The Baptist fellowship in Oxford began in 1877 with twenty-eight persons, fifty chairs, three hanging lamps, one large round-bodied stove, a few hymn books, a Bible and an implicit faith in God. Public services were conducted at 10:30 AM and 7:30 PM on Sundays in Reed’s Hall, Oxford, with children’s scripture illustrations and object lessons at 9:30 AM.
On May 12, 1881, a Baptist council met and recognized the group as a church. The first church building, on South Third Street, was purchased on April 6, 1888 for $2,425.00 from the Oxford Methodist Episcopal Church. The congregation was incorporated as the First Baptist Church of Oxford on April 9, 1910.
The little church grew along with the town, and Sunday School teachers found themselves handicapped by lack of space. The United Presbyterian Church offered their property at the corner of Sixth and Market Streets for $15,000.00. Built in 1894, the vaulted sanctuary with its stained glass windows, warm wood and unique arched baptistery provides a worshipful environment. The Christian Education wing was built by Donald C. Risk of Quarryville in 1964. The property has been carefully maintained by dedicated workers.†
Missions has been a significant focus at First Baptist Church. Various members were instrumental in establishing the Oxford Area Human Relations Council (now the Neighborhood Services Center), the Lighthouse Youth Center and Small Beginnings Pregnancy Center. During the Centennial celebration in 1978, members were challenged to contribute $100 each to establish the Centennial fund. Beneficiaries preparing for full-time Christian vocations include two young women who grew up in the church. Since 1956, the Stafford Missionary Society has supported missionaries through prayer, projects, and personal contact. Annual missions conferences highlight particular missions—local, national, and international–and feature guest speakers.
The 100th anniversary was commemorated in 1978 with a booklet, Beginning a Second Century of Service, 1878-1978, a cookbook and special gatherings. In 2003, the 125th anniversary was celebrated with monthly fellowships, the publication of a cookbook and a memory quilt created by members.
After much prayerful consideration, the congregation voted to remove our association with the American Baptist Churches USA in 2006. We remain an unaffiliated church with strong Baptist roots.
Aaron Smalley was called as pastor on May 22, 2011. He has begun by preaching a series of messages through Philippians. We at FBC are excited about this new beginning, “ For [we are] confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” As we strive to … “conduct [ourselves] in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ….standing firm in the Spirit, with one mind standing together for the faith of the gospel”. (Philippians 1:6, 27)
†The above is adapted from Beginning a Second Century of Service, 1878-1978, a booklet prepared for FBC’s Centennial in 1978, and a newspaper article written for the 75th anniversary.
– Written by Pam Bogus