fashioned values were not only taught but shown.”
After retiring to Florida, Rev. Forbes continue to minister in several venues.
Survivors include his wife of 72 years, the former L. Jane Woods; three daughters, Letha J. Flynn, Victoria J. Dueck and Michelle J. Ramey; seven grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday in Whitehaven Road Baptist Church, 1290 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island, after family visitation at 2 p.m. The service will be streamed live on the church’s website, wrbc.org.