First Baptist Church in the City of New York

First Baptist Church in the City of New York

The First Baptist Church in the City of New York is a Christian based in a sanctuary built in 1891 at the intersection of Broadway and West 79th Street in the Upper West Side of Manhattan Island. FBC is a conservative, independent, evangelistic, mission-oriented church in fellowship with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, based in Schaumburg, Illinois.

The church holds 90-minute worship services at 11 a.m. Sundays and midweek activities on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

Revolutionary years

The first attempt to establish a Baptist presence in New York City dates to 1711, when William Wightman began his ministry. A church was built on Gold Street but disbanded eight years later because of financial recession.

Scattered Baptists organized in 1745 under the businessman Jeremiah Dodge and the pastor Benjamin Miller of Scotch Plains, New Jersey.

A church edifice built in 1760 was again located on Gold Street. John Gano (1727-1804), a New Jersey native, became the first full-time pastor of the congregation of twenty-seven, which by 1762 had grown to three hundred members and took the name "First Baptist Church in the City of New York".

The church supported the American Revolution even though New York City was occupied by British forces from the summer of 1776 until the duration of the war. Elder Gano joined the army and was a chaplain to General George Washington. With the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, a celebration took place in Newburg, New York. Washington called upon Gano to offer the prayer of thanksgiving. The Anglican (Episcopalian) Washington also requested that Gano baptize him because after Washington's study of the scriptures, he concluded that baptism by immersion should follow the conversion of a believer.

On his return to New York City after the revolution, Gano found thirty-seven members who restored the church building and grew thereafter to two hundred. When the Congress offered former revolutionary soldiers land on the frontier, Gano departed from New York to Kentucky. There he started several Baptist churches. He was also a founder of the Baptist-affiliated Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Early 19th century

In 1802, FBC built a new stone structure while still based on Gold Street. Under the leadership of Dr. Spencer Cone, the congregation relocated in 1842 to the intersection of Elizabeth and Broome streets in a gothic structure still in use by another church today. This was also the headquarters of the Baptist Home and Foreign Mission Board. When the congregation outgrew the facility, it moved to the intersection of 39th Street and Park Avenue. Under the leadership of Dr. Thomas Anderson, a gothic brown stone sanctuary was constructed as well as a separate Bible school building.

ymbolism of the sanctuary at Broadway and 79th Street

Isaac Massey Haldeman was the pastor who thus far has served the longest tenure at FBC -- from 1884 to 1933. Six years after his arrival, FBC relocated to the present facility, which is adjacent to a subway station.

The FBC building was designed by George M. Kaiser, who also planned the Apollo Theater. A balcony was added in 1903. This created a seating capacity of one thousand. Two unequal towers over the corner entrance to the main auditorium are examples of biblical symbolism. The taller tower represents Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church. The lower tower, which appears incomplete, was designed to represent the church, while will remain unfulfilled until the return of Christ. Two shorter towers represent the Old Testament and the New Testament.

A large rose window facing Broadway pictures Christ as the center of the New Testament church. He is in the large inner circle. The star depicts Him as the Bright and Morning Star. The crown shows Him as King of Kings. The frame of sun portrays Him as the Sun of Righteousness. The five upper circles depict the writers of the New Testament Epistles, while the botton four circles represent Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the Gospel authors.

FBC faith and practice

The five front steps of the sanctuary conform to the teaching that salvation is by the grace of God alone through Jesus. FBC teaches the "faith once delivered to the saints":

(1) Sovereignty of the Trinity (God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)

(2) Inspiration and inerrancy of scripture

(3) The Virgin Birth of Christ

(4) The sinlessness of Jesus

(5) Christ's vicarious atonement at Calvary

(6) Bodily resurrection and ascension of Christ

(7) The pre-tribulation rapture of the church

(8) The pre-millennial return and reign of Christ.

In the church's Gano Chapel are paintings of Gano baptizing Washington and of Gano praying in thanksgiving for the British surrender. They are copies of the originals located at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. The college collection includes Gano's sword, which was a gift from General Washington, who had received it from the French General Marquis de Lafayette.

List of FBC pastors since 1884

FBC has had eighteen pastors, two of which were chaplains of the United States Congress. Two were also college presidents. Two founded colleges. Collectively, the pastors have written more than three hundred books, mostly on the Christian religion. Many have been denominational leaders.

Robert C. Gage, a native of Massachusetts, became pastor in 2000. He resigned, effective September 9, 2007. The current assistant pastor is Matthew A. Carpenter.

Pastors prior to Gage were:

Richard Daniel Burke (1976-1998)

William Fliedner, Jr. (1972-1975)

Carl E. Elgena (May 21, 1917 - December 26, 2006) served as pastor from 1965-1968). His last residence was in Bear in New Castle County in Delaware.

Peter Hoogendam (January 5, 1910 - December 12, 2001) served as pastor from 1956-1965). His last residence was Chino in San Bernardino County in California.

Arthur Whiting (1950-1955)

William L. Pettingill (1948-1950

Arthur Williams (1941-1947)

William H. Rogers (1934-1940

I.M. Haldeman (1884-1933)

There were interim periods with guest ministers when FBC was without a pastor.


*"The History and Architectural Symbolism of The First Baptist Church in the City of New York, 79th at Broadway", First Baptist Church brochure
* [ NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT: UPPER WEST SIDE; With Bowed Heads, A Flock Looks Warily Ahead]
* [ Ten Sermons on the Second Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ]

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