Vision and Faith: The Story of Nassau Bay Baptist Church
Nassau Bay Baptist Church was founded on faith. It all started with a vision. In 1962 slightly more than two dozen people had a vision for a Baptist church in the then sparsely populated Clear Lake area. Meeting in December in several homes, the vision grew rapidly. In fact, at just the second Sunday service, Rev. Al Novak, a retired Navy Chaplain and local pastor, along with his wife Ann, became the first members of the local congregation. He fulfilled the dream of Floyd King, the meeting organizer and next to join, who announced "God sent you here." Novak soon became the part-time mission pastor. The only property the church owned was a pulpit, which was dutifully carried from home to home for each service. Charter members June Vernon and Ruby Wright are still active members of NBBC.
Swiftly the fellowship grew, with attendance in the early years outstripping membership. El Lago Baptist Chapel rented meeting rooms in the Nassau Bay Shoppes and Ramada Inn to hold Sunday School and worship, and on February 21, 1965, Nassau Bay Baptist Church was constituted. With the help of associational and state conventions, the church purchased the land where the church is now located. In September, 1965, the first full-time pastor was called - Dr. W. H. Rittenhouse, better known as “Brother Bill.”
By December, 1966, the first building was occupied - and already too small. With each new family that joined the church, the vision grew - and fast! By the time the second educational building was completed in February, 1969, NassauBay Baptist Church was having three Sunday Schools and two worship services, with nearly 1,000 members.
Missions were an important part of the vision. The church has sponsored missionary families and helped start several churches including Clear Lake Baptist, South Shore Baptist, Calvary Baptist and Anchor Baptist. Also, through the years, many people have been called into Christian service through the ministry of this church.
Throughout its history, of course, Nassau Bay, with its proximity to the Johnson Space Center, has had an outreach into space. In the church is a prayer covenant made by the church and carried from earth into the heavens and to the surface of the moon. From early astronauts to those in the Shuttle program, many members have either served in space or been a part of the indispensable support team on earth. Because of this tie, numerous members and former members have carried the gospel around the world from Australia to Amman, from Geneva to Romania, from Belize to the Ukraine and from Thailand to Aruba.
Not surprisingly, the vision has grown and modified over time. Nassau Bay built a multi-purpose gymnatorium in 1976, under the leadership of pastor Bill Darnell. Seating 1300 for worship, the building also provided recreational opportunities throughout the week. Over the next decade the church would struggle, then grow and then struggle and then grow again, filling the facilities under the ministries of both Bill Darnell (1973-1977) and Tom Shelton (1978-1982).
The vision changed radically in 1988 when Nassau Bay Baptist Church learned first-hand the lesson that buildings are not the church - the people are. An intense fire swept through the gymnatorium on March 4, leveling it. Brother Bill Rittenhouse, who had returned in 1983 for a second tenure as pastor, now led the church as it struggled with a physical plant that had been reduced to its size during his first pastorate in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Services were moved back to the Chapel of the Beatitudes and Sunday School space was scrunched up. After lengthy planning the church then decided to rebuild a multi-purpose building with a gym, large kitchen, and Sunday School space on the slab of the gymnatorium and to build a new, larger sanctuary nearby. At the same time, and in order to accommodate this expansion, the church bought the adjacent vacant property for envisioned future growth. While somewhat changed, the original vision of reaching Clear Lake was still vibrant. This time, however, the money was not there. To save money, the church built only the multipurpose structure. Even so, the debt began to grow as the new building was finished, ballooning to well over half a million dollars and tying up a large amount of money in interest and principal payments from the budget each year.
Once more the vision grew in the 1990's. After the arrival of David Fannin as pastor in 1993, attendance grew to the point that the chapel was again cramped and crowded. In summer, 1994, the church raised nearly $30,000 in order to move the worship service from the chapel to the gym. The cost included new chairs, a new sound system, and a raised platform. In this "First Steps" campaign, all of the money was raised in just one Sunday. Once more faith had triumphed and the vision of growth was renewed. After that the church made a decision to pay off the entire debt of the church before trying to build a new sanctuary. And in little more than a year, NBBC members paid off a debt of more than $300,000. In addition the church voted to be good stewards of what God had already given them by renovating the older buildings, which had, for the most part, been structurally untouched since the 1960s. The church has remained debt-free since 1997 and continues its vision for future building.
Today Nassau Bay Baptist is truly a Fellowship of Faith. NBBC offers a full range of programs for the youngest to the oldest. NBBC has expanded its weekday preschool program to become Nassau Bay Christian Academy and offers prekindergarten and kindergarten led by highly-qualified certified teachers. Preschoolers and children in grades 1-6 participate in Sunday School, AWANA Clubs and graded choirs. Vacation Bible School is always a summer highlight, and our Fall Festival draws hundreds from the community each October 31.
For the youth a full range of opportunities exists. In addition to an outstanding Sunday School and choir, they have their own “Common Grounds” on Wednesday nights. Each summer they also go both on choir/mission tour and to summer camp. In 1999 a group of youth and their sponsors went to the Ukraine, where they hosted a youth camp for 300 Ukrainian Baptists. An annual event is U-Turn Discipleship Weekend where students stay at homes of our members over the weekend and have in-depth Bible study, discipleship and fun. At the present time, Matt McGee is serving as our interim. Nate Jordan was called as our new Associate Pastor/Students in February, and he is currently finishing this semester of school at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He, Jaimee and baby Luke (born in April) will be on the field here in June.
For adults Nassau Bay Baptist Church has a strong Bible Study program through the Sunday School, including men, women and coed classes. Age specific classes provide a setting where God's Word is carefully studied and discussed. The church encourages classes and departments to provide fellowship opportunities outside the Sunday morning time frame and also promotes cross-generational fellowship opportunities. Women participate in such activities as February’s Heart to Heart Dinner, April’s Ladies’ Tea and Women of Faith Conference. Men participate in PromiseKeepers Rallies and the Men’s Ministry includes a number of recreational and service-related events. Charles Draper, Associate Pastor/Education and Outreach, returned to NBBC April, 2004. A number of years ago, he came here just out of college to work in the space industry, was called to ministry, completed seminary education, served in a church in Austin - and now has come home. His wife Sherri (Sanford) grew up in this church and is a teacher in CCISD’s Goforth Elementary School . Their family includes Leah and Sam.
Worship at Nassau Bay is exciting from music to message. Roger Sharp, Associate Pastor/Worship, is an excellent musician who leads the congregation in praise choruses and hymns, accompanied weekly by keyboards, guitars and percussion and wide range of brass and wind instruments. Also, our Handbell Choir adds another dimension of excellent music as scheduled. The Sharp family - Roger, Mary Jo and Emily - came to NBBC July, 2006, and are all active in the music ministry. As well, Mary Jo is one of our Discipleship Training facilitators in Christian Apologetics and is a Certified Apologetics instructor with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Senior Pastor David Fannin, as previously mentioned, came to NBBC in 1993. He has led the church in increased membership and ministry and consistently preaches God’s Word clearly and without compromise. David’s wife Vivian has led Bible studies, taught Sunday School and served in other capacities as well as being his constant companion in ministry. They have 3 grown daughters, Kim, Amy and Tiffiny, their husbands and 6 grandsons, all of whom live out of state.
All of the activities of Nassau Bay Baptist Church follow the mission of experiencing and expressing the love of God through exaltation, edification, and evangelism. In other words, members are learning to live a life that’s worth sharing, so that they can share a life that’s worth living.