OUR HISTORY

In 1860, a band of praying Christians built a small place for prayer meetings. Before the year ended, the First Baptist Church was organized with Elder William Rose of Savannah, GA as the pastor. This building was located on the corner of Beech and Fifth Streets. Later, with Rev. Austin as pastor, services were held in a building on the Southwest corner of Atlantic Avenue and Ninth Street. this building was called Noah’s Ark because of its peculiar shape  and because it was built partially in a pond.
 
On December 20,1873, the present site of land was purchased. Work began on a Gothic-style church with a majestic steeple. (The Steeple was damaged during a storm and removed in 1958.) Upon completion in 1874, the church was dedicated to Christ. It is the oldest Black Missionary Baptist Church in  continuous service as a place of worship the State of Florida. It has been granted the statue of Historical Landmark.
 
The First pastor in the present day edifice was Rev. Lewis Cook. Within a few years, he left the church, took 69 members and organized New Zion Baptist Church. First Baptist was then without a pastor. As a result, during this period, Rev. Woods, a white missionary, preached to the congregation. (Rev. Woods owned and lived on the property where the education building is now located.) Rev. Woods was followed by Rev. Taylor who left the church with 14 members and organized Ebenezer  Baptist Church. Ebenezer Baptist Church was burned out and the pastor and all the members returned to First Baptist Church.
 
Rev. Kemps followed Rev. Taylor. in 1890, during Rev. Kemps’ pastorate, The  Women’s Missionary State Convention was organized. A member of First Baptist Church, Mrs. E.M. (Peggy) Bailey was elected as the first president.
 
Rev. Kemps was followed  by Rev. Thorpe, who was followed by Rev. J.T. Brown, who was ordained at First Baptist Church. Rev. Brown later served as
Editor -in -Chief of the Sunday School Publishing Board in Nashville, Tennessee.
 
In April 1899, the General Baptist State Convention met at First Baptist Church. At this convention, a resolution was passed which sent our own Miss Emma B. Delaney as a missionary to Africa. IN 1902, Miss Delaney sailed 14,000 miles to British Central Africa carrying the Gospel to Africa for 20 years. She made several trips home through the years, at times bringing with her and African boy or girl to Educate in this country. (One of the boys was Daniel Malekebu. Many years later, on November 17,1974, Dr. Malekebu attended a special program honoring him at First Baptist Church. A book entitled “Far From Home” published by the late Sis. Willie Mae Ashleyis a biography of Missionary Delaney who, in addition to many other outstanding accomplishments, founded the Suehn Industrial Mission in Liberia, West Africa in 1912.)
 
In 1922, during the pastorate of Rev. N.H. Jones, Miss Delaney was stricken with tropical fever while in Africa and returned home. A few months later, she died and was buried in Bosque Bello Cemetery. IN 1935, a number of Baptist from the National Baptist Convention and Baptists from all parts of the country came to Fernandina Beach to unveil a beautiful stone in her memory. The money for the stone was given by Baptist all over the nation including Spellman University.
 
Among the Pastors who served  after Rev. Jones were the Reverends Brewer, Devaughn, Rowe, Hawkins, and Brawley, AMDD who was the first Black graduate of Bucknell University, became president of Morris College in Sumter, South Carolina, at the end of his pastorate.
 
Other Pastors who served the congregation were the Reverends E.H. Howetoll, Lenwood Morrison, J.J. Jenkins, A. Anderson and John F. Neal. Rev. Neal was pastor at First Missionary Baptist Church for 15 years. During his Pastorate, the first Vacation Bible School was held;  classrooms, a dining room, and a kitchen were added tot the church. On September 30,1951 the  church’s history was compiled by the late Sis. Lottie Cook Williams (the church clerk), the late Sis. Nora Russel, and the late Sis, Willie Mae Ashley. Rev. Neal  was pastor when First Missionary served as the host for the 50th annual session of the Union St. James Association in 1953, and in 1960  when First Missionary celebrated its first centennial with a yearlong program of activities. also during the year Rev. Eddie Lee Richo, a local church member was ordained.
 
