About

     The First Baptist Church of Waterville was founded on August 27, 1818 by Jeremiah Chaplin. He had come to town to establish the Maine Literary and Theological Institution, now Colby College. Gathering the few Baptist families then in Waterville, augmented by ten members transferred from the Sidney Church, Chaplin formally organized the Waterville Church. He and his colleague Stephen Chapin served as part-time ministers until the election of a full time pastor, Harvey Fittz, in 1829. For many years, this church was closely connected with Colby, which held every annual commencement and baccalaureate service here from 1827 to 1919. The church also has a long history of association with missionary activity. George Dana Boardman, the first Baptist missionary to Burma, was baptized and licensed to preach here and Dr. Adoniram Judson also spoke here upon his return from India in 1846

 Building

     From the beginning the small group was determined to have their own house of worship rather than depend upon the use of the town meetinghouse or the schoolhouse on the common. In order to make a building financially feasible, they formed a corporate society, which sold pews to any who would buy, regardless of religious affiliation. Every purchaser became a member of the society, so the early owners of this building were Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Universalists, and Methodists, as well as Baptists. The structure was erected in 1826, and, as the oldest public building in Waterville, still stands on its original foundations. Dedicated December 6, 1826, the building cost $3,856, plus $100 and a free pew paid to a Skowhegan man who quarried and shaped the stone and laid the foundation. Prices of pews ranged from $35 in the balcony, to $150 for the choicest seats on the main floor. The minister spoke from a pulpit so high that his head was on a level with the floor of the balcony.

     The first major alterations came in 1851. The old box pews lost their swinging doors and the front seats, on which people had sat "back to" the minister. Blinds were placed on the windows, and the interior was fully painted for

the first time. More complete renovations came in 1875 at the cost of $17,000. Long modernpews replaced the old box type; the pulpit was lowered; the window behind the pulpit were blocked up; the tower was reshaped and a porch was added. Rev. George Dana Boardman Pepper preached the rededication sermon. Rev. Pepper was the only man since Jeremiah Chaplin to serve both as pastor of the church and President of Colby College, though he did so at different times.

     Originally baptisms were performed in the Messalonskee Stream or the Kennebec River. In 1871 came the first inside baptistery and the present Morse baptistery dates from 1926.

     Unti11869, when central heating was installed, the building was heated by stoves, so inadequate that many worshipers used soapstone foot warmers.  In 2000 a state of the art heating system replaced the one that had served for over a hundred years.

     In 1951, at a cost of more than $60,000.(17 times the original cost) the sanctuary was completely renovated to include a lectern as well as a pulpit. Many visitors today comment on the well maintained, attractive and inspiring worship space.  

Music

     At first there was no instrumental music, but by 1850 the church had installed a small reed organ. The first pipe organ, pumped by hand, appeared in 1893. It was replaced in 1926 by the large Purinton organ, which in 1958 was completely rebuilt and placed in the balcony.

Through a generous bequest of a church member, the organ was again refurbished in 2002. It has been lifted from its 'pit' and can now be moved into the middle of the sanctuary to allow visibility of the movement of the hands and feet of the organist. Each Lenten season the church hosts organists from the area for a series of noon concerts, which are open to the public. 

Ministry

     The church identifies with the Kennebec Baptist Association, the Baptist World Alliance and the American Baptist Churches of Maine and the USA. Pastors over the years have included some of the best known clergy of the denomination.


Pastors
 

Jeremiah Chaplin

1818-1824

Stephen Chaplin

1824-1828

Harvey Fittz

1829-1830

Henry Green

1831-1833

Samuel Francis Smith

1834-1841

David N. Sheldon

1842-1843

John C. Stockbridge

1845-1847

William Crowell

1849-1850

N. Milton Wood

1852-1859

George B. D. Pepper

1860-1865

Benjamin F. Shaw

1867-1869

Henry Burrage

1870-1873

Samuel P. Merrill

1874-1879

William H. Spencer

1879-1899

Edwin H. Whittemore

1899-1914

Arthur S. Phelps

1914-1920

Walter Quarrrington

1921-1924

Leopold Hass

1924-1933

John W. Brush

1934-1939

Robert H. Beaven

1939-1943

CliftonH. Walcott

1943-1947

Kenneth L. Garrison

1948-1952

Richard L.Keach

1952-1957

Ralph W. Reynolds

1957-1963

Ellis J. Holt

1963-1969

Blair M. Benner

1969-1977

Harry C. Snyder

1978-1982

Alvin R. Cooper

1983-1987

Jas Hamilton-Ogden

1988-1990

StanleyA. Wheeler

1991-1994

Patricia A. Parker

1996-2004

Gregory Thomas

2005-2006

Alan Shumway

2006-2010

Russell D. LaFlamme

2012-

 

 

 


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