Friday, 14 October 2016 11:06

225 Years! Big Anniversary for First Baptist

By Eve Richards | News
BALLSTON SPA — While the Village of Ballston Spa is known for its place in history as the original site of “healing spring waters,” the filming of “The Way We Were,” and numerous antique shops, it is also known as home to several old and beautiful churches. One of them is The First Baptist Church of Ballston Spa, a handsome stone edifice located at 202 Milton Avenue. First Baptist has a long and rich history of ministry in the area, dating back to its origins in 1791. The congregation will gather to commemorate the Church’s 225th anniversary on Saturday, October 15 at 6 p.m., with a celebratory event and catered reception. On Sunday morning, October 16, there will be a re-dedication service beginning at 10:30, which will include a presentation of proclamations from NYS Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner and NYS Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, as well as formal presentation of flags that have been flown over the Capitol in Albany in honor of the Church’s milestone anniversary. The Saturday evening presentation will consist of a musical and historical narrative, which will include the Church choir, cherubs, and a performance on a specially designed bell array by the Church’s Musical Director, Daryl Drew. The Church, as an organization, is older than the Village of Ballston Spa itself. When it began in 1791, it had only 24 members. Initially, there was no formal church building and the faithful would meet at each other’s homes or in the village’s schoolhouse to worship and work to fulfil the mission of their faith. As their membership grew, they welcomed their first Pastor, the Reverend Elias Lee, who was from nearby Saratoga Springs. According to Deacon Vallee Albert, one of eight deacons and the 225th Anniversary Committee Chairperson, Pastor Lee died in 1829 and is buried in the oldest portion of the Ballston Spa Cemetery. As the congregation grew, it was no longer possible to meet in one another’s homes. While many of the early church records are missing or incomplete, available information indicates that the congregation gathered at a few different locations in the village, at one point convening in a building on the corner of Railroad and Science Street. By 1802, the size of the congregation had increased enough to warrant the construction of its own church, which was built on Front Street. They remained at that location for the next 80 years and, during that time, the congregation continued to grow and perform outreach both locally and around the world, under the auspices of the American Baptist Churches. In Spring of 1896, workers broke ground at the location where the church stands today. On December 20 of that same year, the imposing stone edifice that overlooks Milton Avenue opened its doors to its congregation, and to any others who wished to join. Now, 225 years later, First Baptist Church has more than 200 members and continues to welcome all who would like to join them in worship. First Baptist Church membership includes families who have been members of the Church for generations. As the size of its flock has increased, so too has the work and outreach they perform, both within the community and around the world. “We actively support missionary efforts across the world from Africa, Guatemala, Haiti and Europe,” said Deacon Albert. On a more local level, First Baptist Church has active outreach missions across the region, with a summer-long ministry at the Backstretch Program for children of track workers, as well as a summer lunch program for school children throughout the area. “We began the summer lunch program four years ago and we served eight lunches a day. Today, we serve over 170 lunches a day at various locations within the Ballston Spa area. We have volunteers who drive as far as Galway to deliver lunches to children,” said Albert. The Church also serves the community with Christ Cupboard, a food pantry serving over 100 families each month. The pantry was started with a small donation of less than $500 in 1990. Today, it has an operating budget of $4,000 per year. First Baptist performs monthly service ministries for residents of the Saratoga Center for Rehab (formerly Maplewood Manor), and they have adopted Army platoons for nine deployments, sending packages of love and care to American soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq and Europe. The congregation also maintains a thriving connection with the Schenectady City Mission, where they serve dinners and spread their message of God’s love to others. Deacon Albert estimated that there have been more than 1,000 baptisms since the mid-1800s and the pipes in the organ loft, while no longer in use, are the original ones from 1896. The First Baptist Church welcomes anyone who is interested in attending the events on October 15 and 16, and it anticipates a large turnout of congregation members and well-wishers from the surrounding community.
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