In 1965, Rev. Randy Hezekiah was called to pastor. During his pastorate the Gospel Chorus was organized and the project of securing the land adjoining church property on the corner of Ash Street was completed.
 
On June 15,1970 Rev. Flagler was installed as the pastor. He began a successful pastorate with his wife, the late Sis. Mae Flagler and their two children. In 1987, their son Terrance “Tee” Flagler became the first person from Fernandina Beach to be selected to a professional football team.
 
During Rev. Flagler’s pastorate, among other accomplishments, the Sunday School and Youth Activities were reorganized, the First District/State Emma B. Delaney Day was held, and the District Congress of Christian Education (1979) and  the Union St. James Association (July 1985) met at First Missionary. A new Educational Building, The Emma B. Delaney Fellowship Hall, was dedicated on August 26, 1979. Rev. Ralph Beaty (white), Rev. Joe Sanders, and Rev. John Lovett were ordained. Rev. C.H. Epps Jr. assisted Pastor Flagler in 1988 during his recovery from surgery. After 18 years of faithful service, Rev. Flagler departed this life for his heavenly home. Funeral services were held at the church on November 25,1988, with interment in Bosque Bello Cemetery. The church membership is grateful to God for the years of service he rendered.
 
Rev, Andrew McRae, a graduate of Bethune Cookman College and the Interdenominational Theological Seminary (Atlanta, Georgia), was installed as the pastor on April  16, 1989 he embarked on a spirit- filled program of church and community activities for a forward movement of God’s work. A Bible class, The Pastor’s Aid Ministry, and the Nurses Guild were organized  under his leadership. The church began the process of purchasing the adjoining property on the north side of the parsonage to Atlantic Avenue. The Youth and Mass Choirs were established.  The youth department under the direction of Sis. Mittie McRae, was able to purchase a van.
 
IN 1995, Rev. Ricardo Willis of Valdosta Georgia, was installed as pastor. He served for approximately 2 years. During his pastorate, the church received a state grant for historical preservation.
 
Rev. Franklin A. Brown, our  own members, Minister Derrick Dallas and Minister Jerry Alexander, along with other ministers served the church several months prior to the call of our present pastor.
 
In May 1997, Rev. Darien K. Bolden Sr. began his pastorate with his wife, Sis. Renee Bolden, and their son Garron and daughter Darnequa. In 1999, a second son, Darien Jr. was born. In 2014, a grandson, Tahj was added to the family and in 2016, a grandaughter Peighton was added to the family.
 
We have completed the outside renovation of the church and parsonage. We are still doing some ongoing restoration of the church interior. We purchased a new 41 passenger bus and 2 new 15 passenger vans. We remodeled the “consecration room”, established a Music Rehearsal Suite, and began youth, teen, and Couples Ministry.
 
IN 2006, God blessed our music ministry with Sis. Lavandolyn Robinson. He also sent our own Bro. David Davis back, along with Rev. Carlos Presley. Our Pastor was elected to serve as Moderator of the Union St. James Association. His platform slogan was V.I.S.A. (Vision, Integrity, Structure, Accountability). Our Pastor now continues to fulfill his mission as President of The Moderator’s Auxiliary. With God’s blessing, we have now Started a Couple Ministry, Singles Ministry, Mother/Daughter Ministry, Seniors Ministry, Youth and Teen Ministry , Adult Ministry, Nurses Ministry, Media and Fine Arts Ministry.
 
In 2007 we renovated the church again. In 2008 we renovated the church offices. In 2009 Artie Hoyle joined the music ministry of FMBC  and in 2012 we were blessed with another addition to our music ministry, Benjamin Dixon Sr. In 2013, we were blessed with another addition to the music ministry Darien Bolden Jr, who now serves as our Director of Media and Music ministries. In 2013 we were blessed with Minister Earl Alberta, in 2014 we were blessed with, Rev. James Wright and in 2017 Minister Darien Bolden Jr.
 
We thank God for the 158 years He has given us, and we continue to praise him for all that he has done, for we are “The Church in the Heart of the City with the Desire to be in the Hearts of All People.”