The History of First Baptist Church of Charlottesville on Park Street

The History of First Baptist Church of Charlottesville on Park Street

On Tuesday August 16th of 1831, a delegation of twelve members of Preddy Creek Baptist Church went to Charlottesville and began to preach. They preached Tuesday night, Wednesday morning, and then baptized eighteen converts on Wednesday evening (likely in the Rivanna river!) On Thursday morning, August 18, a new church was organized as Charlottesville Baptist Church with thirty-one members, twelve male and nineteen female. Originally the church met in the Charlottesville courthouse (the left picture), and at the turn of the last century we became known as First Baptist Church with a new church building (the middle picture).

In 1857, Dr. John A. Broadus, pastor of Charlottesville Baptist Church and founder of Albemarle Female Institute, held a revival service at the Institute and a young student, Lottie Moon, surrendered her life to Christ. She was baptized at Charlottesville Baptist Church, and in 1873 she sailed for China where she served as a Baptist missionary until her death forty years later. Today 45,000 Southern Baptist Churches participate in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, giving over 153 million dollars in 2017 to support foreign missions.

The first college YMCA was organized at the University of Virginia in 1858. Two members of Charlottesville Baptist Church were influential in its organization.

Leading up to the Civil War, First Baptist Church was the only church in Charlottesville where all races worshipped together. In 1865, First Baptist voted to assist the African-American population to begin their own Baptist Church, which today is known as First Baptist Church on West Main Street. We are extremely grateful to the Lord for our sister FBC on West Main!

At a meeting of the young people in 1884, it was Mr. M. C. Thomas who cast a decisive vote which brought into existence the first Baptist Young Peoples Union in Virginia, and as far as is known, the first in the Southern Baptist Convention. This means one of the first youth groups was at FBC – and our youth group is still going strong today.

Vacation Bible School became a well established movement in 1906 as a result of the inspiration and work of Mrs. Virginia Sinclair Hawes, a devout member of First Baptist Church. We continue that tradition with our VBS each year!

Another mission church was established and carried as an arm of First Baptist Church for two years. In 1962 it was constituted as Jefferson Park Baptist Church. JPBC is still going strong today.

On February 2, 1977 an uncontrollable fire swept through First Baptist Church, destroying the beautiful sanctuary and education building. The treasured memorial stained glass windows and the magnificent new organ were no more. The brass bell, cast in the Netherlands in 1854, fell from its steeple into the burning cauldron and broke into pieces. These pieces are later recovered and returned to the Netherlands for recasting; the bell now hangs in the bell tower at the front of the church.

Through the Lord’s leadership and the blessing He bestowed upon His faithful servants, the first services were held in the present facilities (the construction of which was already underway when the fire occurred) on June 25, 1978. FBC is now being led by Dr. Rob Pochek. The following quote speaks to the spirit of our First Baptist family and its zeal and desire to promote the Gospel throughout this city, country and the continents:

        “The story of our church is an inspiring one. We should look back upon its abiding achievements with pride and gratitude. But its history is not a monument to departed glories. It’s work is in the living present. It’s thought must be of tomorrow. We cannot bask in the sunshine of days gone by. Let us add to the faith of the past a greater faith for the future, and pray that the glories of the yesteryears may be outshone by the glories of the years that are to come.” Dr. Henry Alford Porter, Pastor, First Baptist Church.  October 11, 1931.