This weekend, First Baptist Church of LaFollette will celebrate 131 years as a church.
“The church was organized under the name of Big Creek Gap Church, December 1881, with 27 members,” Alfred Saulsberry said in History of First Baptist Church. “During the 1890s, they worshipped at Douglas Chapel (located in the area of West Beech Street now) dividing the time of worship with the Methodists. The Baptists had preaching service once a month on the third Sunday.”
While the church was officially organized in December, FBCL Dr. Duane Mills, pastor at FBCL, chose to celebrate homecoming in October.
“We just picked October,” Mills said. “You don’t want to have (homecoming) during December.”
In the spring of 1902, a building committee was appointed and the church bought a lot on West Central Avenue, Saulsberry said. The name of the church was changed to First Baptist Church of LaFollette. The church held its first service in its own building on Easter Sunday in 1904.
FBCL moved to its current facilities in March 1928. There have been additions to the building since then.
“Been part of the downtown landscape for many years,” Mills said.
Mills is the 31st pastor. Among the first pastors were Reverends W.H Rutherford, John Roach and A. J. Slaughter.
Homecoming will begin Saturday at 1 p.m. at Snodderly Park with a picnic, and last till 4 p.m. The Birdsongs will sing.
“Everyone will be welcome,” Mills said.
Sunday morning, special services will begin at 9:45 a.m. There will be guest speakers. A dinner prepared by FBCL’s hospitality team will be served after the service.
“We’re just wanting to say ‘we’re here, we’re still part of the city of LaFollette, we still want to play a role in the city of LaFollette,’” Mills said.