The following historical sketch is taken largely from a history written by Dr. A. J. S. Thomas in 1905.
” It is impossible to know who first proposed to have Baptist preaching in this neighborhood. A few Baptist lived around here who were members of other Baptist churches and they began to see the importance and the necessity of a church for their growing families and for the rapidly developing neighborhood.”
“Among the first men who preached here, before the church was organized, was Samuel Gibson, an Englishman, a man of great ability, good education, and unblemished character. Tradition says that the first preaching was done in the front yard of Brother Isham J. Ward. It is said that a brush arbor was erected in Brother Ward’s yard, underneath which the worshippers sat protected from the sun and heat while the preacher stood in the doorway of the house and delivered the sermon.”
“The Berea Baptist Church was organized on December 23, 1843, with twenty-three charter members; nine men and fourteen women. Their names were given on the church records in the following order: James Farr, William Wheeler, Martin Hunt, Moses Pritchet, Islam J. Ward, John Celey, P.E. Hawkins, Jordan Batson, I.H. Benedict, Ann B. Wheeler, Martha Hunt, Nancy Ward, Sarah Ward, Susan Celey, Sarah A. Dupree, Elizabeth Davis, Elizabeth Cureton, Nancy Young, Caroline Young, and Francis Ligon. These were all dismissed by letter from the Head of Enoree Baptist Church.”
“Reverend Samuel Gibson preached the first sermon in Berea’s history, taking his test from I Corinthians 1:3 and 4. “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God, always on your behalf, for the grace of God, which is given you by Jesus Christ.” In Acts 17:10 and 11, the people of Berea are described as having treated the Apostle Paul more kindly than did the people of Thessalonica. After the first sermon by Reverend Gibson, the church unanimously agreed on the name ‘Berea’, and adopted the abstract of principals of the Tyger River Association. The church was regularly constituted by a presbytery consisting of Reverend Samuel Gibson, Reverend M. Wynn, and Reverend J. M. Roberts.”
“Reverend J. M. Roberts was chosen as the first pastor. He was a man of strong character and unusual ability and he served from the date the church was organized until his death, April 10, 1849.”
“In 1891, the building of the second church house was begun. The old church building was rolled down the road, to become part of an earlier Rocky Mount Church. Finally, some of the material in Berea’s old structure came to rest, it is said, in a nearby barn of Will Lester. Brother R. A. Kay supervised the building and on May 29, 1892, the dedicatory sermon was preached in the new building by Dr. Charles Manly.” The Sunday School rooms that were built beside the church were finished during Reverend Percy Hughes’ pastorate. They were completed in 1933.
In 1949, our first Educational Building was completed. The dedication ceremony was held on November 20, 1949. Dr. S. H. Jones, Editor of the Baptist Courier preached the sermon. In 1952, the congregation began planning to build an auditorium. In 1955, the old auditorium was built. On October 16, 1955, the keys to the $140,000.00 auditorium were turned over by the chairman of the building committee, Mr. Cecil Hodges, to the Pastor at an opening service of the new auditorium. Reverend O.K. Webb, Associational Missionary, had the Church Covenant Service in front of the new auditorium.
With the growth of the community more and more people were attending Berea Baptist Church. More
building space was needed so on December 20, 1964, ground was broken for the third unit of the church. This building, which was completed in 1965, contained a Chapel, Sunday School rooms for adults, Church Offices, Choir Rehearsal Room, Nurseries, Beginner and Primary Departments.
As the community grew, other Baptist Churches were built. Because this was the first Baptist Church in the community the congregation decided on July 11, 1965, to change the official name to The Berea First Baptist Church
Recognizing the need to minister to the total person, Berea First Baptist opened the doors to a new gymnasium in 1971. The gym was complete with glass backboards, bleachers, skating and volleyball courts. The building also housed a new kitchen with facilities to “provide” for years to come. This building was unlike the few church gyms of its time, being a full sized court with the large seating and served as the model for all churches in the area.
On April 18, 1976, Easter Sunday Morning, our new and current Sanctuary held it’s first Sunday Morning Worship Service. Dr. Douglas N. Baker and W. Floyd Parker directed the service on this dedication day. The Auditorium is octagon shaped providing unique flexibility for different programs and events.
In the first building phase since the construction of the current sanctuary in 1976, the church began a phase of construction still evident along the front of our church. Completed in 1992 and in order to meet a new demand Berea First Baptist, a Senior Adult Building, Child Care Facilities, Youth Room and Softball Field were added. The Senior Adult Building also serves as the dining hall for our Wednesday Night Suppers. It has a large dining area, kitchen, classrooms, and stage.
The Child Care Facility was constructed as a state-of-the-art day care, with private viewing rooms for each class, large outside windows, and kitchen. It still remains as one of the most in-demand child care facilities in our area with a constant waiting list for child care.
The softball field is located just behind the gym and is complete with lights, bleachers, and playground area. This field now sits in a portion of our property that was once a low ravine. Much was done to bring this area of our property up to the “level playing field” you will see today.
More recently Berea First went through an exhaustive upgrade throughout the facilities, primarily focusing on the Worship Center and a brand new Welcome Center. This construction phase is the reason for our current “Legacy Fund” emphasis. Though not a part of our Legacy Fund emphasis, during that same phase a top notch student ministry center was constructed just across the parking lot and is fittingly named, “Crosswalk”. In November 2016, our church retired the debt on this latest renovation.
Through a generous gift, our gymnasium was also recently renovated. In this complete overhaul of our facility, the gymnasium was updated from floor to ceiling. This renovation will allow us to use this facility for many more generations!
We invite you to join us this Sunday and take advantage of our “Welcome Center”. It is located to the left of our sanctuary and from this location we can direct you to Bible Study classes, children’s ministry classes, or into our worship center.