NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Randi Muck is one member of Faith Baptist Temple’s congregation who is going to deeply miss the years of devotion and love the Rev. Ray Carpenter and his wife have shown the church’s flock.
“They truly are two of the most wonderful people who have been part of my life,” Muck said last week as Carpenter approached his final service after 44 years as the church’s founding and only pastor.
Muck, an Avon Lake resident, is a longtime guidance counselor at North Ridgeville High School whose family has been a part of the church since 1992.
Sunday’s farewell activities are far removed from the church’s beginnings in 1969 when Carpenter came to North Ridgeville and founded the church.
He and his wife, Brooks, were guests of honor at a reception and dinner Saturday afternoon at the church on the eve of his final service Sunday.
Carpenter deflected credit for his decades of pastoring from himself to God.
“The Lord has been good to us,” he said.
“We certainly appreciate the Lord allowing us to do this all these years.”
Despite 44 years under his belt, Carpenter said he doesn’t feel as if he’s been in the pulpit that long.
Still, he acknowledges that “when problems arise, it’s harder to take care of them than it used to be.”
Carpenter recalled how services were first held in a Grange Hall on the site of the current city hall complex off state Route 83.
The church moved into its present home at the corner of Lorain and Root roads when it acquired the former property of Fields United Methodist Church.
That move put Faith Baptist Temple next to the old Fields Tavern, which was part of the purchase.
A sign went up by the bar that read: “I’ve been converted.”
The 1970s were a fruitful period for the church, which saw more than 400 attending services, and about 200 children active in the church’s youth ministry.
“We were running out of room, so we rented Fields School for a time,” Carpenter said.
Muck recalled the years of children coming to the weekly youth ministry programs by church bus from low-income housing projects in Elyria.
“Many of these kids would not normally be churched otherwise,” Muck said. “Their parents didn’t attend church anywhere.”
For them, the Carpenters provided “good, healthy role models” and the church offered a safe haven for play and fun, Muck said.
In the decades since, the church has suffered the fate of many other, with members slowly drifting away.
The children’s ministry, which sponsors activities Wednesday nights and Sundays, shrank as well.
Some 40 to 50 youngsters ranging from 4-year-olds through teenagers now regularly attend youth ministry programs and activities.
“Those little ones, the 4- and 5-year-olds, they can just steal your heart,” Carpenter said.
Given the nation’s myriad political, social and moral difficulties, Carpenter firmly believes “God is judging America.”
His sly, quiet sense of humor showed itself when Carpenter noted “we have all this sin but I can’t find anybody who admits to having any wicked ways.”
Despite the fact Sunday marked Carpenter’s final service, he will still be visible for a time at the church as he cleans out his office.
“When you carry stuff in for 30-odd years and you never carry anything out, you’ve got a mess,” Carpenter said.
The Carpenters plan to remain in the community but they won’t attend Faith Baptist Temple.
“That wouldn’t be fair to the next pastor,” Carpenter said.
Their absence is going to be deeply felt, Muck said.
“They have gone out of their way to love and care take of people,” Muck said. “They have affected a lot of lives in 44 years.”
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.