First Baptist Church of Doylestown currently celebrates 175 years of Christian ministry.
In 1846, its first impulse of life was under the direction of the Rev. Samuel Nightingale, a former pastor of New Britain Baptist Church. Traveling the three miles into Doylestown by foot, horseback or carriage along dirt roads – dusty in dry weather, bone-jarringly hard in the frozen winter landscape or muddy most of the time – was a challenge that did not deter him.
After a failed building project at 164 E. State St. (now home of the Travis Manion Foundation), First Baptist congregants met for nearly 20 years in the old courthouse (built in 1877 and demolished in 1960) and the Masonic Building (built in 1844 still standing at 55 E. State St.).
From 1868 to 1967, First Baptist Church was located at the corner of West Court and South Clinton streets in one of the few churches in Bucks County built in the Classical style. With a soaring 40-foot steeple, it is one of the tallest buildings in town and known today as the Landmark Building.
Just one year shy of its 100th anniversary there, First Baptist Church moved to its current location at 311 W. State St., across from Central Bucks West High School, where its has continued to serve the community for over 55 years. For this legacy of Gospel Light, countless Bucks County residents are eternally grateful.
Celebrating the 175th Milestone Year, First Baptist Church hosted a number of community events last fall. November was “Love Doylestown” Month featuring the “Love Doylestown Landmark Walk.” The three mile route through downtown Doylestown and neighborhoods highlights historic points of interest. The walking route is available for community use on the fbcdoylestown.org website.
For Thanksgiving, FBC cooperated with New Britain Baptist Church in packing 200 Thanksgiving Care Boxes for the area needy that included fresh turkeys donated by the Giant Food Market in New Britain.
In early December, over 80 women gathered in the FBC Fellowship Hall for a Christmas Cookie Exchange with the theme “Christmas Around the World,” featuring speakers from India, Cambodia, Ghana, Colombia and Puerto Rico.
More recently, FBC partnered with New Hope Community Church for Christmas Caroling at the Christmas tree in front of Starbucks at Main and State streets. An FBC church plant in the year 2000, New Hope Community Church is a “daughter church” of FBC.
Enchanted by traditional favorites such as “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” cars slowed, windows slid down, smiles abounded. One very pleased passerby commented, “When I came here, I was cold, but now I am warm!” All culminated with a “Joy to the World” encore in the Starbucks lobby.
It is a joy to review connections to the past at this unique moment in First Baptist Church’s history. In doing so, we are reminded of our ties to the past which reinforce our identity within the community. Recognizing the links in the chain of FBC’s history kindles a renewed appreciation for the varied local bodies and Christian assemblies that surround us. To that end, FBC invites the community to participate in 175th celebrations in this new year.
On Sunday, Jan. 16, two special events will occur:
First, FBC’s 175th Anniversary Worship Service at 10:30 a.m., welcoming the Rev. Daniel Young, pastor from 1979-2006 and Randal Hartman, director of music and worship from 1981-2001. There will also be testimonial remarks from the directors of off-shoot ministries such as Life Abundant Prison Ministry of Bucks County, Good Beginnings Preschool in Doylestown and Helping Hand Rescue Mission in Philadelphia.
Second, FBC’s “The First 175 Years! Community Hymn Sing” under the direction of Todd Bunce, director of worship from 2003-2017, and James Matticola, current FBC music leader. Adding voices from the community will surely raise this joyful noise to the level of angelic. Come “Sing in the New Year!”
Both of these free events are open to the public and will be held at First Baptist Church at 311 W. State St., Doylestown. Masks are highly recommended and social distancing observed. (In case of severe weather, these events will be held on Sunday, Jan. 23.)
On April 21, time to be determined, FBC will partner with the County Theater and Doylestown Historical Society to present the documentary “Geil of Doylestown: The Forgotten Explorer.” William Edgar Geil – explorer, photographer, lecturer, evangelist, preacher, author and world traveler – was the first westerner to walk the Great Wall of China.
On April 23, at 6:30 p.m., “FBC - The First 175 Years! ‘I was there!’” will be hosted at First Baptist Church. Guest speakers will present “FBC Thru the Decades.” Lifetime Doylestown resident Doris Hart Carr will present reflections from the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s, featuring her family’s friendship with the William Edgar Geil family, her 1938 Baby Dedication, active youth group years and 1961 wedding, all centralized in what is known today as the historic Landmark Building. Join us as we appreciate the past and look to the future at the start of this new year.