Scranton Road Bible Church has had a rich history of sharing the Gospel message at the corner of Scranton and Clark Avenues in Cleveland’s inner city neighborhood dating back to the 19th century.
In 1869, a Free Baptist Mission was started at the corner of Scovill and Putnum (now E.38th St). A Mr. Luther Doolittle took the lead in raising money for the first church building. In the spring of 1874, the Free Baptist Home Mission Society sent Rev. O.D. Patch to take charge of the church. In the fall of 1874, it was decided to change the location of the church to the South side, so the Scovill property was sold and the present site at Clark and Scranton was purchased.
The present church building was erected in 1893. The question of union with the Baptists had long been discussed among the Free Baptists in Cleveland. After extended discussion among the church membership, Scranton Road Church was admitted to membership in the Cleveland Baptist Association under the name of “Scranton Road Baptist Church” in early 1917.
In 1918, the church ran into difficulties when influenza spread throughout the city. Many of the members died. The church voted to ask the Cleveland Baptist City Mission Society for assistance and conveyed the title of the church property to the Association. There was a small Czech-Slovak Baptist Church and they started to hold meetings in the church with the consent of the Association. The small church began to take root and grow.
In 1942, the group was operating under the official name of “West Side Czecho-Slovak Baptist Church” with Reverend Charles Bohatec as Pastor. It was at this time that the church notified the Association that the church had voted to be self-supporting. Services and Sunday School classes were held in the Czech language. Over time, classes and services in English were incorporated into the Sunday day of worship.
In the late 1950’s, the church’s name was changed from “West Side Czechoslovak Baptist Church” to the “Scranton Road Baptist Church” in order to reach more people in the community. The church’s constituency continued to change. In 1962, several church members started a sister church in Parma, Ohio called Pleasant Valley Baptist Church. Services at Scranton Road were now held in English and there was only one Sunday School class taught in the Czech language.
Membership continued to decline as more members moved to the suburbs or passed onto glory. In 1971, the church offered Rev. Daniel Widlicka the position of pastor. Pastor Dan grew up in the church and his mother was one of it’s the earliest members. Under the ministry of Pastor Dan and his wife Jane a strong program in Christian Education through the Good News Club was offered to the neighborhood children on Wednesday nights. The membership continued to pray for helpers, specifically a youth worker. In the late 1980’s, “The Chapel” (now known as Parkside Church) sent Joe Abraham to work alongside Pastor Dan. In 1991, at the age of 70, Pastor Dan decided to step down as the head pastor and the congregation installed Pastor Joe as Pastor in 1992. Pastor Joe and his wife Debbie have served faithfully since that time. In 2001, the church changed its name to “Scranton Road Bible Church” with the intent again to reach more people in the neighborhood.
SCRANTON ROAD BIBLE CHURCH (SRBC) NOW
In the last 42 years, the church has seen only 2 pastors.
Pastor Dan Widlicka and his wife Jane came on board back in 1971. Pastor Dan grew up in the church. His mother began attending around 1918. Pastor Dan accepted Jesus as his Savior at the old City Mission building on St Clair Ave in 1937. After years of serving as an itinerant missionary, the Lord led him to Jane, a widow with 2 young sons, and they married in 1966. Pastor Dan was 46 years old. After Pastor Joe took on the position of Head Pastor in 1992, Pastor Dan stayed on and served as Pastor Emeritus until the Lord called him home in March of 2013, just short of his 93rd birthday. As Pastor Emeritus, he and Jane served faithfully at SRBC through the visitation ministry to the sick and shut-ins and on short term mission trips. Jane still plays the piano during the church worship service and hosts a Wednesday evening home group.
Pastor Joe Abraham, his wife Debbie, and their two sons Jeremy and Chad have been attending Scranton Road Bible Church since the late 1980’s. He officially took over for Pastor Dan in 1992. He truly has the heart of a pastor and a love for the neighborhood and its people. His commitment and faithfulness to God’s calling are evident to all those he lovingly serves in Christ’s name.
During the latter part of the 1980’s, the annual church budget was just under $30,000. Since then, it has grown to over 10 times that amount. Our building is bursting at the seams, every square inch is being used. One can find the church open 7 days a week with various ongoing ministries to the neighborhood. We have been blessed to work with a network of churches, missions, and ministries in the inner city and throughout Northeast Ohio that have been supportive through prayer, volunteer programs, and financial help over the years. As a result, Scranton Road Bible Church has been able to grow and sustain a vital spiritual relationship with the surrounding neighborhood.
About 15 years ago, a Tuesday mid-morning neighborhood Bible study was implemented which is immediately followed by bread and food distribution. Many have been discipled in the faith as a result of this outreach. At the neighborhood hot meal outreach on the last Saturday of every month over 200 meals are served and the Gospel is clearly presented to those attending. Every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, with generous assistance of the Parkside Church congregation, 250 turkeys and food baskets are distributed throughout the neighborhood. Scranton Road Bible Church has been doing this for the last 20 years.
Much emphasis has been placed on reaching and ministering to the children in the neighborhood. Our Good News Kids/Youth Outreach ministry reaches between 80-90 kids every Wednesday evening. For the last 12 years, SRBC has been working with Ambassadors Football hosting an annual summer soccer camp run by international soccer coaches and have had at least 100 kids in attendance each year. The children are challenged spiritually as well as physically. Within the last 5 years, our staff has developed a working relationship with Munoz Junior High School located on Scranton Road about a block away from the church. We have been given a special opportunity to minister to the students as well as the teachers of that school.
Studies show that the area surrounding the church has the most diverse population in the city of Cleveland. Our congregational make-up certainly reflects just that, as does our staff. There is also a wonderful turnout of college students each week that make the trip in from the Case and CSU college campuses as well as many families from suburbs throughout Northeast Ohio. Throughout the years, many of these students have served at SRBC while growing in their faith.
Scranton Road Bible Church has made a commitment to its neighborhood. In the process we are planning to build a Community Ministry Center as a means to increase our ability to serve. We desire to see our neighbors come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, be discipled, and then to make disciples of others. We are committed to prayer and the preaching and teaching of God’s Holy Word. We await to see what God’s mighty hand holds for us in the future as we walk by faith and serve through the Holy Spirit’s leading. We are blessed and humbled to be known in the neighborhood as “The Jesus Saves Church”.