When the church first met there was no building to worship and study. People met in various homes for both Sunday morning worship services and prayer meetings. There was no pastor, so those best fit took charge of the service and led the congregation. On November 18, 1834 a church was formed with 14 members at the home of Hezekiah Dunham. The Rev. S. R. Willard was chosen as pastor. Willard was father of artist Archibald Willard, known for his painting.
The Spirit of ’76. Services were held in the brick school house on South Park Street.
The first church building, 40 by 50 feet, was erected on South Park Street and was dedicated February 15, 1846. It cost approximately $1,475, with most of the money raised by sale of pews at prices of $20 and $40. On dedication day there were 438 people present. The church building had no baptistery, so baptisms were held at Tinker’s Creek. The Sunday School was organized on April 19, 1853.
A second church building was built to maintain the church's presence in the growing town of Bedford. The new building was on the corner of South Park and Broadway and was dedicated May 7, 1893. Rev. William Perrins was the first pastor in this building. The cost was approximately $20,000 and two major renovations were made in 1914 and 1927. A parsonage and the Christian Education Building were added in 1956 and 1959.
The third, and present, church building, located at 445 Turney Road, was dedicated during the week of May 19, 1968 with a "Service of Symbolism." The seating capacity of this building was 336 with 15,000 square feet, with the height of the exterior peak of the sanctuary being 46 feet. The cost was approximately $458,824 with 35% of the cost raised through memorials and gifts. There are eight memorial windows, two of which are in the front of the chancel with the theme
God’s Creation and
Man’s Aspiration. The parlor doors originally graced the entrance of the Euclid Avenue Baptist Church.
In 1986, a mortgage burning service was held during Sunday worship to celebrate the church being mortgage free in less than 20 years. In June of 2009, the church celebrated its 40th anniversary with guest preacher Reverend Nelson Basil. Reverend Basil was the pastor who led in building the present church facility and served the church for 34 years.
The Rev. Nelson F. Basil served from 1957 to 1991, the longest tenure of any pastor at First Baptist Church. In the years following the pastorate of Rev. Basil the church experienced some pain and difficulty. Our next settled pastor, (as opposed to Interim Pastors), the Rev. Dr. Tom Eberlein seemed like a good fit and was doing great work with the church when he died. The next settled pastor stayed with First Baptist for only two years. Rev. Rick Kesler was called to the pastorate in the spring of 2003 and was with the church for four years. Rev. Dr. David Hardin served here next for over 4 years before being called to Bethlehem, PA. Currently the church is being served by Interim Pastor Rev. Debra Federico.
Over the years, the church experienced some challenges as well as joys. Among the challenges, the people of First Baptist have successfully completed the construction of three church buildings, overcame a split of the church congregation in 1937 and survived a threatened split in 1958. The joys, however, have far outweighed the challenges. The Sunday school ministry, which began in 1853, continues to provide age appropriate classes for children both you and adults. Over the years the church has always been noted for its wonderful music. There have been many fine choirs and excellent soloists that have provided beautiful music, adding spiritual depth to the services. There are many celebrated events in our history which make us a stronger congregation in our walk together in faith and love.
The Moeler pipe organ, which was installed when the church was built, has been updated. Four new ranks of pipes were added, the organ console was fitted with a new combination action and the instrument was reworked and regulated. The work was completed in 1999 and the organ was rededicated in June 2000.
On the weekend of November 15, 2009, the church celebrated its 175th anniversary. Leaders from the religious community and civic organizations attended this milestone. It was a weekend of memories, reunions and expressions of hope for the future. The Reverend Nelson Basil, Pastor Emeritus, was the guest speaker. The church celebrated with this anniversary them
Generations of Faith: Honoring the Past, Rejoicing in the Present, Claiming the Future.
In 2015 the church celebrated 180 years of existence by focusing on the theme
Turning 180. The ancillary interpretation of the them attempted to focus on the aging congregation towards thriving through prayer based means of operation instead of functional work.
First Baptist Church of Bedford continues to be committed to its community. It helped found the Meals on Wheels program in the area and still supports this ministry with physical and financial assistance. We help support the Southeast Clergy Council Hunger Center. Since we are located close to Glendale Primary School, our Mission Board finds various ways to minister to the staff and children who attend there throughout the year.
The dedication and commitment of the congregation has contributed largely to the survival of the church, particularly during the depression and the split in the congregation in 1932. On this basis, we establish hope for the future life of the church.