Since 1944, Emmanuel Community Church (ECC) has continued to see God’s faithfulness and grace as we have labored in Elmira, NY to preach and make disciples of Lord Jesus Christ.
Pentecostal Tabernacle (1944-1987)
Our church was founded on August 18, 1944, in Elmira, New York by “Brother” John Bedzyk. With the support of his family, his vision for the church was simply to preach the gospel, to “win souls,” and to make disciples in the community and the surrounding cities. The first service of the church, originally called the Pentecostal Tabernacle, was held in a shirt factory on Henry St.
Thanks to God’s great faithfulness, our church flourished and eventually moved to its current location on East Miller Street in Elmira on February 18, 1951, to accommodate the growth. In 1957, construction was completed on an addition to the building which increased seating capacity, classrooms, and office space. The church was hosting many large tent meetings and evangelistic events during this time and started a radio program, a K-12 Christian school, and operated a large bus ministry that brought hundreds of families to church every week. As a result, our church came to be widely known throughout the region.
Elmira Christian Center (1987-2021)
In 1987, the name was changed to Elmira Christian Center. This was in order to more closely associate our church to the broader stream of Christianity, but primarily to distance our church from the growing stigma associated with the “Pentecostal” label and the aberrant versions of the charismatic movement emerging at the time. However, we were still proud to be a true Pentecostal church (loosely affiliated with the Assemblies of God) that cherished its roots in the Wesleyan-holiness movement. Our congregation was marked by its devotion to fervent prayer, moral standards, vibrant worship, and longing for revival.
After shepherding for almost sixty years, Brother John died in 2004. Over the next ten years the church was led by several pastors who helped ECC remain a gospel witness in the area: Belvy White, Brian Harris, and David Cook. In 2014, during the summer of our church’s 70th anniversary, Dave Leandre became the lead pastor. Soon after, Brother John’s grandson, Matt Bedzyk, joined the pastoral staff to assist in the teaching, discipleship, and gathered worship of ECC.
It was at this time that the church began to undergo a major revitalization process to renew our local church by applying biblical priorities to its life, polity, and ministry. Our pastors had come to have a new appreciation for the gospel of God’s grace in Christ as well as a new understanding of the sufficiency of the Word, the work of the Holy Spirit, and what constitutes a healthy church. Under their leadership, the church came to adopt a totally revised Statement of Faith and saw our ministry practices reformed to be more Word-centered, gospel-driven, and Christ-exalting.
The 47-year history of Elmira Christian Academy came to an end with graduation of the Class of 2016. And on July 15th, 2018, Matt Bedzyk was called to be the lead pastor of ECC after Dave Leandre accepted a call from a church in the Pacific Northwest in need of a lead pastor
Emmanuel Community Church (2021-Present)
On February 23, 2021 the covenant membership of ECC voted to accept several significant revisions to the church’s Constitution and By-Laws. These revisions included clarifications to the Statement of Faith, the establishment of a plurality of Elders distinct from the Deacons, and changing the name of the church to “Emmanuel Community Church.” With the approval of the changes to our Constitution and By-Laws, we completed the transition from a church steeped in Pentecostal revivalism with a business-model polity to have become a Reformed, baptistic, elder-led congregational church.
The church name was also changed from Elmira Christian Center to Emmanuel Community Church in order to celebrate the occasion and clarify our identity. By adopting this new name (which uses the Greek spelling of the Hebrew word “Immanuel”) we were able to keep the acronym ECC. This would not only avoid much confusion among our own congregation and others in the community, but also honor our church’s past and God’s faithfulness to us over the years, as well as indicate a new chapter in our church’s history.
Throughout the existence of our church we have seen God’s faithfulness at every step along the way and have experienced much gospel fruit, all to the praise and glory of our triune God. Join us as we continue to preach the gospel, make disciples, and change our community!