First Baptist Church, Philadelphia, PA

Metadata

Title

First Baptist Church, Philadelphia, PA

Description

Notable for its early leadership in Baptist organization and evangelism, the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia was prominent both in its region and city and in the transatlantic community of Baptists. Begun in 1698 as a mission of the more suburban Pennepack (now, Lower Dublin) Baptist Church, First Baptist soon became the leading congregation for the city, region, and colonies, gaining independent status from Pennepack in 1746.

In 1707 the church hosted the organizing meeting of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, the first lasting inter-regional organization of Baptists in America, and over the years provided a disproportionate share of this group’s officers. From the beginning, the lives of this association and the First Baptist congregation were intertwined, with the church meeting house hosting meetings of the association and welcoming delegates, called messengers by the Baptists, from as far south as Charleston and as far north as Boston. By the 1760s, the first decade for which minutes survive, the congregation had gained prominence beyond its modest size, including among the transatlantic Baptist network. This prominence had to do with its leaders hosting and shaping the role of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, to which far-flung congregations wrote letters that began, “Dear Mother.”

The life of the congregation and its leaders was also intertwined with that of its city, with several ministers taking teaching posts at the University of Pennsylvania, then the College and Academy of Philadelphia. William Rogers, for example, came from New England to pastor the church but remained in that post for only three years, though active in the congregation and as a supply preacher until his death in 1824. Like several other Baptist ministers, Rogers served as a military chaplain during the American Revolution, an event that made havoc of the congregation’s finances and leadership. While these Baptists supported the American rebellion as a fight for necessary liberties, their former pastor Morgan Edwards criticized the rebels until 1775 when he was convinced to revise his opinion. With his excellent preaching, historical research and publications on early Baptists, and support for formal education leading to the founding and support of Brown University, Edwards embodied the strengths of Baptists. It was under Edwards’ leadership that First Baptist built a new and larger meeting house at the same time accepting the need to lend their pastor to the larger Baptist cause and arranging for supply preaching while Edwards traveled the colonies as an evangelist, church organizer, and historian of Baptists. Despite these successful efforts toward gaining respect and leaders for Baptists, Edwards’ connection with the Philadelphia congregation grew strained during the 1780s, largely because Edwards struggled through bouts of drinking and subsequent church meetings for discipline, only being restored to the congregation’s fellowship in late 1788.

When in 1814 Baptists from twelve states gathered to form a national organization in support of Baptist missions, the meeting was at the First Baptist meeting house in Philadelphia, with two of the four officials chosen being laymen from that congregation and a third, William Staughton, a former pastor. Throughout the next century, the congregation grew in numbers and influence in the city and in national and global mission programs, despite conflicts related to theology, leadership, and relationships with daughter churches, including two competing First African Baptist congregations. Its early interest in circulating religious pamphlets, as well as Philadelphia’s wealth of printers, made it feasible for American Baptists to locate their publishing operations in the city, where they remained until 1961, when operations moved to a new building and printing plant in Valley Forge.

Source

Minutes Books of First Baptist Church of Philadelphia, A. D. Gillette, editor, Minutes of the Philadelphia Baptist Association from A.D. 1707, to A.D. 1807 (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1851),  and William Williams Keen, The Bi-Centennial Celebration of the Founding of the First Baptist Church of the City of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1899).

Identifier

First Baptist Church

Collection Items

This baptism certificate has a series of questions about the baptismal candidate's beliefs and commitments, to which she has answered yes. On this profession, Sarah Sallows was baptized by Morgan Edwards in the Schuylkill River on June 22, 1762.…

Journal listing amounts paid by First Baptist Church to individuals in both cash and in some cases provisions such as wood or coffins from 1767-1769.

Amount paid by individuals to First Baptist Church to help the poor. Each donation listing includes the date, persons' name, and amount donated from 1774-1775.

Beginning of book contains an alphabetical index of names; main body provides a register which includes date of admission to the church by baptism or transfer, indication of marriage, if any, and notes on removal from membership.

Bound manuscript is a register of marriages occurring at First Baptist Church between 1791 and 1870. Register appears to have been used as a financial journal prior to use as a register; having been filled, previously used pages were re-used, making…

Letter from Thomas Shields, George Ingels, John S. Windham, Samuel Davis, and John McLeod of the Baptist Church of Christ recommending Sister Margaret Brown to the nearest Baptist Church.

Letter of membership transfer. Sending church and individual's name are illegible.

Letters of membership transfer from other Baptist churches, for individuals joining First Baptist Church in 1785 and for individuals transferring out of First Baptist Church.

Congregational Minutes include meeting notes of First Baptist Church from 1757-1769, which discuss general church affairs concerning the minister, social and domestic affairs of members, and other aspects such as finances.

Congregational Minutes include meeting notes of First Baptist Church from 1760-1761, which discuss general church affairs concerning the minister, social and domestic affairs of members, and other aspects such as finances.

Minutes include meeting notes of First Baptist Church from 1771-1775, which discuss general church affairs concerning the minister, social and domestic affairs of members, and other aspects such as finances.

Congregational Minutes include meeting notes of First Baptist Church from 1779-1786, which discuss general church affairs concerning the minister, social and domestic affairs of members, and other aspects such as finances.

Congregational Minutes include meeting notes of First Baptist Church from 1786-1791, which discuss general church affairs concerning the minister, social and domestic affairs of members, and other aspects such as finances.

Congregational Minutes include meeting notes of First Baptist Church from 1792-1795, which discuss general church affairs concerning the minister, social and domestic affairs of members, and other aspects such as finances.

Congregational Minutes include meeting notes of First Baptist Church from 1795-1806, which discuss general church affairs concerning the minister, social and domestic affairs of members, and other aspects such as finances.

Congregational Minutes include meeting notes of First Baptist Church from 1806-1813, which discuss general church affairs concerning the minister, social and domestic affairs of members, and other aspects such as finances.

Bound manuscript is a list of the subscribers of First Baptist Church who donate to a fund to help orphans, independent congregations, and the poor.

The register begins with a corrected list of the members of the church at its founding, and those added in the initial years. It then lists each member's admission to the church by baptism or letter of transfer. It also includes dates of termination…

Record of minutes of meetings of the Trustees of First Baptist Church from 1794-1836. Meeting minutes detail positions of Trustees, donations, and how donations are allocated and what they go towards at First Baptist Church.
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