First Baptist Church
The First Baptist Church was organized June 1, 1902.Rev. Morable, Deacons Arthur Gailes and Thomas Blount purchased 56 Church Street, the property upon which the church was located, for a sum of $50.00.The members sacrificed and labored faithfully for forty years under the leadership of the following ministers; Reverends Morable, McDonald, John Ware, John Henderson, Williams, R.L. Harrison, Riley, and Stevenson.
Rev. E. L. Harrison who came to First Baptist Church in 1941 reestablished a Deacon Board of three.The congregation consisted of twenty-two members.In 1952 Mrs. L. Davis was appointed Mother of the Church; she was preceded in this position by Mother Sallie Brown.
With continued growth of the church family it became necessary for a larger house of worship.A building fund was established and again the members through prayer and sacrifice raised the needed funds.In 1955, on behalf of the church, Trustee Robert Woods and Deacon C. N. James purchased the properties at Hoyt and Johnson Street from Dr. A.D. Schwartz for the sum of $6,300.00. These men and many not mentioned by name, worked faithfully through the years to erect a new church and a groundbreaking ceremony was held on May 4, 1963. The foundation was poured September 1963.
On a sunny Sunday, June 14, 1964, Mother Davis sitting atop a mule drawn cart along with the congregation followed Rev. Harrison and the church officials in a march to the new church location, where its first service was held. At that time the membership had increased to two hundred and fifty.
Other accomplishments under Rev. E. L. Harrison’s leadership were the licensing of three ministers, one of whom, Rev. C. N. James, was ordained and served as an Assistant to Rev. Harrison.Eight Deacons were ordained and two joined by letter.Several ministries and choirs were formed, some of which are the Deaconess Board, Harrison Gospel Chorus, Adult Choir, E.L. Harrison Scholarship Fund, Trustee Board and Usher Board.The first NAACP meeting in Rockland County was held at the First Baptist Church.
It was Rev. Harrison’s dream to see the mortgage burned, however, God called him from labor to reward on December 9th, 1971. His dream became a reality in October 1972.
After the passing of Rev. Harrison, Deacon Sidney Allen and the church officials held the church together from December 1971 until April 1972.It was at this time that God sent our present Pastor, Rev. Weldon McWilliams, Jr.He has been a good leader, teacher and organizer and has lead this congregation for over 40 years.
The Pastor chose Rev. Annie Artis as his assistant and in 1973 and appointed Sister Hattie Edwards as Mother of the Church.
God’s continued blessing under Pastor McWilliams has brought the establishment or reorganization of the Usher Board, Male Chorus, Women’s Auxiliary, Nurses Unit Baptist Training Union, Vacation Bible School, Nursery and Community Youth Council.First Baptist Church serves as the Host Church in observance of Dr. Martin Luther Kings’ Birthday, each year holding a commemorative service.Notably, First Baptist Church is recognized for it’s part in the development of the Ministers Alliance, an interdenominational collaboration of several churches in the county, and our dialogue with Rabbi Fass and the congregates of Temple Beth Shalom, both of which were spearheaded by our Pastor.
In accordance with the needs of the membership, the enlargement of our edifice took place.The choir stand was remodeled, the baptismal pool was installed and new rooms were added downstairs. Additional blessing include a garage, two vans, which have enabled the church to pick up the senior citizens and Sunday School children for service. The parking lot was renewed and the installation of a handicap ramp. The ongoing improvement of the Church has also brought about the installation of a steeple, new carpeting, cushioned pews, and stained glass windows. The purchase of property on the corner of Johnson and Hoyt St. has allowed the enlargement of the parking area.The Lord gave out Pastor a vision of a Christian Education and Cultural Enrichment Center so our families and the community can be better religiously educated and on November 29, 1987, we held a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony.The Center consists of twelve additional rooms, which are utilized for meetings, Sunday School classes and the Tutoring program, which was instituted by the Education Committee.Sunday, July 12, 1999, the mortgage for the Education and Cultural Enrichment Center was burned ahead of schedule.
Pastor McWilliams instituted the following building funds to allow the churches speedy repayment of debts incurred for renovations; The Faith Partners, Christian Warriors and 300 Gideons. These funds were supported by a number of members volunteering to pledge a monthly sum.In each instance finances borrowed were repaid in advance.
Sister Susie Bussey and Sister Ruby Allen were appointed Mothers of the Church in October 1988.In the same year the Lord laid upon Rev. Artis’ heart that in addition to the Wednesday Night Prayer Service, there was a need for a Noon Day Prayer service which takes place every Friday from 12 noon to 1:00 pm.We are also blessed with a Bible Study Class on Thursday evening from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm, taught by the Ministerial Staff.
Candidates for church membership are required to attend scheduled sessions with the Pastor and Deacons.Baptism and Communion is held every first Sunday following the morning message.In January 1993, a New Members class curriculum was instituted and is held every fourth Thursday from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm.This class is designed to help new members understand the Baptist Doctrine, Articles of Faith, the Church Covenant, their dedication and obligations to the body of Christ and Church as members.
A Time Capsule dedication with memorabilia of the 100th Anniversary of the church was celebrated on November 17th, 2002. Twenty-five of the church’s youth, age 5 – 18 years of age were selected to open the capsule on April 17th, 2053. Sis. Martha Gordon was appointed Mother of the church in 2007. In 2008 a church website was established, in 2009 the house on Johnson Street adjacent to the church was purchased, in 2010 the property behind the church was purchased and in 2011 a parking lot was created giving the church a parking capacity for 200 cars.
The congregation of First Baptist Church has been richly blessed, and continue to be blessed to have a Ministerial staff of 6, 7 Deacons, 4 Walking Deacons and 5 Trustees.We thank God and pray for continued growth in the Lord’s service.
Reverend Dr. Weldon McWilliams, Jr. has been our Pastor and Spiritual Leader for 43 successful years.
Through the grace of God, Pastor McWilliams accomplishments have been many.
He reorganized or established the following groups and/or auxiliaries:The Male Chorus, The Usher Board, The BTU, The McWilliams Singers, Community Youth Council, Mid Week Service, Bible Study II, Members Class Curriculum, The Mass Choir, the Youth Choir and numerous others.
Our Pastor saw a need for unity among the various pastors, ministers and churches of Rockland County, and he organized the Rockland County Ministers Alliance.Which will be celebrating its 28th Anniversary in May.Services are held every fourth Sunday of each month at the various churches.
He also hosted the first Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Church Service in the County, which has been an astounding success. Under his Pastorate, four mortgages have been burned.The Pastor implemented 3 financial programs, the Christian Warriors, Faith Partners and Gideons 300; these programs successfully financed and eliminated 3 mortgages ahead of time.
Pastor McWilliams has ordained five ministers and twelve deacons.
In December of 2001, our Pastor was one of the Recipients of the first Rockland County NAACP Image Awards, which was sponsored by the Nyack Branch.
Because our Pastor has been faithful and dedicated not only to The First Baptist Church, but the Community at large, a portion of Hoyt Street was renamed Reverend Dr. McWilliams Way.
We have been truly blessed by God for Pastor McWilliams, a Pastor who does his pastoral duties by taking care of the needy.
We thank God and we thank you our beloved Pastor for being a humble, kind and loving Pastor, and it is our prayers that God will continue to walk with you daily, and may He keep you in His tender loving care.