History of First Baptist Church of Doylestown, PA
The history of First Baptist Church of Doylestown, PA extends over a long period, beginning in 1846. The first Baptist church in the area was the Montgomery Baptist Church in Colmar. Then came New Britain Baptist and Hilltown Baptist, both being daughter churches of Montgomery Baptist. The First Baptist Church of Doylestown is a daughter church of New Britain Baptist.
This church had its first impulse of life under the direction of Rev. Samuel Nightingale, a former pastor of New Britain Church. He provided opportunity for people to begin building an edifice on E. State Street, presently 164 E. State Street.
Work began in 1850 but the building was never finished above the first floor. The expense incurred was $630. In 1865, the property was sold and the funds obtained were applied to the erection of the church edifice at the second location, S. Clinton and W. Court Streets. The building is now known as the Landmark Building. Prior to this, pastors from the mother church occasionally held services in the Masonic Hall and the Court House.
Rev. W. S. Wood was chosen as the first pastor on December 12, 1867. The records of May 6, 1868 state that members had purchased a lot at the southwest corner of W. Court and S. Clinton Streets. On July 6, 1868, the building committee reported that $8,000 was pledged. By September of 1869, the building was under construction and the cost of all work up to that date was $16,000 of which $14,000 was paid in cash.
The Rev. A. J. Hastings was the pastor from 1870 to 1876. During the spring of 1875 a great revival was witnessed under the leadership of evangelist H. D. Dewitt, unequaled in the history of Doylestown. In that year the church membership grew from 113 to 180.
The sanctuary was opened and the first service was held there on January 13, 1877. The cost of the building up to that time was $17,000. There were 233 members at the time.
Rev. John Miller served as pastor from 1876 to 1882. Rev. T. R. Howlet followed and served from 1882 to 1884. The church was without a pastor until Rev. Miller returned in 1887 and remained one year. Rev. Calvin Hare was the pastor from 1888 to 1891 and Rev. W. C. Lineback served from 1891 to 1893.
In 1894 William Edgar Geil was licensed to preach the gospel. Dr. Geil was an explorer, evangelist and lecturer. He was one of the most traveled Americans of his time. A prolific writer, he wrote some twelve books, three of them on China. His biography, An Explorer of Changing Horizons by Philip W. Wilson is in the church library along with several authored by Dr. Geil himself. He departed from this life to be with our Lord on April 25, 1925 in Venice, Italy.
Rev. N. C. Fetter was pastor from 1894 to 1900 and Rev. J. H. Deming was pastor from 1901 to 1904. Early in the pastorate of Rev. A.O. Gilmore (1904-1908), a double brick house was erected at 20 and 22 S. Clinton Street with the house nearest the church used as a parsonage. From 1908 to 1930 the following pastors served the church: Rev. A. C. Wright (1908-1912), Rev. C. W. Haines (1912-1921), Rev. Albert E. Davis (1921-1924), Dr. W. R. Deal (1924-27), and Rev. Eaton B. Freeman (1927-1930).
While beloved Pastor, Dr. Martin Clough, led the church from 1931 to 1938, there was a great evangelistic awakening of the youth that came as the result of his faithful, spiritual and scholarly teaching. During this time, the Lord called two young people, Evelyn Thompson and William I. Davis, to marry and become the first missionaries of First Baptist Church. Together, they began serving in Kenya, East Africa in 1937.
Rev. Enoch S. Moore came as pastor in 1938 and remained through 1942. Due to his deep spiritual ministry and the growing interest in missions, there arose dissatisfaction with the policies of the Northern Baptist Convention with which the church was affiliated. Through the leadership of Pastor Moore, the church severed connections with the convention in 1939.
Rev. Edwin G. Spahr served the church as pastor from 1943 to 1946. From 1946 to 1976 Pastor Spahr served as a missionary to the Philippines.
In 1947, the radio station, WBUX, was built in Doylestown. Rev. Norman B. Jerome, the pastor who came in 1946 from the army chaplaincy, soon arranged for broadcasts every Sunday until 1982. Church membership had accelerated to 460 under the ministry of Pastor Jerome. He resigned in 1952.
Under the direction of Rev. D. Martin Robinson, who became pastor in 1953, the twin house next to the parsonage was adapted to accommodate one hundred junior and senior high school students. The Sunday school attendance at this time averaged 365.
