First Baptist Church celebrates 150th anniversary
Jordan Crawford | 10/23/2013, 10:21 a.m.
Like the development of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), First Baptist Church of Hampton and many other Black churches today resulted from secession from discriminatory white establishments.
First Baptist Church began its worship services in the balcony of Hampton Baptist Church in 1863. The congregation moved from the balcony in 1865 to a section known as P.D., near Washington and Bailey Streets. A freedman named Jim Bailey gave permission to have the first frame building erected on his land. In 1868, the church relocated a short distance to its present site on North King Street. Reverend Zechariah Evans was the church’s first pastor.
Between 1863 and 1905, First Baptist Church was led by five extraordinary pastors. In September 1944, a catastrophic fire destroyed the church building. Members of the community and sister churches rallied to support First Baptist, contributing, and offering the use of their facilities. The Hampton Baptist Church presented a gift of one thousand dollars.
At a cost of $90,000 dollars, the sanctuary was restored, the first floor of the educational building was erected, a new front was added, and a new electric organ was installed.
Between 1984 and 1987 under the leadership of eighth pastor, Reverend Jason Carl Guice, First Baptist Church experienced enormous growth. Over 100 new members joined the church, and a New Member Orientation Fellowship was established. The Gospel Choir was organized, the church purchased a computer, and a taped outreach ministry was implemented, providing tapes of all services.
First Baptist Church of Hampton, now under the leadership of its tenth pastor, Reverend Dr. Richard W. Wills, celebrates 150 years of existence.
Pastor Wills has been professionally worked as an architect, educator, and minister. He is a graduate of State University of New York College at Old Westbury with a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture. He earned his Master of Divinity Degree from Virginia Union University, School of Theology, and a Master of Arts in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia.
Prior to accepting his call to First Baptist Church, Wills served as the Assistant Pastor of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ; the Senior Pastor of Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama; and Pilgrim Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia.
Wills has published numerous sermons and essays. A celebrated work of his entitled “Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Image of God” was released by Oxford University. It was also used as a contribution to the Fortress Press publication entitled “Bonhoeffer and King: Their Legacies and Import for Christian Social Thought.”
Wills has taught numerous subjects at Selma University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Union University, and Hampton University. He also serves on numerous boards such as The African American Pulpit, America’s most prominent Black preaching journal.
From 1863 to 2013, First Baptist Church has continued to “move forward in faith.”
First Baptist Church will culminate its year-long celebration of its significant 150 year history on Sunday, October 27 at its 10 a.m. worship service. Reverend Dr. Brian K. Blount, president of Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA will be the speaker.
An anniversary banquet featuring social and political activist Reverend Al Sharpton will be held on Saturday, at 6:30 p.m. at the Hampton Roads Convention Center. Reverend Sharpton is a leading figure in the fight against injustice. He serves as the host of MSNBC’s “Politics Nation” and hosts a nationally syndicated radio show that broadcasts in forty markets.
First Baptist Church of Hampton invites the community’s prayers, presence, and participation at all of its services of worship and biblical studies.
Looking for a church home? This spirited, family-oriented congregation of believers is honoring God’s Word and the gifts He has given them by making worship, discipleship, fellowship, evangelism, and ministry relevant to the complex needs of the modern day.