First Baptist Church in Sedalia established its congregation 150 years ago, right after the end of the Civil War; it was built upon the principle of caring for people and changing the world all to the glory of God. That concept hasn’t changed over the years.
The church’s roots run back to the Rev. Edwin T. Brown, of Pennsylvania, who came to the area as a missionary in 1865. He organized the first church after a service Oct, 20 1865, along with a group of 19 charter members. Eventually they made plans to build a church at Lamine Avenue and Fourth Street. This was the beginning.
Over the years the church has had six locations with the last now located at 200 E. Sixth St.
Tracy Mallard, chair of the 150th Anniversary Committee, has attended the church for 22 years. She said she’s impressed with how the church has impacted the local community.
“For me personally, as a member, the thing I recognize the most is that in 150 years, I think we’ve had 18 pastors,” she said. “Some of them have had very long tenure.”
She added that there was a “rich history of service” among the pastors and the congregation that has left an impact on the community.
“We are recognizing all the things we’ve had a hand in, in Sedalia,” she said of the celebration this weekend. “… We’ve had a hand in missions and the Embassy House. One of our former youth started Community Café.”
Kristen (Allcorn) Killen began the cafe when she was in high school and it continues to be a place that feeds those in need. Killen will speak during the Saturday evening celebration service.
“To me that’s a huge highlight,” Mallard added. “She was actually recognized and went to the White House and received a scholarship for that. To me that’s huge. That’s an amazing result of missions that Kristen Allcorn (Killen) helped start.”
Mallard said at first, it was difficult to get people to help at the café but now there’s a year-long waiting list.
FBC was also one of the churches involved in beginning Habitat for Humanity, locally, along with Broadway Presbyterian, Epworth United Methodist, First Christian, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Sacred Heart Catholic, and the United Church of Christ.
“Dr. (David) Limbaugh is the president of that, and has been involved with Habitat for years, which then takes members of our church there as well,” she said. “He’s had a huge impact.”
Many of the members are involved with the Embassy House also.
“My husband Steve does volunteer work there, as well as Ron Cunningham,” she added. “Many men in the church help with Embassy House.”
Mallard said Embassy House takes in a men’s and women’s ministry. The Embassy House website states, “The Embassy provides a program designed for men who recognize they have a life-controlling problem and desire to change their life through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The program strives to rebuild the sense of self and confidence to be a leader, whether in work, community, church, or family.”
“We do missions there through our missions minister, which is Cara (Harrington),” Mallard added. “The church was founded on the scripture of ‘You are the light of the world,’ Matthew 5:14. It was to be the light of the world. It then became the springboard for the direction of the church. Our current pastor, Glenn, would say in addition to our mission statement, ‘our purpose is to know Christ and to make Him known.’ By not only acts of service, but other things in our community. I believe that is what our church has done.”
“Missions is the heartbeat of First Baptist Church,” Harrington said by email Wednesday. “The message of Christ is not something we want to keep to ourselves. We believe we are called to serve and share the light of Christ with our community, our state, our nation, and our world.
“In the process, we have established partnerships with people and ministries in several locations,” she added. “FBC has been active in the Sedalia community through mentoring, tutoring, packing buddy packs, doing tornado relief, providing shoes, and reaching out to college students.
“We partner with Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, and many more local ministries,” she noted. “In addition, we have had opportunity to send teams to Kansas City, Joplin, New Orleans, East St. Louis, Chico, Arlington, and many more cities in our country.
“Teams from FBC have served and shared in Canada, South Africa, Thailand, India, Italy, Ukraine, Belarus, and Ecuador. We teach our children that God can use them now to serve and share. The message of Christ can be carried by all ages. It is our prayer and desire that we would be the hands and feet of Christ and that we would share the message of love, hope, and salvation with our world.”
Echoing her message of missions outreach is Dr. Glenn R. Sparks Jr., who became pastor of FBC in February.
“It’s a fantastic place to be, and it’s had its peaks and valleys just as any church would in 150 years,” he said Tuesday at the church.
He added that since Easter, 78 new families have visited the church.
“Things are growing here,” he added. “Things are trending upward.”
At present the congregation is looking forward to a new youth pastor and Sparks said they have a “wonderful volunteer base.”
“I consider it a privilege and honor to be called as the 18th pastor of FBC,” he said in a handwritten note. “I recognize that I stand on the solid foundation, which others have laid, and I intend to build upon their labor of love with lasting materials that will withstand the test of time.
“If I’m able to leave a well-trained group of people who are actively pursuing and training more disciples of Christ, then I will feel as though I have accomplished my task as pastor of FBC,” he added. “Our mission is ‘to know Christ and make Him known.’ This has never changed in our history.”
On Friday night, the congregation will celebrate with a bonfire at Tracy and Steve Mallard’s home. On Saturday at 4 p.m. there will a meal, at 5 p.m. dessert and fellowship and at 6:15 a celebration service. During Saturday’s service there will be skits, stories, music, testimonies and recognition of service.
The oldest living member of the congregation, Bonnie Vaughn, 97, will hopefully be in attendance Saturday. Mallard made a video of her recollections and will present it that evening.
“She was born in 1919,” Mallard said. “She’s trying to get here on Saturday, she lives at Winchester Meadows. She kept on saying ‘I don’t remember much,’ and an hour-and-half later, we had a little over an hour’s worth of video of her telling stories and things that she remembered.
“The history is just so rich, of the things that have been done,” Mallard added. “How God has used everybody and allowed them to join Him working in the community.”
On Sunday, Dr. Doyle Sager and Dr. George Miller, both former pastors, will speak. Fellowship will begin at 9 a.m. with Sunday School at 9:30 a.m. and a combined service at 10:45 a.m. All are welcome to attend the weekend anniversary celebrations at FBC, 200 E. Sixth St. For more information, call 826-2160 or visit fbcsedalia.org.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 826-1000 ext. 1481 or @flbemiss.