1900 - 2013
Although the official date for the beginning of First Baptist Church of Huntingdon Valley is November 19, 1900, the seed was planted three years prior. In 1897, a small group of African-American Christians met together in the home of Mr. & Mrs. Henry Whitest on Second Street Pike in Huntingdon Valley for weekly prayer meetings. Included in that group was the Reverend Price David Chandler (a native of Halifax, Virginia) who eventually became the church founder. By uniting a Sunday School group started by five young women and the prayer group, Rev. Chandler was successful in having the body declared a Mission in 1899 by the then Pastor of Salem Baptist Church of Jenkintown.
The new Mission looked upon Salem as the "Mother Church."
The Mission was later set apart as an independent Baptist Church and adopted the name "First Baptist Church of Huntingdon Valley." On November 19, 1900, it was incorporated under the laws of Pennsylvania.
The first site for services was the Odd Fellows Hall located on Huntingdon Pike where Healthcare Services now stands. Next the Church moved a short distance south to the Lady Washington Inn, currently a private residence of historical note adjacent to Core States Bank. The Church decided it was time to erect a building of their own and on September 5, 1901, the cornerstone was laid for the present edifice on the present site, Murray Road. Mr. George Snell was the builder.
Baptismal ceremonies were held in Pennypack Creek until a formal baptistry was installed.
In 1926, remodeling of the building was done including: stucco surface, central heating installation, elevating the choir stand and rostrum, stained glass windows, metal ceiling, hardwood pews replaced the straight-back chairs, and finally a baptismal pool. Contractor for this renovation work was Robert Brown of Ambler.
While the work was in progress, Church services and all activities were held in True Reformer's Hall, located adjacent to the Church at that time.
After thirty-seven years, the Founder's health began to fail, and Reverend Chandler passed on to his reward April 21, 1934.
The second pastor was the Reverend John K. Waugh, who had served two years as Assistant Pastor to Reverend Chandler. Reverend Waugh had previously been a member of McKinley Memorial Baptist Church of Willow Grove. He worked diligently to eliminate the outstanding debts against the Church and to complete some additional renovations to the rear structure. Reverend Waugh retired from pastoring after sixteen years.
The third pastor was installed in 1950, the Reverend John Wesley Young, formerly Associate Minister of the Second Baptist Church of Frankford. Again, improvements to the building were made. This time the contractor was Mr. P. Russell Fesmire & Sons. Improvements included lavatories and a new heating system.
During his pastorate, seven deacons were appointed, of which two were later ordained to the ministry, namely Reverend Franklin Barrett and Reverend Fay Lewis. Reverend Young resigned 1964 after fourteen years as pastor.
Reverend Howard W. Cartwright, Jr. became the fourth pastor, formerly a member of Grace Baptist Church of Germantown. He organized our first Vacation Bible School, conducted weekly Bible Study, Sunday evening services, and initiated the practice of holding mini-services in the homes of sick and shut-in members. Having positive rapport with youth, young converts were organized into the Angelic Choir. Because of his intense concern for Missionary work, the congregation became acquainted with numerous missionaries who were in both foreign and domestic service.
On June 1969, Reverend Cartwright resigned from pastoring to become an urban missionary with the American Sunday School Union.
January 1970, the fifth pastor was installed, Reverend Albert H. Taliaferro, formerly an Associate at McKinley Memorial Baptist in Willow Grove.
Again, plans were made for renovations on the building. Previous blueprints submitted by Architect Nathaniel Gaines of Willow Grove were amended and updated by Architect William Hirschburg of Fort Washington.
The contractor selected was E. Arol Fesmire of Jenkintown. Work included renovating the sanctuary, a new kitchen, carpets, pews, a new oil heater, spiral, pastor's study, ladies lounge, new baptistry and more. Construction began in May 1971 and was completed in November 1971 with great celebration.
During the 70's the Church body was energized with revised organizations: Cherubim Choir, Gospel Chorus, Men's Organization and Women's Organization andYouth Organization (later became The Generations Group). Another Deacon was licensed for the ministry, the Reverend Van Gaines.
In 1977, a parsonage was purchased, 606 Barrett Avenue, the former residence of the Jay Freeman family.
The 1980's brought air-conditioning and the purchase of a maxi-wagon for transportation and the official naming of Chandler's Hall in memory of the Church founder. The year 1980 also brought rejoicing over the mortgage burning. First Baptist became debt free.
January 1996, Reverend Taliaferro retired from the pastorate after 26 years of service.
Throughout the process of searching for a new pastor, the Lord kept the Church family together under the leadership of the Deacons, and Associate Minister, Reverend Melvin Anderson.
In May 1997, the sixth and current pastor was installed, the Reverend Bruce Wayne Petty, Sr., who had previously served as an Associate Minister of the Mount Airy Baptist Church and the Faith Fellowship Baptist Church, both located in Philadelphia, PA. Pastor Petty has proven to be a master teacher and vibrant preacher. He is thorough, enthusiastic, and dedicated to expanding the Biblical and spiritual understanding of the congregation. He conducts a Wednesday Night Bible Study, and has initiated an orientation class for new members, which is readily open to experienced members also.
A variety of new ministries has been introduced, including: Husbands' & Wives' Ministry, Singles' Ministry, Youth Ministry, Men & Boys' Ministry, Culinary Ministry, Leadership Training Class and most recently, a Feeding the Homeless Ministry. A Men's Chorus and Mass Choir have also been initiated under Pastor Petty's tenure.
Pastor Petty's vision for the 21st Century further extends to the expansion of First Baptist both spiritually and physically. A Capital Stewardship Campaign is now underway aiming for a bigger and better First Baptist Church of Huntingdon Valley.
Reverend Petty's Christ-centered focus should well equip the Church family to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
Let us remember to "look where the Lord has brought us from," for it is only through His grace and mercy that "WE'VE COME THIS FAR BY FAITH"