On Sunday, May 9, from 1-3 p.m. a special service will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Austin Baptist Church. The service will be dedicated to those who have kept the Lord’s work alive at this church.
Refreshments will follow the service. Members extend an invitation for the public to attend.
The First Baptist Church of Austin was organized on April 22, 1910, following a series of evangelistic meetings conducted by Rev. L.T. Barkman and family in a chapel car. This was a railroad car brought to Austin and placed on a siding.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s the American Baptist Home Mission Society had a fleet of about eight chapel cars. These were railroad cars the society used to establish new churches in frontier towns, primarily in the West. The cars had names like Grace, Emmanuel and Goodwill. Goodwill served as an early worship house for Baptists in the area in and around Austin.
The council of organization was composed of delegates from Eckert, Delta, Hotchkiss and Olathe. In addition, there were five other brethren present, including Colorado Baptist Convention executive secretary Dr. W.F. Ripley. There were 62 charter members.
Church services were initially held on the second floor of the Wyreck packing shed. The pulpit was constructed of two apple boxes, one laid flat with another upright on top. They also met in a livery stable for a while.
Silas B. Rist and M.F. Benefiel were authorized to purchase building lots on the same day that the church was organized. Four lots were purchased in 1921 with two lots added in 1922.
I.E. Williamson, E.R. Coffee, Boyd Fergus, Mrs. Vincey P. Loop and Mrs. Lola D. Myers were on the building committee.
The first work was done on a small wood building on July 9, 1910. This was used as the house of worship until it was torn down on Jan. 31, 1923. The lumber was used to a large extent in the present building that had been started in 1921. The basement floor is made of recycled lumber from that source. Very little was done on the building project that year, but work began in earnest in 1922. When the basement was completed, services were held there for 31 years.
The basement served the congregation well for it was 1950 before building resumed. Several years later, the sanctuary was completed. No oney was borrowed; all materials were purchased as the funds became available. Clare Davis of Austin supervised the project and did much of the detail work on the building. Most of the labor was done by volunteer members of the congregation. Dedication services were conducted on May 16, 1954.
Rev. James E. Gwatkin served as pastor from May 1, 1910, until May 25, 1913, dividing his time between Austin and the Baptist church in Eckert.
The mission of the church is “to glorify God and show our love for the lost through God oriented services. To impact the community we open our doors to foster care to others and meet community needs.”
With this in mind, the church has long been a meeting place for community events. This is still true today. AA groups have met in the basement weekly for five years with a pot-luck once a month. Also, 4-H club meetings are held there once a month, more frequently prior to the county fair each year. A women’s choir group gets together on Mondays to sing and prepare for a special concert. For many years the basement served as a polling place for those living in the precinct.
Members of First Baptist provide a worship service at Horizons Health Care Center every fifth week through the ministerial alliance.
At present, the church calls on retired ministers and missionaries to conduct worship services. Men and women who are training to be preachers and do the Lord’s work are encouraged to lead services here as they grow.
Sunday services start with Sunday school at 9 a.m. Worship service begins at 10 a.m. A potluck luncheon follows the worship service the second Sunday of every month. On those days, no Sunday school is held. Visitors are always welcome.
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