165 Years of Ministry
As we celebrate the 165th Anniversary of the First Baptist Church of Dixon, we look back at its beginnings. We do not focus on the past and long for the former things. But we look back to know where we came from, and to remember the dedication and sacrifice it took to make this church survive 165 years. It is not without effort that a church survives, it is not a permanent structure as we have seen many churches close their doors.
Therefore, we do not see this anniversary as right, but as a demonstration of what God can do through dedicated people. We give God all the glory for our past, and rely on Him to direct our steps in the future. Let’s now look briefly at how it all began.
The First Baptist Church of Dixon had its beginnings on May 28th 1838 when Mrs. Rebecca Dixon (wife of Dixon founder John Dixon) and her sister Mrs. Sarah Kellogg called Rev. Thomas Powell from the American Baptist Home Missionary Society to be Moderator of the Meeting. The group met in the schoolhouses in Dixon and Buffalo Grove until when by mutual agreement the two churches became independent. The Dixon Church became a separate organization on April 16th 1842 with thirty-seven members.
The first pastor of First Baptist was Rev. Burton Carpenter, under whose leadership the membership doubled and who was known as a man “mighty in Scriptures.” From 1842 to 1849 the church worshipped alternately with the Methodist (Episcopal) Church. On May 5th, 1849 the new Baptist Meeting House was dedicated to God, with the sermon being delivered by Jacob Knapp of Rockford. During the pastorate of Rev. J.H. Pratt, (the longest pastorate in the history of the church) the present church was built in 1869.
Over the course of this church there have been many wonderful pastors who have brought hundreds of people to Christ. Rev. W. R. Webb baptized 92 people during his tenure; Rev. Carnahan was instrumental in getting the church out of debt. Rev. Parker grew the membership to 212 in the 1880s. Rev. Leland continued to grow the church and during his time here 161 people joined the church, and it was also during his tenure that the parsonage was built. There have been many great people that have helped this church maintain its presence in the community over these 165 years. Some of them we can read about, some we knew of, and some are still with us today. For all of them we are extremely thankful to God. None of us can do this ministry alone. It takes a great many people to be the church. One good pastor cannot run the church; it takes dedicated people to support the ministry. So as we remember the good old days, the old pastors that were here when we joined the church, let us remember also the people that were here that helped make the ministry possible.
So think of the past, but only as it helps ground you for the future. The past is past we can do nothing about it. If we linger there too long we become irrelevant. But the present is here and the future is coming, so let us plant our feet firmly on our foundation of Jesus Christ, knowing our past, and anticipating our future. Let us not only attend this church, let us be the church. May our deeds in this present era of this church bear witness to the dedication and devotion of its members, and when we celebrate the 175th or even the 200th Anniversaries of this church may those people look back upon us with fond memories, and count us faithful to be servants of Christ.
With deep gratitude,
Revs. Bunyan and Rachel Cocar