In 1855, seven families joined to form the third church in the new town of Lawrence in the Kansas Territory. Named First Baptist, it was two years before the church began to hold worship services in earnest. Their goal was simply to provide a source of religious training for their families and to help them persevere in hard times. Their faith strengthened, and soon many of the congregants moved on to help start more communities. The same precepts of education and support form the basis of FBC Lawrence today.
Many individuals stand out in the 150-plus year history of the church. All of these individuals had strong faith and provided leadership to keep the church doors open and the community served. Many of them have served in local leadership positions in business and government, and many taught at the University of Kansas. Individuals such as Gordon Governor and Dr. Ray Q. Brewster, Lowell Bailey, Ruth Stringham, and Dr. Howard Wilcox stand out in the church records.
In 2005, FBC Lawrence celebrated its Sesquicentennial, a year after the city of Lawrence celebrated its own. During this time, longtime FBC member Robert A. Heacock wrote Strength of Stone, covering the 150 years of FBC Lawrence’s extraordinary history. Copies of this book are available from the church office.
Important turning points in the life of the church:
- 1855: FBC Lawrence was founded.
- 1870: Dedication of the first building located near downtown Lawrence at the corner of 8th & Kentucky.
- 1955: A new educational wing was added to the building, provided the church with much-needed space for Christian Education.
- Early 1970s: A program called Lay Witness Mission began, which was a catalyst for revitalizing church membership.
- 1976: The original church building was torn down after the structure was deemed unsafe. The education wing served as the church until the present building was constructed.
- 1979–80: The congregation moved into the new building at 1330 Kasold Drive. The first worship service in the new building was on Christmas Eve of 1979.
- 1998–99: A new addition was built at the present site that included a fellowship hall with a full basketball court, additional classrooms, and a new nursery.
- 2005: FBC’s Sesquicentennial celebration (150th birthday of the church).
- 2011: A comprehensive strategic planning effort and reorganization of the church structure took place.
- 2018: After a three-year process to discuss and pray about the issue, a majority of the congregation voted to continue to allow the pastoral leadership to determine what weddings they will perform, but explicitly adding and including the ability to perform same-sex weddings at First Baptist. Several church-wide conversations took place, revealing the diversity of thought on the decision. A thoughtful and vocal minority expressed concern and dissent, but the majority of the congregation felt the decision was an important way for us to be a welcoming church.
- 2019: Earthworks: The Psalm 8 Collective was introduced, in which FBC embraced a new model of creation care based on the words of Psalm 8. The six elements of creation care include Worship, Scholarship, Re-sourcers, Sustenance, Nature Lovers, and Advocacy. To explore Earthworks further, visit HERE.
- 2022: First Baptist performed its first same-sex wedding.