Ministry to the Community Since 1956


This picture is of the original Tollhouse Church. The site is the same as today's Mary Barton Chapel. In the 1880's, the Yancey family donated the land for the church and the adjacent cemetery to the community. The first church burned down in the fire of 1931; the fire devoured the church rapidly as it was made of wood and wood shake.  

As far as is known, that congregation dispersed following the fire. However, when Ruth Gibbs moved to Tollhouse, she began a Sunday School in her home. In 1956, the Cemetery District built the facility known as Mary Barton Chapel to provide for funerals, but the Trustees, knowing of Ruth Gibbs’ work, invited her and other families to use the chapel for church services. A congregation formed at that time and has continued to the present. As of 2010, the only original members still in attendance are Grace and Jack Rose, daughter and son-in-law of Ruth Gibbs, and their son, Ron, and daughter, Jill. Later, the congregation built an auxiliary building, Gibbs Hall, which included Sunday School rooms, a kitchen and a children’s nursery.


In the beginning, ministers were supplied by the Council of Churches retired pastors, with a different minister each week. For a period of years, a Reverend Eisenbeis came regularly, although not as a full-time pastor. Following his departure, students from the Mennonite Seminary in Fresno filled in, and one, Jake Falks, stayed for two years.
           
Lloyd Gardner ministered on Sundays during 1975. Lloyd came in as the first full-time pastor for the Church of Tollhouse in 1976. During his tenure, the church organized more formally as a community church in the early 1980’s. The group purposed to form the church around the biblical pattern in the New Testament, governed by a group of spiritual elders and doing all under the direction of the Holy Spirit. During this time, the church purchased a 14-acre plot just to the south of the Chapel and planned to build their own building there. Although they had building plans developed, the actual construction was not realized at that time.
           
After Lloyd Gardner’s departure and a period of again having various ministers and church members share on Sundays, Pastor Doug Ainley came in 1987 and served for a period of 9 years. On March 17, 1996, Pastor Ainley and the majority of the congregation left to form a Four Square church, meeting at the High School. Some of the original members, however, felt it was important to keep the Church of Tollhouse as a continuing light in its original form and location, and they invited Pastor David Tolladay to join them on a full-time ministerial basis. Pastor Tolladay served for just about 17 years, until he retired on December 31, 2012. At that time the Holy Spirit led the church elders to invite Pastor Rob Morton to minister to the church on a full-time basis.  

New Church Front 2002In 2002 the congregation began work on a new building on the property that was purchased in 1983. This building is a testimony to God's faithfulness, as it was built primarily with volunteer labor and without any debt, as God miraculously supplied the funds needed. The new church was officially dedicated on October 7, 2007 and seats up to 300 people.
           
The Church of Tollhouse will continue to be the "light on the hill", ministering to the local community and bringing the message of God's love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.