Early Years | Cyclone | Golden Jubilee | Postwar Years | 60s & 70s | 80s | Centennial | Future

These excerpts are taken from “The Golden Jubilee History” and “Celebration – The First One Hundred Years”. This book will be available online in the future.

The Early Years

Our Church was not the earliest Baptist Church in what was then the North West Territories of Canada, but it was amongst the first.

fbc_oldchrchThe organization meeting of “FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, REGINA” was held on Sunday, September 6th, 1891 with fifteen members. Soon a site was bought for the church at a cost of $375.00, situated on Cornwall Street between 11th and 12th Avenues. A house of worship was built and dedicated two months later.

In the following years, the congregation increased to such an extent that the building could not accommodate the people who came to the services. Consequently, in 1906, an extension of 24 feet was built on to the church at cost of $900.00. But it soon became evident that even this addition would not meet the growing need.

In mid 1910, the Cornwall Street property was placed on the market and sold for $38,000.00. Then in January 1911, the Church adopted plans for a structure similar to the Sioux Falls Baptist Church in South Dakota, with various modifications. The first sod was turned on April 10th, 1911 and the cornerstone was laid on July 10th. On April 14th, 1912, the new pipe organ was heard for the first time.

The Cyclone

fbc_damageJune 30th, 1912, was a very historic but tragic date. It was a very hot Sunday and about 4:30 in the afternoon, a black cloud appeared in the south. At ten minutes to five, a terrific cyclone swept through the city. Its path was narrow, mainly between Smith and Lorne Streets. In this path it destroyed the Y.M.C.A., the Telephone Exchange, and nearly one hundred other buildings, killing over forty persons. Fortunately, at the time the churches were empty. The cyclone demolished the Metropolitan Church. It seriously damaged Knox Presbyterian Church. It lifted the dome of our church and in its fury, threw it one block away, leaving it to rest on the Church of England property. The rain that followed drove through the open roof and the total damage to the Church reached the figure of $12,000.00.

The following Sunday, Baptists met in the Princess Theatre for regular worship.

The Golden Jubilee

fbc_bentallThe Church managed to grow and flourish over the next thirty years, in spite of two world wars that occurred. From this congregation, 148 men enlisted. In 1921, another Baptist Church, Cameron Memorial was built in the northwestern part of the city. Many of its members were drawn from the First Church. Despite this, the Church grew in membership. At the time of its Golden Jubilee in 1941, during the pastorate of Rev. C. Howard Bentall, the membership stood at 827.

During the years of the Second World War, a significant number of members were transient, necessarily so because of their wartime duties. The membership at this point reached its highest ever, at 959. In 1947, the Church decided to sell off land to the east of the church building, which is now the parking lot for the Land Titles Building. This was apparently done to finance a new boiler.

Restoration – The Postwar Years

Soon after the end of the ’40s, the Church had to face the necessity for long-delayed building renovations, and respond to the forces for suburban expansion and wider denominational needs. So, with rising optimism of the post-war period, the leadership of the Church began to feel its way toward new ministries, with a growing conviction that a basic requirement was an enlarged commitment to stewardship by the membership. This commitment was needed to meet the demand of a full program of repair and renovation of our beloved old building.

In 1955, the state of repair of First Church was distressing. The roof leaked, plaster had cracked and fallen in several areas, the pipe organ was defunct, the pew backs were splitting, stained glass windows were in perilous condition, and the offices and fellowship rooms were in their deteriorated 1912 condition. Floors in the lower level were cracked and heaving, the heating system and kitchen required upgrading, and the furnace needed to be converted to natural gas. In addition, cosmetic improvements in interior paint, varnish and stain, and exterior trim and brick pointing were needed to restore the building to the dignity its design deserved. The congregation met in the Legion Hall over a three month period while renovations took place. The task was not considered complete, however, until 1960 when the pipe organ was fully reinstalled. Between 1956 and 1960, a total of near $120,000 was expended, which would be equivalent to about $700,000 in today’s dollars.

