FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH HISTORY
The early 1900’s saw the migration of those who would later become the pioneers of
the First Baptist Church of Woodbine, New Jersey. They came from the South and from
the north as far as Pennsylvania. Upon their arrival, they found homes and employment
all the while thanking the Almighty God for His blessings. Desperate for a church,
they began to meet in private homes to conduct worship services.
To worship God in a sanctuary was the prayer and hope of God-fearing deacons; Matthew
White, Ephrain Smith, Charles F. Adams, Samuel Michael, James Singleton, Sr., and
Anderson Welcher. After prayer and seeking God’s guidance, these individuals were
led to call Minister Peter Williams as their Pastor. Following that move, and organizational
meeting held in the home of Deacon and Deaconess Ephrain Smith led to the newly-formed
“store front” church at the intersection of what is now Bryant Street and Adams Avenue.
This began the first phase of the First Baptist Church of Woodbine.
Under Minister Peter Williams’ tenure, the first trustees: James Collo, Frank Hankerson,
Thomas Fuller, Gus Murray, Jeff Murray, and William Turner were appointed. As the
church grew in membership, the Pastor, deacons, and trustees sought to purchase property
on Longfellow Street. However, after much reconsideration, the church leadership
found it would be more economically practical to purchase and renovate the building
they were renting at that time for worship services.
A call was made for the deacons, the missionaries, and the women of the congregation
to work to raise the needed funds for the building’s renovations. The women of the
church conceived a plan: for a period of one month, each woman would be responsible
for the purchase of a bundle of shingles. Their combined efforts were greatly successful.
With a bell tower and steeple in place, the “store front house” progressively began
to take on the shape and appearance of a church.
The church saw the need for additional deacons as the older ones had been called
to glory. Claude McNear, Sr., and Benjamin Goar were added to the roll of deacons.
The pastorate changed also. Reverend James A. Russell succeeded Reverend Williams,
Followed by Reverend J.T. Hill, J. R. Hirsch, H.R. Smith, T.J. Cadwell, J.W. Russell,
L.H. Graham, T. N Bristow, and Richard Buckmon, Sr. The roster of deacons included
the following: Matthew White, Ephrain Smith, Charles Adams, Samuel Michaels, Smith
Barber, Robert Holtzclaw, James Singleton, Anderson Welcher, Claude McNear, Sr.,
Fred Faison, Benjamin Goar, Hance Youmans, Jacob Steward, Israel Cook, Joseph Smith,
Benjamin Russell, Wilbur Russell, and Jacob Locklair.
In 1950, a fire completely destroyed the sanctuary. Once again, the congregation
had no place to worship. With the direction of God and the cooperation of members,
friends and well wishes, First Baptist Church was rebuilt.
During the ministry of Reverend James Russell (1960-1971), many improvements were
made at the church – a parsonage was purchased; an addition was made to the church’s
physical unit, and interior renovations were done. As a result, the Church’s Building
Fund was established and remains in place today.
In 1974, Reverend Leo Graham succeeded Reverend Russell as Pastor of First Baptist
Church for two years. The Reverend Thomas Bristow was then called to Pastor the
flock at First Baptist Church. During his pastorate, the church was incorporated
and plans were laid for a larger new edifice. Reverend Bristow initiated several
new auxiliaries, one of which is the Church’s Scholarship Fund designed to financially
assist younger saints in their pursuit of higher education.
One Sunday during the month of October 1985, the entire membership of First Baptist
Church marched from its former location to our present location at the intersection
of Longfellow Street and Adams Avenue. By the grace of God we built our church,
free from mortgage and any other encumbrances. One year later the Fellowship Hall
Subsequent to Reverend Bristow’s retirement in October of 1995, Minister Richard
Buckmon, Sr., was called to pastor First Baptist Church and was installed November
3, 1996. Under his ministry, the church experienced growth in size as well as in
ministry development. The old church edifice was demolished in June of 1996, but
not its memories or history of where the Father has brought us. Pastor Buckmon ended
his office of pastor here in November of 1997. This departure meant that First Baptist
was again without a pastor. The deacons and the Pulpit committee sought the Lord’s
direction in their petition for the type of Pastor He wanted here at First Baptist.
On August 5, 1998, Minister Thomas Dawson, Jr., answered the call to pastor this
church. An anointed pastor, teacher, and administrator, Pastor Dawson had the vision
for FBC; a Biblical-centered ministry that will Reach, Reproduce, Reclaim and Rebuild
the community and the world through the love of Jesus Christ.
Under Pastor Dawson’s administration and teaching, FBC has experienced worship at
a new level. In addition to the SOAR (Soldiers Ordered after Righteousness) Ministry
establishment and growth, new ministries have been birthed, established ministries
have flourished, and ministries that have become unfruitful have been laid to rest.
Pastor Dawson has been called upon to use his gifts of preaching, teaching, and
exhorting at numerous speaking engagements. Our membership consists of families
from Cape May County, Atlantic County and Cumberland County. His ministry has extended
to a Sunday, S.O.A.R. TV Broadcast on Comcast Channel 25 and Direct TV Channel 51
from 8:00-8:30 p.m. in Philadelphia, Delaware and South Jersey. Worship service
and a Friday noonday service have grown; a committed and vigilant security ministry,
and a greeters’ ministry are just some of the ministries that Pastor Dawson initiated.
At FBC Pastor Dawson have developed over 40 ministries that are designed to minister
to individuals, or groups of all ages.
The church rejoices in maintenance of these ministries: Vision Team, Outreach, Christian
Education, Men of Arms and Women of Purpose Bible Study, monthly prayer breakfasts,
Saturday, GAP (God Answers Prayer) at 8:00–9:00 a.m., prison ministry, evangelism
training, audio ministry, a First Baptist website, and many more. Presently, there
are four singing units ministering to the needs of the people. The church has grown
from a membership of 75 to over 500. Growth has not been just in membership but
in knowledge, in wisdom, in giving, and in the level of worship.
The all-night youth activities, the Men’s Retreat, and the Women’s Retreat are avenues
the church uses to reach out to the community. An even greater blessing is the acquisition
of land to build our new sanctuary and ministry complex; we are presently involved
in a Capital Stewardship Campaign to erect a worship center that will testify to
God’s faithfulness and reach the lost for the Savior. On December 21, 2008, FBC
broke ground for their new S.O.A.R. Center at DeHirsch Avenue/County Road 550, Woodbine,
Ministerial growth is always occurring at FBC. Presently, the ministerial staff
includes Assistant Pastor Jonathan L. Murray, Sr., and Associate Pastors: Harold
Harris, James Bolling, and Scott Gurdgiel. Associate Pastor Firman Matthews relocated
to North Carolina. Dr. Miles Austin, Advisor. Currently, the deacons include Clifford
Gadson, Chairman, Louis Murray, Vice Chairman, David Murray, Vice Chairman, Wayne
Hendricks, Fred Watkins, Jonathan Murray, Joseph Smith, Alfonzo Toney, Claude McNear,
Jr., Fred Crawley, Clifford Gadson, Sr., James Jones, Matthew Smith, James Smith,
Sr., Horace Youmans, Leon Henry, Douglas Watkins, Robert Freeman, Glenn Mathis, and
Morris Harris. Former Deacon James Page was called home to glory and Deacon Ed Crawley
relocated to North Carolina.
Under Pastor Dawson’s leadership we have been blessed through his God-given vision
and the means to take FBC into the next century with our focus on kingdom building.