First Baptist Church of Pine Bluff, 6501 S. Hazel St., will celebrate its 165th Anniversary and Homecoming at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 7.
The Rev. Gordon Topping will be the guest speaker and lunch will be served in the fellowship hall after service. Topping served at First Baptist as associate pastor and pastor from 1992 to 2007. All past and present members and friends of the church are invited to share a time of fellowship with coffee and refreshments from 9:45 to 10:30 a.m. in room 202.
On Saturday, Oct. 6, the church will host an open house for the community from 4-6 p.m. Free hamburgers, hot dogs and soft drinks will be available. All are invited to both events.
“First Baptist Church was organized on Oct. 6, 1853, by Missionary Baptists who were assisted by a Colonel W.P. Grace, a pioneer citizen of Pine Bluff. On May 13, 1854, a meeting was held in the newly built church, located on the corner of Olive and Pullen Streets. The church membership was made up of both black and white believers who worshiped God together,” according to a news release.
“The first church building occupied by First Baptist (1854-1865) was seven years old when the Civil War broke out, and only 10 years old when Union forces marched into Pine Bluff on a clear November day in 1863 and chose First Baptist Church, the only brick building at the time, as a storehouse and hospital for their soldiers,” according to a news release.
“First Baptist was reorganized in the 1870s, with Mr. Hugh C. Fox helping to reestablish the church. Mr. Fox was a young Virginia gentleman who came to make his home in Pine Bluff from King and Queen County, Virginia, where he was a member of the Old Bruington Baptist Church located there,” according to a news release.
“Bruington Baptist further aided the development of First Baptist by sending a Mr. Lucien Acree, other members of the Hugh Fox family, the Edwin Ryland family, and Harvey and Percie McGeorge to Pine Bluff to assist First Baptist. The move of these Bruington members to the Pine Bluff area brought a new vigor to the church and community. First Baptist Church of Pine Bluff and Bruington Baptist Church of King and Queen County, Virginia, have maintained communication with each other for now over 140 years,” according to a news release.
The church located to Sixth Avenue and Cherry Street and relocated in 1998 to its present site.
First Baptist has broadcast its Sunday morning services every Sunday for 54 years. Services are now broadcast on at 9 a.m. Sundays on KLRT TV Fox 16. The church has also been instrumental in the founding and formation of 19 Baptist churches in Jefferson County and surrounding counties.
“For the past 165 years these missions and other activities of the church have been maintained by the dedicated and committed members who worship God in a warm and inspiring faith community. The First Baptist music ministry has put a song of gladness in many a weary heart, encouraging saints of every age and stage to praise God through songs, instruments and hand bell choirs under the outstanding highly qualified music ministers,” according to the release.
“First Baptist is a founding church of the Neighbor-to-Neighbor assistance program and is also a founding church of the Trinity Village Retirement Community where the church meets for evening services once a month in the Great Hall of the Lodge,” according to the release.
“Beginning in 1952, the church built on the heritage of commitment to Christian values and active service to the community and county through the sponsorship of Boy Scout Troop 106, a strong scouting program for boys of all denominations. The legacy with contributions of moral welfare to youth of Pine Bluff was made evident through the building of the Scout House Multi-purpose facility on the South end of the Hazel Street property,” according to the release.
For 19 years, the church has held a monthly community fellowship outreach to help to promote literacy on Saturday at 10 a.m. in the fellowship hall.
“When the church stood on the threshold of one its major building ventures to keep First Baptist vitally alive, the late William ‘Bill’ Atkinson stated: ‘We at First Baptist are benefactors of those who have gone before us and set a strong witness of Jesus Christ our Lord. We have the responsibility, obligation, and opportunity to continue and strengthen the work and ministry of our church’.”