Years of Decline – The ’60s and ’70s

The ’60s and ’70s were difficult years for the Church. Membership was not growing. Families were moving to newly established churches. Sunday School attendance was failing due to a lack of younger families. There were fewer baptisms than funerals. In spite of the generally depressing state of the ministry, the Church still possessed a core of people who continued to cast their hopes for witness within the body of First Baptist. In 1978, Rev. George Baxter was called to be our senior minister, and a new spirit was sensed. A new philosophy of ministry was accepted by the congregation, the declining decades of the ’60s and ’70s ended, and growth began. Major changes were in store for First Baptist as it headed into the ’80s with new leadership, and a new vision for ministry.

Growth – The ’80s

fbc_baxterSensing a potential if needs could be properly met, Rev. Baxter found the leadership open to his insistence that an Associate Pastor for Youth be engaged within a year. In July, 1979, the Rev. Gary Nelson became our Minister of Christian Education. Change began. Young people became active and involved and the attendance Sunday mornings grew. The evening service was resurrected, and was attractive to both younger and older adults.

Another area that was just as needy as Youth was the Children’s ministries. This was addressed when Barbara Mutch came on staff in 1981. Increasing numbers of people began to see First Baptist as a “place to belong”. Professionally trained people were drawn upon to take up areas of program which needed attention.

John Nelson, Jr. was engaged in 1986 to create a true music ministry beyond the traditional choir. As Associate Pastor, Music, he has brought both variety and excellence into whole new aspects of that ministry. As a result, more people are taking part in music to enrich the worship of the Church as well as for their own benefit.

The Centennial

In 1991, First Baptist Church undertook the largest building project since the building opened in 1912. Eighty years had passed since our building was constructed and 30 years since the last major renovation. The building in the early ’90s was structurally unsound and did not meet building code standards of safety. In April, 1991, the Church approved a detailed nine month plan to cost $1.3 million.

In June 1991, the congregation moved out of the building to Sheldon Williams High School for Family Bible School and Sunday morning worship. Church offices moved to the church-owned building next door. We returned to the building and sanctuary on Sunday March 1, 1992, grateful to God for the prospects of new ministry. The renovations in the building have enabled the congregation to function more effectively in the space available to provide both existing and new ministry programs.

The current health of the Church has been brought about by the willingness of its leaders to alter our tradition to accept the necessity of professional staff support in every arm of ministry. It is also due to a congregation that is willing to volunteer to plan, work, and support programs in those areas under responsible trained leaders.

Planning for the Future 1996

In August of 1996, the Church board of First Baptist Church received information from the City of Regina Fire Department and SGI Insurance, regarding the condition of the house to the south, owned by the Church. This building housed classroom space, storage space, and provided a space for the church Junior high and Senior high youth groups to hold some of their activities. This building was constructed prior to the church in 1912, and was acquired by First Baptist Church in 1979. Since that time in addition to providing space for church programs, it had also been a source of revenue for parking and facility rental.

The building had come to the end of its useful life. To continue to use it even in a minimal way would have cost approximately $30,000. It may have cost double that to make it fully useable and would still not have met our requirements.

The Commissions and Church Board held a retreat in September ’96 to develop priorities and strategic plans. There was unanimous agreement that the first priority is the youth of our church. They required good leadership and a facility for their activities. The Board decided that the best course of action was to demolish the old house and construct a new facility to meet the needs of the church family.

The new facility is situated on the 50′ x 125′ lot immediately south of the church rear lane. The facility houses a multi-purpose room, approximately 30′ wide x 50′ long x 20′ high to provide space for gym activities; a place for youth to meet for Sunday School, Bible Study, youth group activities and lounging; a classroom; a kitchenette; a music storage library as well as additional storage and lobby areas.

Planning for the Future 2018

The Church Health and Renewal survey, report and implementation took place in 2018.

 
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