On February 4, 1955, the church voted to join in the fellowship and affiliate with the Conservative Baptist Association of America. Three respected leaders influenced this decision. The current pastor was a CBA member and missionaries Bill and Flossie Simons were serving under CBFMS. Further, the Conservative Baptist position was endorsed by the church. Plans for expansion began to be formulated. On May 11, 1960, the church accepted the expansion committees recommendation to buy 3.45 acres at 311 W. State Street for $30,000.
Pastor Robinson resigned on July 15, 1962. On June 2, 1963, Rev. R. Logan Platt became the 22nd pastor. Rev. Platt was well qualified to direct a building program since he had been involved in a building expansion program during his previous position as an assistant pastor. At the New Years Eve service in 1964, many testimonies were given to Gods faithfulness in providing the means to pay off the $30,000 property debt in four years instead of five.
In 1965, the old church property was sold for $75,000. On November 7, 1965, the congregation participated in a ground breaking ceremony at the new location. The committee finalized the total estimated cost of the entire project to be $444,500. This included a new parsonage at 117 Pebble Valley Drive and a general purpose building, later named Logan Hall.
The cornerstone was put in place at the new building in 1967. It contained a copper box in which were placed a Bible, pictures of the committees, a church bulletin, a building program, a Daily Intelligencer newspaper and miscellaneous church items. Three beautiful stained glass windows over the pulpit in the old church were moved to the new building and installed over the baptistery. They portray the four Gospels.
Dedication Sunday was celebrated March 19, 1967, with four former pastors present. A dedication message was delivered by Dr. Harold S. Laird, before an overflow audience of 775 people. A record Sunday school attendance of 464 occurred October 29, 1967.
On October 6, 1972, the church engaged Rev. Richard M. Goodman to be assistant to the pastor. Rev. Goodman had much experience with youth work. His ministry encouraged several to take training and go into Christian service. He resigned on August 14, 1977. Pastor Logan Platt resigned on December 30, 1974.
Rev. David W. Haines became pastor in 1976. He was assisted first by Rev. Richard Goodman and later Rev. Stephen Perry who resigned in 1985 to become director of Montrose Bible Conference. Under the ministry of Pastor Haines, two morning services were begun in 1982. Later two Sunday school sessions were held simultaneously with the worship services. Rev. Tom Powidzki was hired as the first full-time youth pastor in April of 1987. Pastor Haines resigned in December of 1988.
In 1979, Rev. Dan Young came to First Baptist as a part-time Youth Pastor. He went on to fill several different roles, including Worship Pastor and Pastor of Education, before taking the position of Senior Pastor in 1989. Under his direction, Randall Hartman became the church’s first full-time Worship Director in 1991. Doug Knepp became assistant pastor to Pastor Young in October of 1990 and in 1996 was appointed to become the pastor of First Baptist’s first church plant, Cornerstone Community Church, in Sellersville, PA. Thirty members were sent to Cornerstone Community Church from First Baptist Church. Rev. Bob Travis replaced Pastor Doug Knepp as Assistant Pastor in 1998.
In September of 2000 Rev. Chuck Wilson, along with approximately seventy-five others, established New Hope Community Church. This was First Baptists second church plant.
In 2001 the church launched a major building project to double the square footage of the existing church building. A three-story building was erected and connected to the existing building. Logan Hall was razed and a water detention basis was constructed in its place. The new three story building housed several additional classrooms, a new library, and a large gym that could be used for athletic activities or worship services. The cost of the new building was $3.8 million. The church congregation raised all but approximately $1 million. The building was opened and dedicated in September of 2002 with nearly a thousand people in attendance.
A full site development plan was developed in conjunction with the expansion plans. The new building was seen as the first of three phases to completely develop the church site. Future phases would include renovations to the original building (phase 2) and a large worship center/balcony and lobby (Phase 3). These three phases were made possible because of the additional ground purchased from the school district years before. In addition, the school system entered into a written agreement with the church promising the Sunday use of the 300 car parking lot of C. B. West High School. The lot was ideally located directly across the street from the church.
With the wisdom of years, the renewal of youth, and the unfailing inspiration of a covenant keeping God, the First Baptist Church of Doylestown looks to the future strong in faith, glad in hope and rich and warm in Christian love.
Ronaldo Ghenov became the Lead Pastor in 2013.