First Baptist Church has been blessed with a rich heritage and one it truly appreciates. An awareness of significant historical events may prove to be beneficial as we forge into a new century. What we do in the future to advance the Kingdom of God is our great challenge.
In 1840, pioneer men appointed by the Greenbrier Association met in Princeton and organized a church consisting of 35 members. The name, “Princeton Baptist” was adopted. The first pastor was Matthew Ellison, a circuit-rider minister. For a number of years, meetings were held in homes, schools, courthouses, or in the open air. September 6, 1850, $685 was subscribed, a lot purchased, and plans made for a building to be constructed.
In May 1862, the building was burned by Confederate troops stationed and operating in the area so that Federals would not have anything left to fight over. On January 17, 1886, a contract was let for a new building to be located on Main Street, site of the present Memorial Building.
In 1911, it was decided to relocate the church on Mercer Street and sell the old building and lot. In 1915, the old building was sold to Mount Calvary Church for $500 and it was moved to High Street where it stands and serves its people today. A lot on Mercer Street (our present location) was given by Mr. H.W. Straley and the new edifice was started. On August 8, 1915, our present church was dedicated and the name, “First Baptist” was used for the first time. Five churches were organized by members of the First Baptist and all these churches have expanded Baptist ideals in the community. These churches include Burke Memorial, Lilly Grove, Immanuel, Silver Springs, and Willowbrook.
The year 1990 was our 150th year of ministry. The theme chosen by the heritage Committee for the Sesquicentennial celebration was, “A Heritage to Appreciate – A Future to Anticipate.” 31 pastors and several interim pastors have served the church since 1840. David Dockery, pastor sine July 1990, has led First Baptist through the 90’s as it endeavored to meet challenges of the future. On January 1, 1993, Craig Stout began his ministry with First Baptist Church as Associate Pastor, Youth / Education.
The decade of the 90’s was one of celebration and growth. In 1995, the church voted to do a “Together We Build” (TWB) Program. The theme of the program was “not equal gifts, but equal sacrifice.” After a comprehensive renovation of the present worship and educational facilities, the addition of an elevator and a rear-entry structure, a celebration was held on Sunday, November 19, 1995 with the dedication of the facility.
In December 1996, our church was voted for dual alignment with Virginia Southern Baptists and West Virgnia Southern Baptist, maintaining our mission with Virginia baptists and expanding our ministry with West Virginia Baptists. The 1997-1998 church year saw the beginning of Servant Team Ministry, which provides caring ministry through a servant ministry led by the deacon fellowship involving many members of the congregation. The same year saw the formation of the Watchman Prayer Ministry.
1999-2000 – After many years of dedicated service, Stuart and Dawn Sigmon resigned from positions they held: Stuart as Minister of Music and Dawn as Organist. Both were instruments in developing and directing many inspiring Easter, Christmas and Fourth of July presentations. The church is blessed that they will remain active as church members.
2001-At the beginning of this year, the church called Lynn Blue of Snellville, Georgia, who along with his family, came as Minister of Music / Adult Ministries. The Music Ministry now includes a handbell choir and a senior adult choir. Our church, in association with Mountain State Baptist Association, West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists and the North American Mission Board called Sam and Bobbie Cox to begin a new work in the Athens / Lerona / Pipestem area and student work at Concord University. We’re excited about these new ministries.
During 2002, our mission in Athens / Lerona was given the name, “Faith Baptist Fellowship.” Sam and Bobbie Cox continue a good work averaging 15 in regular worship services. Our church also voted to purchase a video projection system. We also dedicated a digital baby grand piano and new stained-glass windows in the chapel in memory of Frances Lilly.