Pastor Joe Coudriet was raised in Endicott located in the beautiful southern tier of New York state. Even after leaving for college and spending nearly 30 years away from the area it always appealed to him, and ultimately Pastor Dawn. When they relocated to Syracuse from Missouri in 1990 it provided a convenient opportunity to make periodic trips to the southern tier to see family and friends. As their faith and involvement in ministry in Syracuse grew, so did their heart for the spiritual condition of the area that Pastor Joe had known as his childhood home. Economic downturn, hopelessness and poverty had taken the heart out of some in the once vibrant southern tier.
Because of their perceived need for the teaching of Biblical truth in the area, Pastors Joe and Dawn conducted a series of meetings for women in the Binghamton area from 1999-2002. They rented a series of rooms periodically during those years and Pastor Dawn ministered to women. Her ministry during this time was highly fruitful, but was God wanting them to start a church in the area? Because of their training and past experience they knew that starting a church was not something that you undertook unless you had a sure word from God. So, they discontinued the meetings and continued to serve faithfully at Abundant Life Christian Center.
Nonetheless, those meetings in Binghamton became the seed God used to ultimately give birth Southern Tier Family Life Church.
Often in ones spiritual walk it takes an event, or a spark, to ignite the flame that would one day become the fulfillment of God’s plan for a life, or lives. For Pastor Joe that moment came while delivering the eulogy at the funeral of his father in 2008. While standing on the same altar of the catholic church that he had been confirmed as a boy he felt the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit speak to his heart. The words, “You’re coming home,” were imperceptible to those attending the service, but loud in his heart. What did that mean?
In 2010, Pastors Joe and Dawn returned to Jerusalem, the place where their ordination into the ministry was conducted in 1995. It was Pastor Dawn’s year of Jubilee and together they spent time in prayer about the future. The guidance they received from the Lord after 10 days; “It’s a season of change.” With that, they returned to Syracuse and their responsibilities at Abundant Life Christian Center.
From the very first service back from Israel, Pastors Joe and Dawn were getting increasing confirmation about what the “change” would be. Their Pastor, John Carter, was teaching a series on Change. With nearly every truth that came out of his mouth, the Holy Spirit gave direction to Pastors Joe and Dawn, telling them that they were to start a church in Binghamton, what the name and mission would be and when it was to begin.
In time, the Coudriet’s shared their heart with Pastors John and Lisa Carter. With their blessing the process of planning and launching Southern Tier Family Life Church began. It would be nearly a year before Southern Tier Family Life Church became reality.
There are a lot of things that need to take place when a church is started; the majority of which are never seen or appreciated by the general public. From the time that the Coudriet’s received the blessing of their Pastors, they began working on the establishment of the church as a legal entity, incorporating in the State of New York as a religious corporation and writing down the vision. Southern Tier Family Life Church is a distinctive corporate entity and while independent of Abundant Life Christian Center, enjoys a vibrant fellowship with both the body of that church and its leadership. In addition, Southern Tier Family Life Church is comparable to Abundant Life Christian Center in spirit and in sacerdotal (the way churches perform ministry) practice.
Immediately after Pastor John Carter’s announcement concerning the establishment of Southern Tier Family Life Church with Pastors Joe and Dawn Coudriet as Lead Pastors, a group of family members, Abundant Life members living in Binghamton already and a small group of other Abundant Life members came together to form the core of what has become the church. With the blessing of the Abundant Life leadership and family, this group began plans to have its first service in April, 2011.
Because of the generosity of the core group, the church family of Abundant Life and others, STFLC was able to acquire thousands of dollars of equipment and supplies necessary to have a proper church launch. The group identified the Binghamton Riverwalk Hotel as a central location and entered into a long term contract in order to hold Sunday services.
After much preparation, the inaugural service was held on Easter Sunday, April 24th, 2011. This date will forever be the anniversary date for Southern Tier Family Life Church. The service was attended by nearly 100 out-of-town guests from Abundant Life, family and a group of about 28 men, women and children which became our base. It is from that original 28 people that we continue by God’s grace to grow today.
Services continued at the Riverwalk Hotel until early 2011 when hurricane created rains caused destructive flooding throughout the community. The Riverwalk Hotel was inundated by the flood waters, forcing the church to look for an alternative location. But, before it did, the church family performed its second LifeLine relief mission. On a day when it would normally worship, the then small church family took to the streets of Binghamton’s First Ward helping neighbors in need.
In the week following the closure of the Riverwalk Hotel, the leadership identified the brand new Boys and Girls Club of Binghamton, on Clinton Street as a long-term, temporary location for the ministry. Setting up each Sunday since the flood, the church continues to grow, thrive and pursue its mission.