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Central Valley Baptist builds on old-fashioned Bible values
Eric M. Tharp is the new pastor at Manteca’s Central Valley Baptist Church. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Eric M. Tharp’s mission – as well as that of the Central Valley Baptist Church - is crystal clear.

“It is very, very clear,” the church’s new minister said. “We connect people to God through the Bible.”

Tharp assumed leadership March 1 of the 10-year-old congregation that draws upwards of 475 people a week for services.

Central Valley Baptist has built a solid following based on old-fashioned values right down to the hymns during the services. That fits Tharp’s style perfectly as building on the Bible is straight-forward and to the point.

It is an approach that has helped build the congregation over the years.

“We view a guest as a gift to us,” Tharp said of first-time visitors and the congregation’s sincere effort to make them feel right at home.

Feeling right at home is something that best describes Tharp and his family’s move to Manteca. Tharp lauded Manteca for being a true family community that dovetails perfectly into efforts by Central Valley Baptist and other churches to spread Christian-based principles beyond the doors of their churches.

“We celebrate the strength of families whether they are single moms or moms and dads,” Tharp said of Central Valley Baptist and its focus on tying in “the home, the school, and the church.”

Central Valley Baptist is conducting an open house and free BBQ on Sunday, March 29, at 11 a.m. in a bid to introduce more people to the church.

Tharp, who has served 23 years as a minister, came to Manteca from Yuma, Ariz., where he served as pastor of the First Baptist Church for 19 months. Prior to that, he was at the North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara where he ministered for several years. He is also a college professor at Golden State Baptist College in Santa Clara.

Tharp met his wife Joanne at Bible College in Pontiac, Mich. They started Mountain View Baptist Church in Holyoke, Mass. where they served 19 years.

Tharp first delivered a sermon in front of a group when he was 9 years old at his hometown church. He’s been preaching continually since he was 13.

“I get to do every day what I love to do.” Tharp said of serving God and people as a minister

Every day is rewarding but Tharp said it is hard to top the feeling when he’s worked with someone who finally embraces God 100 percent.

“It’s a super natural feeling,” Tharp said as his face lighted up. “It has to be because it is not me or even our church that did it. God gets the credit.”

Tharp noted that in trying times more people turn back to the church for answers that Central Valley Baptist strives to provide through the Bible.

Unfortunately for some it is a fleeting desire.

Tharp’s church in Massachusetts was 90 minutes north of Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001. The number of people attending church and taking a stronger interest in faith increased significantly.

“It ebbed though after three months,” Tharp recalled.

Tharp said his goal is to help people understand how a strong spiritual life can help put the rest of their life in perspective.

Faith is what helped his family cope with the untimely death of his eldest son - Eric – at age 18. His daughter Lisa is married. The other Tharp children are Jessica and Joseph.

Additional information on Central Valley Baptist is available at