Church History

The involvement of Baptists in the Pittsfield area traces back to its beginning.  Soloman Deming, the first white man to come to the frontier “outpost” of Pontoosuck, was a Baptist.  Pontoosuck received the new name of Pittsfield when incorporated on April 26, 1761.

The formal beginning of the Baptist Church in Pittsfield soon followed.  The year was 1772, four years before the colonies gained their freedom from Britain.  A Church was born!

  • Valentine Rathburn served from 1772 to 1798. In 1798 the majority of its members joined the Shakers.
  • October 1800, 15 members met to revitalize the Church. It was reorganized on March 23, 1801.  Membership slowly increased.  In 1827 the Church was granted land on the corner of School and North Streets.  A meeting house was erected and in 1830 a baptistery was built in the Church.
  • In 1835, 106 of the Church’s members emigrated to the West. So reducing the body of the Church to leave but three male members.  Growth resumed.
  • In 1849, the congregation became a regular incorporated body under the name of “The First Baptist Church of Pittsfield”. The existing meeting house became to small for the congregation and was torn down.  One twice as large was built and dedicated o January 10, 1850.  Membership stood at 3358.
  • In 1896, Morningside Baptist Church was formed. 116 members of First Baptist became the nucleus for the new church.  The city of Pittsfield now had two Baptist Churches, one in the South  end of Pittsfield and the other serving the Northern portion.
  • In 1909 a Church sponsored chapel was begun in the Elm Street area. For many years a Sunday School and prayer meeting program  had been conducted in rented rooms in the district.  A chapel was built on the corner of Elm Street and Northumberland Road.  This was dedicated on October 5, 1913 to the glory of God.
  • On May 25, 1921 the Church unanimously voted to take immediate steps toward the erection of a much needed new church building.  It was decided to build on the corner of South and Church Street.  In 1926 the Parish Hall was dedicated.  Ground was broken for the new sanctuary on May 22, 1929.  The cornerstone was laid o September 15, 1929 and the new structure was dedicated on October 19, 1930.
  • In 1950, a passageway was dug under the Sanctuary, making in unnecessary for the choirs to go into the streets in their robes to reach the Narthex.
  • In 1996, “Restore the Splendor” was begun. This was a major task of renovation of the Sanctuary, Narthex, Chapel and Assembly Hall.
  • In 2015, the roof over the Sanctuary was replaced.
  • In 2016, we have begun the restoration of our Cupola.

THE PASTORATES OF FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH

Following is a list of pastors for First Baptist Church from 1772 to present time, each shown with the years served.  Gaps in chronology indicate periods when the Church was without a formal pastor.

  • The Rev. Valentine Rathburn                                        1772 – 1798
  • The Rev. John Francis                                                     1806 – 1813
  • The Rev. August Beach                                                  1822 – 1834
  • The Rev. Edwin Sandys                                                  1838 – 1841
  • The Rev. George W. Harris                                            1843 (3 months)
  • The Rev. Arnold Kingsbury                                            1843 – 1845
  • The Rev. Bradley Miner                                                  1846 – 1850
  • The Rev. Iemuel Porter                                                  1851 – 1862
  • The Rev. Wayland Hoyt                                                  1863 – 1864
  • The Rev. William C. Richards                                         1865 – 1867
  • The Rev. D. S. Watson                                                     1867 – 1871
  • The Rev. Charles Spaulding                                           1871 – 1875
  • The Rev. Orin P. Gifford                                                 1877 – 1879
  • The Rev. George W. Gile                                                 1879 – 1884
  • The Rev. Edward Holyoke                                             1884 – 1887
  • The Rev. Orville Coats                                                    1887 – 1893
  • The Rev. H. S. Johnson                                                   1893 – 1899
  • The Rev. Gove G. Johnson                                             1900 – 1902
  • The Rev. F. W. Lockwood                                               1902 – 1908
  • The Rev. Charles MacGregor                                        1908 – 1918
  • The Rev. Maurice A. Levy                                               1919 – 1932
  • The Rev. Paul L. Sturgis                                                  1933 – 1943
  • The Rev. Christian B. Jensen                                          1943 – 1957
  • The Rev. Ellis J. Holt                                                         1957 – 1963
  • The Rev. R. Perry Bartlett                                               1964 – 1966
  • The Rev. George L. Middleton                                       1966 – 1973
  • The Rev. Dale Lock                                                          1974 – 1992
  • The Rev. Dr. David J. Rowe                                             1993 – 1997
  • The Rev. Dr. Robert Renne                                             1998 – 2011
  • The Rev. Sheila Sholes-Ross                                           2013 – present

ASSOCIATE PASTORS

  • Rev. James Grant                                                             1895 – 1896
  • Rev. Arthur Cole                                                               1897 – 1899
  • Rev. Henry S. Mullowney                                                no date
  • Rev. Harold Curtis            no date – Ordained 7/27/1916 at Elm Street Chapel
  • Rev. Harold Campbell                                                     1919 – 1922
  • Rev. Harold Stoddard                                                      1922 – 1923
  • Rev. Clifford Peaslee                                                        1923 – 1924
  • Rev. George Holt                                                              1926 – ?
  • Rev. Albert Derbyshire                                                    1928 -1931
  • Rev. Phillips B. Henderson                                             1947 – 1949
  • Rev. Hebert J. Murray                                                      1950 – 1957
  • Rev. J. Vance Williams                                                      1958 – 1963
  • Rev. Vernon F. Price                                                         1963 – 1968
  • Rev. Dale Lock                                                                   1968 – 1974
  • Rev. Eric B. Nelson                                                           1974 – 1982
  • Rev. Craig Davis-Johnson                                                1982 – 1985
  • Rev. Peter Carmen                                                           1985 – 1989
  • Rev. Karen Gygax Rodriguez                                          1989 – 1996
  • Rev. Ashley Smith                                                             1996 – 2009