During World War II, the Bay Area was a major center for ship building and the manufacture of military equipment, to which hundreds of thousands were drawn for employment. Suburbia was busy adding homes by the thousands. For many years, a sign stretched across Castro Valley Boulevard proclaimed, “We’re Crowing Because We’re growing” referring to its reputation for raising chickens. With the influx of new residents, the sign came down as poultry barns gave way to schools and houses. Before the war, the population of the area was largely Roman Catholic. Many of the Protestant newcomers were driving to Oakland or other cities to attend church. Clearly, the time had come for an evangelical church in this unincorporated area. A half dozen residents, motivated by the Holy Spirit, longed for worship, Bible study and fellowship with other evangelical believers. They began to meet in the homes of one another.
They came to love each other with unusual godly fervor, a fruit of the Spirit which became a hallmark of the church. Such power of Spirit led fellowship in small groups, whether formally or informally gathered, has continued to be manifested in the church to this day. As their numbers grew, they began negotiations with the San Francisco Bay Cities Baptist Union to secure a place of worship.
In 1946, under the leadership of Rev. Lawrence Odegard (1946-1948) and the few charter members, First Baptist Church of Castro Valley began meeting in a small rented building (formerly a liquor store), on Castro Valley Blvd. The word of God found rich fertile soil in this fast growing community and the membership increased accordingly.
Under the leadership of Rev. Kenneth Ross (1948-1952), the church was incorporated as a California 501c3 organization in 1949 and God continued to bless the Church with new members, so much so, that the small store could no longer accommodate them. They began looking for another property and in 1951 they bought the site at Redwood Road and Malabar Avenue. On this property, members of the congregation built the chapel using recycled materials from dismantled buildings at the Oakland Army Depot. This 5,788 square foot building, currently our Family Life Center (AKA the gym), contained a kitchen, an office, several classrooms, and an assembly room, capable of seating 250 people.
In 1952, the Rev. James Baldwin was called to be Senior Pastor. The congregation continued to grow, which resulted in the church buying the neighboring property on the corner of Redwood Road and Seven Hills road. On September 21, 1958, construction of the new chapel was complete. This 350 seat sanctuary is where we still meet to this day. In 1958, Pastor Baldwin was called to another ministry.
Without a pastor, the congregation asked a lay leader and Bible teacher named Paul Ratcliffe to lead the church each Sunday and conduct mid-week services. Shortly afterward, he accepted the call to be Pastor and was ordained by the San Francisco Bay Cities Baptist Union and the Northern Baptist Convention of the State of California. Pastor Ratcliffe was the longest serving pastor of this congregation and retired in 1986 after 28 years of service. During his term the emphasis of the church was Christian education and evangelism. Members of the church became a close family and grew spiritually in knowledge and truth. Even after retirement, Pastor Paul continued to serve the congregation faithfully as a teacher and as visitation pastor until he passed in 2009. His wife Mickey, who was a local kindergarten teacher, served as a children’s Sunday school teacher for most of those years. The Ratcliffe family was instrumental in starting A Kids Kingdom pre-school which still operates today.
In 1989 Rev. Dale Hummel was called to be senior pastor. Dale had an incredible preaching ability. In the first three years of his tenure, the church tripled in attendance to an average of 650 people with three Sunday morning services, one evening service, and a multitude of Sunday School options. The church’s mission statement became ‘Love God and invite others to follow Jesus’. During this time of growth, youth ministries, including Elementary, Jr. High, and High School, also flourished which resulted in the church needing to rent additional property to accommodate the High School group. This new meeting place, called “the Rock”, accommodated up to 200 students (churched and un-churched) from throughout Castro Valley. In addition, Pastor Hummel’s wife, Marcia, began an AWANA program at the church which averaged 177 children in attendance.
In 2005, Rev. Rod Phillips was called to be the Senior Pastor. Pastor Phillips opened up the doors for a higher involvement in mission work including his personal leadership and involvement with missions in Ufa, Russia. He served until February 2010. During this time, the congregation also began other regular short term mission trips to Malawi Africa and Indonesia (Sisters in Service), as well as continued support for several missionaries throughout the world (many of who were called to missions while attending First Baptist). Our mission statement became Living, Loving, Learning. We exist to know God, love God and live according to His will, so that we may present everyone complete in Christ.”
In 2010, long-time congregant Don Ott became our Senior Pastor after serving on the CV First staff since 2001. Don and his family began attending the church in 1993 (he played shortstop on our softball team, and taught a popular couples class for many years). The call to full-time ministry fueled a mid-life career change from intercollegiate athletics. He and his wife both previously served on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ.
At the end of 2016, Pastor Don stepped down as Senior Pastor to pursue God’s calling to minister in the secular arena and return to intercollegiate athletics as a commissioner in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). He will be providing direction and oversight to the athletics program of colleges and universities in California, Nevada, and Arizona, working with thousands of student-athletes, coaches, and administrators.
CV First is currently working with a Transitional Coach to prepare us for our next Senior Pastor.
Castro Valley First Baptist Church is an evangelical, mission-minded, conservative church. A source of pride for this congregation is we still hold to the tenants of the charter members and the commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ that we are to love one another. We seek to have a high rate of member involvement as we use our spiritual gifts for the building up of the body of Christ. It is our desire to share the gospel with CV First, our surrounding communities and across the world.