Charleston Baptist Church
2800 University Ave, Charleston, IL 61920

History: Charleston Baptist Church

Charleston First Baptist Church Was Established in 1850

Our goal is to collect information about Charleston First Baptist. If you have any information, memories, photos, bulletins, or all the above, please contact the church if you are willing to share. It will be appreciated as we remember our past members for our current and future members. On July 3, 2022, Charleston First Baptist and University Baptist merged congregations to worship God as Charleston Baptist Church.

In the year 1850, there were 850 people in Charleston and three churches - Methodist, Christian, and Presbyterian.

During a meeting held on June 23, 1850, Elder D.S. French stated the purpose of this meeting was to organize Baptist members and friends into a conference. During this same meeting, it was established that we request the Bloomfield Church to relinquish the labors of Elder G. W. Riley to come labor with us for one Sabbith a month. [Elder G.W. Riley became First Baptist's first pastor.] On August 17, 1850, nine delegates from Paris and the Bloomfield Association came and organized First Baptist with 11 charter members. The eleven charter members were: Thomas Monson, Brother Franklin J. Vanderen, Dumas Jones, Lucy W. Jones, Lawrence W. Owens, John Clark, Anna Clark, Margaret Wright, Gilly Wright, Mary Gutherie, and Sarah Jones.

After renting the Presbyterian Church for some time, a church was built and dedicated in 1857 at the cost of $2,000. It became a member of the Bloomfield Association and later the Champaign-Urbana Association. There were times of spiritual revival and other times when, but for the Grace of God, prayers, and sacrifice, the doors would have closed. In 1905 two men left the church to prepare for ministry. Deacons were being ordained in neighboring churches by deacons from our church.

In 1910, we received an offer from Cumberland Presbyterian to purchase their property located one block from the downtown area for $4,360. The original church sold for $1,720.

By 1950, our membership stood at 317 and Sunday School enrollment at 233.

More space was needed, and again with God's help, a large two-story house was offered free. Expenses of moving it across the street and placed on a newly built basement were $4,960. This addition provided space for four classrooms, nursery, a larger room for Junior Church, pastors office and secretary office. Repairs of the beautiful stained glass windows took place at the same time.

During the middle of these improvements, Reverend Dolash came to serve First Baptist. His length of stay, 14 years, was longer than for any minister called. They were good years, many members added with significant spiritual uplifts.

For several years, there had been discussions of a new building due to a lack of parking. Eventually, five acres were purchased, a building erected with a mortgage of nearly $500,000. On February 14, 1982, with Reverend Weller and Nellie Winkleblack heading the ceremony, the new church was dedicated.

Since moving into the new church, there have been ups and downs. First Baptist had never reached the attendance and fellowship level as before. Reverend Hanrahan, the pastor during the plans for the new building, left before it was dedicated. Reverend Weller, from England, came and helped during the transition period. He kept in touch with active members as well as those homebound.

When Reverend Brown, our next pastor, announced he was retiring in 1993, members and friends were saddened. During his ministry, the church grew in numbers, mission giving, and fellowship. Wednesday Family Night became an active part of services. During the six years of service, Reverend Brown and his wife Clarice made a significant impact on the lives of members, especially the children and youth.

For some reason, six months after our next minister came, our attendance began to fall. By the end of the following year, we had lost 50 families, the younger families with children. We became an adult church which seemed to be satisfied to come to church on Sunday, Sunday night, and Wednesday nights.

Reverend Pat Murphy, a dedicated and caring person, came to us. The members were excited to welcome Reverend Murphy and were pleased he would have no concern about an old debt as the church was paid off in February 1997. As the ABWM says, "We can do it by practicing Christian Love."

Between 1950 and 2000, five young people who have gone into religious training from our church. The Brooks twin girls attended Moody Bible Institute. While there, they met two young men, and in a double wedding, they became pastor's wives. John Sanders attended seminary and became youth director, as did L. Pickatine. Peter Eckert, son of one of our pastors, became a Presbyterian Minister.

Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar grew up in our church. His mother attended our church until her death.