History of First Baptist Church


 See our historic photo gallery - here.

    • First Baptist Church of Hopewell was organized on December 5, 1915, with the assistance of Baptists from Petersburg and our Baptist State Mission Board.  Twenty-seven persons constituted the membership.  Rev. George H. Wiley served as temporary pastor.  Services were held in the Tabernacle, "an unpainted barn-like structure," on downtown Broadway.

    • The Rev. W. S. Leake served as our first pastor from November, 1916 until 1922.  A mission Sunday School and a preaching service were held on Sunday afternoons in South "B" Village for several years.

    • On November 27, 1918, the DuPont Powder Plant donated to the church land for a new building.  Three adjacent lots were purchased in later years.  The first church building on that location was completed in the fall of 1922 with much of the labor being done by members of the congregation.  The annex was added in 1927.

    • The Rev. Grady Snowden became the second pastor and served from 1932 to 1941.  A rotating system was adopted for the Deacon Board.  In 1936, the first Board of Deaconesses was elected.  The first Vacation Bible School was conducted in 1933.  The membership grew rapidly in the thirties.

    • The Rev. G. Bartow Harris, the third pastor, served from January, 1942, until January, 1954.  On August 26, 1945, a branch Sunday School in Buren Gardens, which later became Powers Memorial Baptist Church, was sponsored.

    • The Rev. C. Robert Stevens became pastor on October 15, 1954.  In February, 1955, the triangle and cottage facing the sanctuary was purchased.  Ground was broken for the educational building November 13, 1955, and the Fortieth Anniversary of the church was observed at the same time.  The building was completed in October 1956, at an approximate cost of $175,000.  Ground-breaking for a new sanctuary, total cost of which including organ, furnishings, and other items would not exceed $350,000, took place December 31, 1961.  On March 17, 1963, the completed sanctuary was dedicated at a morning service and the Moller organ during an afternoon concert.  Before Dr. Stevens' retirement in early 1974, the church was free of debt.

    • On August 1, 1974, the church welcomed its fifth pastor, The Rev. Willie S. Cromer, Jr.  Under his pastorate, ordination of deacons was begun, and the Diaconate adopted the Deacon Family Ministry Plan.

    • Sunday School classes were organized at Hopewell Convalescent Center, at John Randolph Nursing Home, and at Hopewell Heights.  In 1981, a "W.E.E. School" (Weekday Early Education School) was organized to serve the nursery school needs of children ages three and four from the surrounding areas.

    • The music ministry expanded rapidly in 1982 with the introduction of the annual "Singing Cross" at Easter and "The Living Christmas Tree" in December.  "Living Pictures" replaced the "Singing Cross" in 1988.  Today, there are choirs from pre-school age to senior adults, a handbell choir, and praise team.

    • In 1985, Rev. David Robinson became the Minister of Family Life Education.  During his 15 years of service, he was instrumental in organizing the  "World Changers" mission program within the church sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Groups made up of junior high, senior high, college students, and adults represented our church on mission trips in various areas of the East Coast, as well as in Hopewell, refurbishing and building homes for the needy.  A number of adult members also participated in construction projects in foreign countries sponsored through the Foreign Mission Board.

    • In March 1991, the church by-laws were changed to include the entire Diaconate for ordination.  In May 1991, women were included in the ordination service for the first time.

    • A Family Life Center was constructed as the north wing of the church and was dedicated in March 1994.  It houses a gymnasium, kitchen, stage, Music department, and Preschool department.  The facility has allowed the expansion of extra-curricular activities such as basketball and volleyball teams, aerobics, large banquets, and theatrical presentations.  In 1999 the church voted to allow the facility to be used by the Red Cross as an emergency shelter if the need should arise.

    • In June 2000, an early morning "First Praise" service was started which included a praise team and band which would lead with more contemporary-styled music and an invitation to dress comfortably for worship.

    • With the retirement of Rev. Cromer after 30 years of service in August of 2004, First Baptist entered into a time of "Intentional Interim Ministry" and hired Dr. John Carpenter to serve as Covenant Pastor for this period.  An in-depth study of all programs and a restructuring of the church's constitution and by-laws occurred.  Rev. Angela Weston Hoff, a life-long member of First Baptist who had just finished her training at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, was hired as the assistant pastor/minister to youth and children.  Angie would be the first female pastor to minister at First Baptist.

    • As a mission to show the love of Jesus Christ through the story of His humble birth, in December of 2005, the first annual "Walk Through Bethlehem" program was undertaken by the church.  The entire gymnasium was transformed into the Town of Bethlehem for one and all to journey alongside Mary & Joseph as they arrived for the census and the birth of their son, Jesus.  The first year brought 3,000 people through the gates of the city over the course of the three-day presentation.

    • On February 1, 2006, First Baptist Church welcomed its sixth pastor, the Rev. Jeffrey H. Raymond.  During his ministry, the church began participating in Operation Christmas Child collecting shoeboxes filled with small necessities and gifts to be given as Christmas presents to needy children around the world.  A tradition of collecting a benevolence offering each month following communion was instituted and provided additional funds for our church to assist those in need.  We also became a major donor of food items to the Hopewell Food Pantry.  Sports Camp was started in 2009 and continues to be an important ministry for the children of the church and our community every summer.

    • In November 2010 the church celebrated its 95th anniversary and burned the note on the $1.5 million Family Life Center. 

  • The end of 2012 brought the resignation of Rev. Raymond.  Walk Through Bethlehem was held for the 8th consecutive year with almost 3,000 people attending.

  • In May of 2013 Rev. April Sledge was called to be the Pastor of Students & Families.  In July after several months of serving in an interim capacity, the church called Rev. W. Darrell Boggs to become its seventh pastor.

  • Today, Rev. Boggs leads an exciting and active ministry of faith and fellowship at FBC.  There is room in this family for you - find your place with us today!

Here is a more complete church history.