River Road Church of Christ, 6767 River Road, New Port Richey, FL 34652

Telephone: 727-849-5951 Fax: 727-847-9823

Church Of Christ Will Be Organized
In New Port Richey

 

A congregation of the Church of Christ is to be organized in New Port Richey. First services will be held Sunday May 3. The order of services will be Bible school from 10:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.; worship at 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

 

Services will be conducted temporarily in the VFW Hall, until a permanent building is constructed on a yet to be selected site.

 

Gordon Hogan comes from Pinellas Park as minister and teacher. Hogan is 31, married, with three children. He has served the Pinellas Park Church of Christ as a deacon, Bible school teacher and as secretary of a successful building program.

He comes to New Port Richey, under the sponsorship and supervision of the bishops of the Pinellas Park church.

 

This will be the first Church of Christ organized in New Port Richey. Members of this church living here have previously traveled to nearby cities to attend worship.

Several members of the Lord’s church had settled

in New Port Richey, Florida by 1958. Cass Haag

(former member in Pinellas Park), George and Maude Morris, and Lee and Nellie Patton were traveling to Tarpon Springs to worship with the church there. Early in 1959 brother Haag approached the Pinellas Park elders to consider starting a congregation in New Port Richey. From a one-page report entitled “A Real Challenge” written by an unknown author during that time, we read, “In compliance with Brother Haag’s request they investigated the matter and after prayerful consideration decided to support the work. The elders selected Gordon Hogan, one of the deacons at Pinellas Park, to take on the responsibility of preaching and teaching. In so far as is known, New Testament Christianity in its purity and simplicity had never before this time been preached in this town of about 3,000…”
 

The idea to start a new congregation was met with a little apprehension by some. Nellie Patton recalled thinking, “How can you start a congregation with only a few people?” She remembered the Lord answered this question in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” The new work began on May 3, 1959.
 

                  The following article appeared in the local newspaper, New Port Richey Press,

                  May 2, 1959. A similar article appeared in the Saint Petersburg Times on the

                  same day.

Congregation 1959-1960

The local VFW Hall on Gulf Drive served as the meeting place for the newly formed congregation of the Lord’s church in New Port Richey. They met at the rented hall throughout the summer of 1959. It was during this time that they purchased part of the land on which the current building now stands. A building fund was started and the

                 work continued full steam ahead. Brother Hogan wrote in his bulletin editorial

                 (July 5, 1959), “Our work in the New Port Richey has thus far been extremely

                 gratifying. Practically every member has pitched in and done his part. One or

                 two have drug their feet. For every one member that is a slacker, two must

                 work twice as hard to get the job done. We have made rapid strides in a short

                 time, God has blessed us. Future progress of the church depends on us. Let’s all

                 continue to be full of zeal and enthusiasm.”

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                 His words of encouragement were taken to heart. Attendance was up to 56.

                 Contributions from members of the Pinellas Park congregation helped the new

                 work to be able to make the last payment on the property by October, 1959.

                 Construction on a new building was in full swing by spring of the following year. Many of the members did the work themselves. John Wheeler, the preacher in Pinellas Park, and other brethren came to help. Men dug the foundation, laid the blocks, and did the carpentry work, while the ladies prepared meals and did other odd jobs. Firsthand accounts tell of some women who also worked hard in the construction phase right along side of the men. These diligent and determined Christians set the goal of finishing and moving into their completed building on June 15, 1960.

Youth Group in 1960
John Wheeler helping to break ground
Congregation in the early 60s
Nellie Patton
George & Maude Morris

There was a real sense of unity and closeness in this small group. A great deal of personal work and visitation was done. People were baptized and the church grew. Once again in the report entitled “A Real Challenge,” the writer went on to say, “From the very beginning a plan was adopted and goals set for future growth and development. A budget was drawn up and adopted which included regular monthly contributions as follows: Evangelist James Judd, Nyasaland, Africa $20.00. Evangelist Ira Y. Rice, Singapore, Malaya, $10.00, Mount Dora Orphan

                          Home $20.00 and Herald

                          of Truth Radio Program

                          $5.00. In addition the

                          Church is able to handle

                          its own expenses, help

                          others and lay aside a

                          small amount for a

                          building fund.

Gordon & Jane Hogan 1961

The church continued to increase in spirit and in number. Several preachers traveled to New Port Richey to fill the pulpit on a temporary basis. William S. Hunt came up from Tarpons Springs, followed by B. V. Bolin of Largo. During this time the church installed both elders and deacons. Once the church was well established, Gordon Hogan and his family left for foreign mission fields, where they lived for many years.
 

Through the years to follow the church was able to support several full-time preachers The first was Weyman Meadows in 1968. The congregation continued to grow. Adjacent property was purchased and a larger auditorium was built. Well-known preacher, G. K. Wallace of Tampa, came to speak at the dedication ceremonies on March 1, 1970. The old auditorium

                                     was converted into temporary classrooms with moveable partitions. This

                                     allowed the area to be used as a fellowship hall.

First Vacation Bible School August 1961

From the beginning, brother Hogan was diligent in his search for a full time preacher for the new congregation. Before the brethren met for worship that first Sunday, Gordon had written to M. P. Winkler of Springfield, Missouri to encourage him to move to New Port Richey. In a letter dated April 25, 1959, brother Gordon stated, “Enclosed you will find a copy of information being released to the newspapers today concerning the beginning of a work in New Port Richey. Until the elders can do better they are sending me. Each of them has expressed the wish that Bro. and Sis. Winkler come to New Port Richey and I double “amen” that notion. I will certainly do my level best to at least prepare the soil for the best sowers I know—the Winklers.” Brother and sister Winkler came to look over the work during the week of the church’s first anniversary in May, 1960. They decided not to take on the work in New Port Richey.

Second Auditorium 1970

Later in 1970, Alfred Oswald came to preach. He worked with the congregation for three years. In February 1974, Paul Jergins began working with the church. He continued for almost eight-years with the congregation. Paul had retired from secular work and recently graduated from the Preston Road School of Preaching in Texas. With the help of good, faithful brethren, brother Jergins was able to keep the congregation together through some turbulent times in the late seventies. Paul semi-retired from preaching in December, 1980. Chris Steele, graduate of the Florida School of Preaching, was asked to come and be the fourth full-time preacher of the New Port Richey Church of Christ, starting in January 1981.
 

Because of other congregations starting up in this fast-growing area of the county, the church felt the need to incorporate and to change the official name of the congregation to better identify themselves. Instead of the New Port Richey Church of Christ, they now would be known as the River Road Church of Christ.
 

Over the next twenty-eight years, the church has continued to grow and change. As a whole Florida was attracting younger families and many were moving into the New Port Richey area. With the increased number of children it was necessary to build on again. Three more classrooms, restrooms, a carport, and minister's study were added to the north side of the auditorium in 1983. A new fellowship hall (also used as a small auditorium), kitchen, and additional restrooms were completed in 1998. With an average winter attendance of nearly 170 it was necessary to remodel the original auditorium (constructed in 1960) and convert it into classrooms. Two permanent classrooms were added in 2000, with two more planned for the near future.
 

Our records are incomplete. It is impossible for us to know the many Christians who have passed by our way. God only knows how much work has been done, studies conducted, words of encouragement given, and support (both spiritual and financial) has been contributed to the church in New Port Richey. One thing we do know, congregational growth requires the efforts of everyone. The great God of heaven has blessed those efforts all these years. It is to His honor and glory that we celebrate 50 years!

Class Rooms & Car Port 1983
Fellowship Hall 1998

-Chris Steele, Updated April 2009