By Carmen M. Woodson-Wray, Gary Crusader
During the great migration period for people of color from the South to the North, the church was one of the institutions important to the continued advancement of people of color. Its purpose was to preserve the spiritual grounding of the people who had come through slavery, segregation and Jim Crow. In 1908, only two years after the City of Gary was founded, First Baptist Church was founded in Gary, Indiana.
Now after 109 years the members of First Baptist Church are preparing to celebrate their legacy with the theme “Founded on Faith, Led by Wisdom and Sustained by God’s Grace.” The weekend of June 11-13, 2017, First Baptist Church, located at 626 W. 21st Avenue, will be honoring its years of service and its membership by recognizing the oldest living member—Maggie Rogers. Rogers is 101 years old.
The first day of the anniversary weekend the adults will support the youth as the youth sponsor and host a bowling outing on Friday, June 11, 2017. On Saturday, June 12, 2017 there will be “Connecting Church with Community” event from 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the parking lot behind the church. The lot is located on 21st and Jackson Street. The celebration will culminate with the guest speaker for the weekend Pastor Jerome Robinson of Jacksonville, Florida, delivering the sermon on Sunday, June 13, 2017 at First Baptist Church.
Members of the church anniversary committee include: Attorney Barbara Bolling-Williams, Anniversary Committee Chair, Juanita Holmes, Priscilla Somerville, Peggy Harris, Rochelle Moody, Cheryl Smith, Cecil Hodges, Judy Ball, Jacquise Staten and Tamara Somerville.
From June 1981 through December 1982, First Baptist had its most difficult period. Never before had the church been without a spiritual leader for an extended time. The Chairman of the Deacon Board Dozier T. Allen, Sr. became the chief executive officer of the church in addition to chairing the Pulpit Committee, which led the search for a new pastor. Rev. William D. Booth Sr., preached his first sermon at First Baptist on February 2, 1983 and was installed September 1983. He is the son of Rev. L. V. Booth, Sr. Other Pastors of First Baptist have been Rev. Dr. Leo H. Reese, Rev. Bennie T. Henson, Sr., and interim pastor Dr. Eric Pearson. Rev. Timothy F. Brown is the current pastor of First Baptist Church.