First Baptist Church will celebrate its 150th Anniversary on November 8. Reception will begin at 8:45 with services following at 9:30 and a barbecue luncheon afterward.
First Baptist Church was organized on November 6, 1859 by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Silliman and the Reverend Joseph Bird with five charter members. Today, the church has almost 900 members, both resident and nonresident.
The first worship services were held in a Union church shared with the local Methodist and Church of Christ congregations until 1902, when the Baptists purchased land and built a sanctuary on Highway 281. They replaced that building in 1951 with the building that is currently the Rain Bird Gallery. In 1975, under the direction of Pastor Tom Lanier, the church relocated for the final time to its current site.
Throughout the years, the church has had 34 pastors and at least three full-time youth pastors.
Pastor Rusty Hicks became the church’s leader on June 10, 1985, serving the church for the last 24 years. Rusty not only serves the church, but is also a professional photographer who takes pictures at Varsity football games and team and individual photos for most local sports.
During his tenure, Pastor Hicks has accumulated many wonderful memories. Some that stand out include Dinner Theatres that the youth held to raise money for their mission trips to Mexico, the year that several members drove for three days to Powell, Wyoming so that they could help a church there with Vacation Bible School and the summer of 1986 when they hosted an 8 day VBS marathon, which over 300 kids attended. Everyone who attended at least 7 of those 8 days were treated to a hot air balloon ride.
Over the course of his service, the church has hosted a few very successful revival meetings, one given by Dr. Estus Pirkle with 347 in Sunday School and several saved at the tent meeting where Cattleman’s Bank now sits. Another revival, given by Daniel Gage, was memorable because of the circumstances surrounding the event; Rusty’s wife was hospitalized suddenly and his daughter, along with five other teenagers on the way to church, hit a telephone pole on 7th and Terry Lane. The final was when the evangelist was magician Felix Snipes from Atlanta and the highest number of people in the history of the church proclaimed their belief in Jesus.
The Baptist church has also opened it doors to the community in times of mourning, such as when the town mourned the loss of Mush Evans, Ann Beckham, Lacy Neil and Jessica Behrends.
On Sunday, members old and new will come together to celebrate a ministry that has stayed strong over the last 150 years. Pastor Hicks is thankful to have been a part of this church for as long as he has, which has given him the opportunity to meet and appreciate many people in the community, not only from his own church, but from other churches as well as those without church homes.
The church welcomes all to stop by and visit, share a memory, and join them to make new memories.