Ashland has a rich 129-year history. Ashland Avenue Baptist Church started as the Platt Mission Sunday School established by members of the First Baptist Church. Meetings were held in various buildings in the Ashland Ave.-Adams Street area until 1886 when 64 Sunday school workers organized the Ashland Avenue Baptist Church. A chapel was built on Woodruff Street where the educational wing of the building currently stands. A new sanctuary was built on the corner of Ashland Ave. and Woodruff Street. It was dedicated in 1896. Ashland grew substantially throughout the years at this location. At one time Ashland’s membership topped 1,000 in the early years of the 20th Century. Even by 1960, membership was at 900 with an average Sunday attendance of just under 500.
As the years passed and major changes occurred in the neighborhood, Ashland continued to serve with many programs and a strong Sunday school. We were involved in many community services such as housing a Head Start program, AA meetings, three Girl Scout troops and one Boy Scout troop along with school enrichment programs for underprivileged children.
Starting in the 1950’s and into the next four decades, Ashland met several crossroads. Staying at this location was a choice that was always met with new vigor and financial campaigns to keep the aging building in good repair in order to better serve the community. In 1968, the church voted overwhelmingly to stay and raised over $125,000 to improve the building inside and outside. A rededication service was held on March 23, 1969. The 1970’s saw continued strong involvement in the community. A senior ministry was established and we provided leadership in forming FOCUS (Family Outreach Community United Services, Inc.) which we still actively support. Ashland also was involved in the Toledo Area Council of Church’s Feed Your Neighbor program and continues to this day in Oregon, Ohio with our monthly Community meals and Food for Thought food distribution programs for the East Toledo/Oregon, Ohio community.
Several financial campaigns were necessary in the 1970’s and 1980’s. All of these campaigns were for specific reasons in keeping our aging building repaired, buying a tracker organ, and preparing for our 100th anniversary celebration in 1986. Major changes to the neighborhood and continued reduction in members through death and decline of attendance impacted our ability to serve the community.
During the 1990’s, two separate congregations shared our building, Mt. Tabor, an African-American congregation, and Iglesia Bautista el Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd Baptist) an Hispanic congregation. Attempts were made to bring the “unchurched” into Ashland’s ministry. “One Square Block Ministry” and “Persons in Evangelism” were door-to-door calling programs to accomplish this goal.
In 1993, just before Rev. Edward Sladek was hired in 1994, a survey was taken of the congregation of which 72% responded that they did not want to relocate.
Another financial campaign was run. These funds were used again for repairs and improvements to the aging building and as a tithe to the Ohio Baptist USA program “Building on Common Ground”.
Rev. Sladek began to explore new forms of worship blending traditional worship with more modern forms. Throughout the 1990’s the Diaconate began to remove inactive members from the church rolls, reflecting a more accurate accounting of Ashland’s membership. Reduction in active membership was also affected by deaths and older members becoming shut-ins.
Beginning in 2003 a Transition Team, meeting monthly, studied plans to create a more contemporary and dynamic “discipleship ministry” at Ashland. It produced a new Philosophy of Ministry, Statement of Faith, and Church Covenant approved by the congregation. Ashland Avenue Baptist Church now was becoming known as Ashland Church.
Facing the continual high cost of maintenance and repairs of the old building with massive repairs looming and a shrinking membership, Ashland’s congregation voted on Sunday, April 24, 2005 to sell the building. In June 2005 the building was sold to Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church. The tracker organ also was sold to Sonoma State (CA) University. On August 21, 2005, after almost 120 years in the Ashland Ave.-Adams Street location, Ashland held its last worship service at 2001 Ashland Avenue.
The next two years were spent sharing space in the First Baptist Church of Greater Toledo in Holland, Ohio. Eventually Ashland held its worship services on Saturday evenings to help make it easier to share the space. In September 2007, after two years of looking for a new building, the congregation approved the purchase of the Oregon Church of the Nazarene at 2350 Starr Avenue.
Ashland held its first worship service at 2350 Starr Avenue on November 24, 2007. On April 13, 2008, Ashland celebrated a “New Creation Day” as the membership prayerfully devoted itself to its stated purpose: to be a fellowship of believers committed to loving God, loving others, and making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Ashland has undergone tremendous changes in the last three decades. Our presence between East Toledo and Oregon, Ohio has opened new opportunities of service in this new location. Many new people from the surrounding neighborhoods have joined us and continue to help us meet new challenges in serving our God.