First Baptist celebrates 150th anniversary

Until the mid-1950s, two wood burning stoves (one visible on the right side of this photo) heated First Baptist Church of London, formerly located on Fourth Street. On April 24, the congregation will offer a warm welcome to the public at its current location, 250 Toland St., as it celebrates its 150th anniversary.
Until the mid-1950s, two wood burning stoves (one visible on the right side of this photo) heated First Baptist Church of London, formerly located on Fourth Street. On April 24, the congregation will offer a warm welcome to the public at its current location, 250 Toland St., as it celebrates its 150th anniversary.

(Posted April 15, 2016)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

In a room off of the gymnasium, tangible memories sit neatly in rows. Down one line: scrapbooks brimming with photos of church picnics, special services, and past choirs. Down another: bricks from the original house of worship dating back well over a century.

On April 24, these memories will be on display as First Baptist Church of London celebrates its 150th anniversary. The event, set for 4 p.m., is free and open to the public. The program features Pastor Ernest Brown of St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Springfield as guest speaker, a performance by the St. John choir, recognition of former First Baptist pastor, Joseph F. Young, and dinner.

First Baptist Church got its start in 1866 with 27 members who came together to purchase a frame house on Fourth Street for a place to worship. Fifteen years later, the congregation moved into a brick church next door, where they stayed until 2006 when the current church, complete with classrooms, a kitchen and gym, opened at 250 Toland St.

With the move, the church went from a small, landlocked building with limited on-street parking to a spacious facility on 15 acres with plenty of room to grow.

“We were running out of space, but we also wanted to serve this area of town,” said Paul Porter, church treasurer, about the move to Toland. “This area has a lot of potential and a lot of young kids. And if push comes to shove, you could even walk to church.”

First Baptist has a long history of serving the community. In the early days, the congregation hosted concerts, musicals, spelling and math contests, and Christmas fairs. For 50-some years, until the early 1980s, the church’s signature event was the London Basket Meeting. The picnic-style homecoming was popular among members and non-members alike

“It was always held the first Sunday in August. We’d sell dinners, there would be a service, and it was usually at the fairgrounds,” Porter said.

In recent years, the church has welcomed ministry interns from Cedarville University looking for a place to hone their craft. Five years ago, the church started a community garden.

“We’re a basic Bible-believing, friendly, open church hoping to serve the community even more,” Porter said.

The church, whose membership numbers about 75, welcomed a new pastor, Greg Dyson, on April 6.

For more about the 150th celebration, call the church at (740) 852-2580 or email firstbaptistlondon@gmail.com.

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