MEADVILLE BAPTIST CHURCH HISTORY
One hundred and thirteen years ago (1905) the tiny Village of Meadville had a population of one hundred people. Reports from the local newspapers stated there had never been a church here. However, regular church services for the Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist faiths were held in the lower story of the Masonic Hall which stood atop a hill at the western end of town.
Eleven individuals made up the Baptist group at the time, and it was during the year 1905 these individuals, in this unincorporated village, decided to build a church. Imagine the excitement as these eleven collected and saved their pennies and dollars until they had accumulated one hundred and fifty dollars ($150.00) to purchase property needed to build the church. It was indeed a struggle as finances were limited, but on September 27, 1909, the trustees of Meadville Baptist Church purchased land situated in the Town of Meadville, Lot numbers 19 and 20 of Block 22 of the Butler-Sullivan addition of the town. A contract was let to B. D. Nelson of Liberty on March 11, 1910 to allow the erection of the church. The building was completed with a one room auditorium. As money became available an addition was made on either side of the building for Sunday School rooms.
God blessed His people and by 1915 a pastor’s home was constructed and was ready for occupancy on the first of January, 1916. Various pieces of equipment were added to the building. Perhaps it was not the term known back then but the WMU ladies created the first “fund raiser” by selling quilts and holding plays for a fee so the church could purchase a piano at a cost of two hundred and twenty-five ($225.00) dollars.
Eleven pastors had served Meadville Baptist from 1905-1919 and for the next thirteen years, Reverend W. A. Green (1919-1933) served in this capacity. Meadville Baptist Church boasted a membership of 190 members by 1931. Reverend Green, doing like pastors do in their sermons of today, encouraged tithing. The church had reported less than ten percent of the membership was tithers. Does this age old problem still continue in this era today?
The church property at this time was valued at ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00).
For twenty-four years this framed church building stood until one winter (1934) a fire, apparently caused by an overheated stove, destroyed in a very short time the entire church structure. Not to be defeated, while holding services in the courtroom of the Franklin County Courthouse, members agreed to rebuild. A new brick building was completed in 1935. By 1949, a new pastorium had been added. Pastor B. T. Bishop, Sr. and family were the first residents.
In 1951, the church added a $20,000.00 annex for Sunday School rooms. In 1962, Bishop Hall (now the choir room) was built and named for Reverend B. T. Bishop, Sr. who served as Pastor from 1946-1964.
By 1967 church enrollment had reached 467 members. Pastor Lewis G. Sewell as Pastor (1967-1969). During his service the church purchased the John T. Wilkinson property that was later used for the erection of a new parsonage which was built in 1977.
During these past one hundred and thirteen years, thirty-three men have served Meadville Baptist as Pastors. If each were able to stand before us today they could tell us about the many accomplishments this church has made. They were placed in this church for a specific reason. Some were able to serve longer than others like Reverend W. A. Green (1919-1933), Reverend W. W. Kyzar from 1934-1941, or Reverend B. T. Bishop, Sr. from 1946-1964. On average most of the pastors served an average of three years. The length of time or how great one pastor was over the other is not of importance. Certainly it makes egos feel good when we see our membership rise every month or we have baptisms every week and we are never without funds for all the programs we want in our church. However, 1 Samuel 16:7 teaches us “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
A major renovation of Meadville Baptist Church took place in 1985. New pews, carpet, window shutters, sound systems, pulpit furniture, choir chairs, brass chandeliers and a new church steeple were added. Once again the Church purchased property. The house located beside the church was bought to be used for the Minister of Music home. The church enrollment was listed at 449 members and the total value of the church at this time was $475,000.00. Reverend Bobby Williamson served as Pastor. (1985-1987.)
Meadville Baptist Church has grown from the small one room building. In 2002 the old church parsonage across from the church was sold and moved to create space for expansion. In 2004, a Youth Building was completed and dedicated. In 2005 construction began for a new Fellowship Hall. The church, in 2006, was able to celebrate the Centennial in the spacious state of the art facility. Other improvements were also accomplished through the dedication of the church members. The Pastor’s Study was renovated. New hymnals were purchased and in 2009 a new church bus was bought. The following year, the church voted to enlarged and remodel the church secretary office. In 2011, with love offerings and memorial gifts, a grand piano for the church sanctuary was purchased for over eleven thousand dollars. A fire struck in 2016 and did considerable damage to the Fellowship Hall. Insurance covered damages estimated near $83,000.00. The next major improvements came in 2018 with a new sound system, monitors and upgraded lights and electrical enhancements. The one hundred and fifty dollar property purchased in 1909 has now reached $1.3 million dollars in value in 2018. Meadville Baptist has ordained and licensed many men throughout these 113 years. We have also become a part of the new age technology of computers and we now have our own website and church podcast.
Our church has hosted associational meetings, baptisms, weddings and funerals and revivals. We’ve had pastors and members sing from the church steeple. In 2010, the first county wide Prayer Breakfast for all newly elected county officials was held in Fellowship Hall. All officials were in attendance. A second Prayer Breakfast was held in 2014 with a full attendance and plans are underway to host the third Prayer Breakfast in 2020. We have definitely fed a multitude with all the covered dish luncheons we have served through the years.
God started this church and anointed these grounds. He also called each and every pastor who has served here. Throughout the church history many changes have come and gone through the years. The changes will continue to come and go in the future. Whether we grow just one in number or grow in tens, or whether we have a “Billy Graham” pastor or an unknown servant, it is still our responsibility, yours and mine, to be a beacon in this community. It will take all of us from the youngest to the oldest to let our light so shine for others so they many see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. What do we want the history of Meadville Baptist Church to reveal in the next one-hundred and thirteen years? In a pastor’s sermon this writer once heard, these words were spoken: “Churches have fellowship halls, fellowship dinners and fellowship retreats, but very few have fellowship.” Fellowship is not just BEING together but DOING together WITH CHRIST as a partnership in fulfilling God’s will. My prayer is for Meadville Baptist Church to be seen as such a church in the many years to come.
October 10, 2018
Note: This history has been prepared to provide a record of some of the past events of Meadville Baptist Church. This information was compiled through research and church records.