First Baptist to celebrate 140th
Church preps August event to commemorate founding
July 10. 2012 7:00AM
Marking the 140th anniversary of the First Baptist Church of Dell Rapids’ organization, congregation and community members alike will celebrate at the church Aug. 10-12.
The church tries to hold a celebration for the congregation every five years, and this year’s marker continues the long church tradition. “It’s kind of a big milestone,” church pastor the Rev. Melissa Fletcher said.
The pastor said that the church really is a part of the foundation of the community, as the Rev. William T. Hill became the first resident minister of Dell Rapids after helping form the First Baptist Church in the 1870s. The congregation was the northernmost mission in the Dakotas at the time, aside from the Presbyterian Indian Mission in Flandreau.
The Baptist Church stands as the city’s oldest public building. The church was officially organized in 1872, at the home of Peter Morse, with 16 charter members. Though fire destroyed the original church building, the current building was dedicated in 1884.
Event planning committee member Diane Crisp’s late husband Max was descended from one of the original founding families of the Baptist Church. Other families included in this group were the Merrys and DeVaneys.
“That’s a testament in itself that these founding families are still here,” Fletcher said. “Some of the founding fathers of our community were part of this church in the beginning. The congregation is still vibrant and worshipping. It goes to show that we’ve stood the test of time.”
One of the features of the celebration will be the release of a book, assembled by committee member Carolyn VanHeerde, on the history of the church, made available for pre-order and purchase at the event for $28.42.
“If you have any interest in knowing how our community was started and founded,” pastor Fletcher suggests the book. “Our roots go deep here.”
Events during the 140th celebration include a “royal ball,” which will include carnival games, puppet shows, prizes and snacks in a family-friendly setting. Fletcher said that the ball serves as a way to teach children to “be in Christ’s kingdom.”
Later that Saturday, the church will host an “Old Time Revival,” which will include a tented event of musicians and guest speakers, including the Hallelujah Hooligans out of Baltic, the praise team from the Lutheran Church of Dell Rapids, Damascus out of Colome and other Dell Rapids groups and solo artists.
Guest speakers are set to include Clark Audiss, a pastor from Winner, as well as previous First Baptist Church pastors Bonnie Bell and Dennis and Glennys Klumper.
Sunday’s events will include a church service featuring guest speakers, followed by a catered meal. Reservations for the meal can be made through the planning committee.
The planning committee, which also includes pastor Fletcher and Mary Gannon, has also invited church members from the region within the American Baptist denomination, as well as current and former members and pastors.
Pastor Fletcher said that the longevity of the congregation is evidence that God’s hand has been upon the community, blessing the church and the town with sustenance.
“I think people from the community would want to be a part of learning about that,” she said.