Published September 18, 2018
RUSSELLVILLE—First Baptist Church of Russellville will celebrate two centuries of ministry on Oct. 14, with author, historian and humorist Geoff Bagget as guest speaker.
Anniversary celebration activities, beginning the week of Oct. 6, also include dedication of a marker honoring its first pastor, coffee shop concert featuring Lydia Walker, cookout fellowship with inflatables for children, pancake breakfast, and gospel concert by Mercy's Well.
Founded on Nov. 14, 1818, the Russellville congregation holds the distinction of being one of a few churches in Kentucky to host the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting. In 1866, the 244 registered messengers met in a church building on the corner of College (Sixth) and Main streets—which had been dedicated just 22 years prior—for the denomination's first gathering following the Civil War.
The SBC has met in Kentucky 10 times, and the Russellville convention is also the only time its annual meeting was held at some place other than Louisville or Lexington.
Russellville Baptists first jointly built and shared a meeting house with the Cumberland Presbyterians. Leonard Page was their first pastor, preaching on the second Sunday of each month, and membership grew quickly to 102 white members and 69 black members by 1821.
The church's present facility was built in 1903 and was remodeled in 1951 and again in 1963. The name First Baptist Church was adopted in 1953.
The congregation has helped organize and charter several churches in Logan County, including First Baptist of Fifth and Spring Streets (African American), Epley Baptist, Second Baptist, and Eastside Baptist.
Giving more than $3 million through the Cooperative Program since the SBC mission offering's inception, Russellville has also sent out five of its families to serve overseas with the International (Foreign) Mission Board. Missionaries include Rev. and Mrs. Sheldon Trimble, Nigeria, 1865; Mary Nell Lynne, China, 1918; Robert and Mavis Hardy, Japan, 1958; Cathy Sue Smith, Philippines, 1984; and Robert and Julie Johnson, Taiwan, 1992.
"We are also like many small town, downtown churches—a remnant of what we used to be," said current pastor Joe Ball, former youth strategist for the Kentucky Baptist Convention. "But God is up to something here, and I'm privileged to be here for this time in the church's history, as we begin the process of revitalization.
"There are great days ahead for us!" he said. (WR)
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