History and Building Architecture
The First Regular Baptist Church of Columbus was organized January 30, 1852. In August 1852, the church was received into the Flat Rock Association. Later this association would become a part of the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky and the American Baptist Churches, USA.
A total of 42 pastors have served the church from its inception to this present time. The Reverend J. W. Robinson was the first and served for the sum of $150 per year. The shortest pastorate was six months, and the longest was that of George T. King, 14 1/2 years between 1924 and 1939.
The first meeting was held in the Presbyterian Church then located at Third and Franklin Streets. After some moving from place to place, in the year 1854, the property at 625 Franklin Street was built at a cost of $3000. In the year 1886, a new front was added. The old part of the building was torn down in 1892 and a new building constructed in its place. It was dedicated in March 1893. In 1928, the front of the building was remodeled. A fourth remodeling was carried out in 1948-49 with the dedication in April 1949.
On April 14, 1964, the congregation approved the present building at 3300 Fairlawn Drive. The structure, designed by Harry Weese and Associates, Inc. and built at a cost of over a half million dollars, was dedicated to the service of God in September 1965. A ramp into the sanctuary for the physically challenged was added in 1998 along with new lighting, a new sound system, and air conditioning.
In the mid 60’s, a piece of wooded land west of Columbus was donated to the Church. It was known as Yokewood and became the site of a second Church parsonage in 1968. Unable to properly develop the site for extensive programming, the church sold it a decade later.
The Church School was organized in 1857 and has continued as an important primary source of religious instruction. Youth ministry dates back to an organization of young men called “Yoke Fellows”. In 1885 the first co-ed young people’s organization was formed which is the forerunner of our present American Baptist Youth. The Ladies Aid Society was one of the first auxiliary organizations formed in the church and functions today under the umbrella of American Baptist Women.
Not until 1965 was a second full-time minister added to the staff. Rev. Richard Crowley served as the first Youth Minister and Associate Pastor. The staff was expanded to three full-time ministers in 1976 with Rev. James Eckert who replaced a part-time professional choir director to become the first Minister of Music and Worship.
Music has always been an important part of the life of the congregation. The first organ, a manually pumped type, likely appeared in the 1880s and the first “singing book” in 1884—18 copies without and 30 with music. In 1950 the church voted to secure the services of a professional choir director. With a full-time minister overseeing the music program in 1976, a graded choral program was established with three children’s choirs and a youth choir. Soon after, a gift of hand bells permitted development of a number of hand bell choirs. In 1987 lightning damaged the Rogers combination pipe and electronic organ and the replacement console became the eighth organ in the church’s history.
While First Baptist has a long history of supporting missions, it was in the last 50 years that funding and interest increased significantly. Special interest missionaries in Haiti, Thailand, and the Philippines were adopted by the church and mission teams from within the congregation, paying their own expenses, were dispatched to such places as Kodiak, Alaska; Haiti; and Weirton, West Virginia, to erect new structures, to repair others, to paint, and to complete a number of construction tasks.
Our outreach into the community has continued with our charter membership in the Bartholomew County Ecumenical Assembly. Several groups and organizations look to the First Baptist Church for facilities and witness as we continue to be the Church of Jesus Christ in our place.
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