HANCOCK -- Nestled in town is a church that, while it has a small congregation, is large in its faith.
For 162 years, the Hancock Baptist Church has made its home on Main Street, where it has been a place for members of the congregation to gather for Sunday service, and the overall Hancock community to come together to mark holidays and local occasions.
"Just like the Hancock [Central] School is the center of Hancock, the Hancock Baptist Church is also a community centerpiece," Mark Gaskill, a deacon at the church, said this week.
He added, "What does a community do without faith?"
Joan Burdick, who has attended the Hancock Baptist Church for about 50 years, said that when she was in grade school, everything that happened in Hancock was held at the church.
"Graduation and Christmas parties were there. The Memorial Day picnic would be held in the church's dining hall," she said.
The church was built in 1850, and there used to be carriage barns nearby for churchgoers to park their horses and wagons during services, she said.
One thing that has changed over the five decades she has attended the Hancock Baptist Church is attendance, which has dropped off significantly, she said.
"At one point in the 1970s, there were quite a few people who came, and we used to have about 40 kids in Sunday school. Now we only have about 35 kids in the whole Hancock [Central] School," she said.
"Most of our members are 50 years old or older," he said. "Everyone is made to feel welcome, hear the word of God and practice it in their everyday lives."
Linda Burdick, a deaconess at the church, said what keeps the church going is the faith and dedication of its members.
"Praying helps all of us greatly throughout our lives. It also helps in bringing people to the church," she said.
The church does have some money set aside that it has been able to invest, but it tries not to go into those funds unless it's absolutely necessary, she said.
"We don't want to see the doors close and we're doing everything we can to sustain what we have and bring in new people," she said.
David Rash, who has been a deacon for about 15 years, said that prior to the church being built on Main Street, its original location was on Route 43 near Ioka Valley Farm.
"There is a sign on the side of the road up there that marks the original site," he said.
As for the current church, they try to keep it up with the times as far as pastors and sermons, he said.
The church's current leader is Charles "Chuck" St. John, who re tired from the position of finance director for the town of Willi amstown in January to study to become a pastor. St. John was unavailable for comment.
Since 2009, the Hancock Baptist Church, which is a member of the American Baptist Association, has annually hosted a breakfast to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. The congregation also has movie nights for the community.
"There are few of us, but we are very faithful and dedicated to the congregation." Rash said.
To reach Meghan Foley, email