In the Beginning
Baptist influence in the area of the Bend, later named Moncton, led to the erection of the Free Meeting House. Located at 20 Mountain Road in Moncton, the Free Meeting House was built to serve as a home to all religious denominations in the area until they could raise funds to build their own churches. The building was dedicated for service by Baptist missionary, Elder Joseph Crandall on September 7, 1821, and is one of Moncton’s oldest standing public buildings. The Free Meeting House is designated a National Historic Site of Canada.
Following evangelistic meetings at the Free Meeting House led by Elder Joseph Crandall, a group of converts came together and organized the Moncton Baptized Church of Christ at the Free Meeting House on June 8, 1828. The church later became First Moncton United Baptist Church and is the oldest continuing Protestant congregation in the city. The growing congregation built their own House of Worship at Church and Queen Streets and moved to their new church in 1857. Electric lights were installed in the church in 1886, and one year later, the church was remodelled and expanded with two side wings and a rear extension. In 1909, a magnificent three manual Casavant organ, with 1,823 pipes was installed.
Tragedy and Resurgence
Tragically, in 1913, a fire which started in the Victoria Rink nearby, completely destroyed the beautiful wooden structure. The congregation faithfully responded to the challenge and in 1914 the cornerstone of the new building was laid, with services being held in the basement by December.
On May 16, 1915, the new building was dedicated and 4,400 persons attended the two services. Forty-nine persons were baptized that day and more the next Sunday. The Sanctuary featured 1,100 seats and an impressive 35-stop Casavant organ. The cost of the building and furnishings came to $89,946.
After the Great War
In 1918, the Vestry, Brotherhood Hall and Sunshine Room served as an Emergency Hospital for those with the Spanish influenza, which caused more deaths in a few weeks than had occurred in all the years of the Great War. A few years later, on Easter Sunday of 1921, a memorial stained glass window was dedicated, honouring the 37 church members who lost their lives in the war.
During the time of the Great Depression, CKCW radio station started a monthly broadcast of a Sunday evening service in 1935, and in 1937, began a weekly broadcast of the Men’s Christian Brotherhood. It was reported that over 100,000 people tuned in to the weekly Sunday program. In 1945, following World War II, a second Memorial Window was dedicated, honouring the 26 church members who made the supreme sacrifice.
With both numerical and program growth, the congregation added the Christian Education facility in 1958, a modern facility set apart for “the teaching of the Word of God in both precept and example”. The building and furnishings cost $236,811.
In the 1970’s, a need for nursing home care in the area was recognized, and several individuals from the church were influential in the establishment of the Kenneth E. Spencer Memorial Home for senior citizens. A ministry of the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches, the home opened in 1973. The church also purchased land in Hillsborough for a multi-purpose retreat centre in the 1970’s. Springwater Lodge was constructed on the property and was used by the church for a variety of activities and events for over thirty years. On June 4, 1978, the church marked its 150th anniversary. The speaker for the Anniversary Service was Dr. John Gladstone of Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, Toronto.
In February of 1992, the “Miracles at First Child Care Centre” was opened to meet the need for Christian child care in the city. This ministry has earned a solid reputation over the past twenty plus years for providing quality Christian child care in the heart of downtown Moncton. Also in 1992, programming changes were introduced in the fall. Various children and youth ministries as well as Prayer Meeting were moved to Wednesday evenings, and the Wednesday Night Family Fellowship Suppers began.
Into the 21st Century
In 2001, the church again relied on the faithfulness of the congregation to raise approximately $750,000, which was used to pay off debt, and to carry out renovations and upgrades of the facilities which included work on the church foundation, bell tower, accessibility, a new electrical entrance and upgrade, new heating boilers and conversion to natural gas, and organ refurbishment. A donation to Camp Wildwood was also made to name a new cabin in honour of Dr. T. Elgar and Edith Roberts.
Recognizing the changing worship styles of the modern Christian church, in 2005, First Baptist Moncton added a contemporary worship service at 9:00 am, prior to its long established 11:00 am traditional worship service. “The Bridge” is a worship service designed to reach out to a younger generation and unchurched persons, combining upbeat, modern worship music, audio/visual presentations, drama and other interactive elements to provide an engaging worship experience for a modern audience.
To make the facilities more accessible for all, in 2006, the link connecting the Christian Education Building and Church Building was modified to include a “lift” and a new wheelchair accessible entrance from Queen Street. The most recent renovations were completed in the summer of 2011. Inside the church building, major upgrades included modern lighting, sound and technical equipment, and renovations in the Sanctuary and Vestry, providing up-to-date capabilities without altering appearance.
First Baptist Moncton celebrated its 189th Anniversary in 2017. The church is a beautiful structure with a magnificent Casavant organ and beautiful stained glass windows. It has a seating capacity of seven hundred and is wheelchair accessible. The congregation strives to provide programming to meet the needs of the whole person and to aid individuals in faithful witness to Christ – both in the church and the world. Through the united ministry of pulpit and pew the ‘Good News of Jesus Christ’ goes beyond the walls of a building to a world hungry for acceptance, belonging and hope. Such has been – and continues to be – the vision of First Baptist Moncton.