Meridian, Mississiippi The congregation dates back to 1839, just a few years after Meridian itself was founded. As church members prepare to celebrate this long legacy of faith, we asked Pastor Raymon Leake to tell us more of the story behind First Baptist.
First Baptist Church, Meridian has seen countless changes since it's founding some 175 years ago. Mississippi's Legislature recently passed a resolution commending the church, calling it "an historic cornerstone of the City of Meridian." The church had humble beginnings when organized by early Lauderdale County settlers.
"We began, not as First Baptist Church, Meridian, but as Oakey Valley Baptist Church," Leake explained. "The Church was located over in Bonita, where you turn into Willow Ridge Apartments, just to the left there, was the location of the original church. Then we moved from that location over to an area close to Mclemore Cemetery. Now, we've been in this location a long, long time, and have had four different sanctuaries since we've been on this location."
Dr. Leake says it's amazing to ponder the congregation's place in the fascinating history of Meridian and Lauderdale County. "We had been in existence for 20 years when Abraham Lincoln was elected to be President of the United States," explained Leake. "Now, that's really a long, long time ago. When General Sherman came through in 1864 and burned Meridian during the Civil War, his headquarters was just across the street from where our church now sits."
Dr. Leake, who has been Pastor at First Baptist for 19 years, says with all of the changes, there have been some constants since near the very beginning. For instance, the church's commitment to missions. "I want you to remember, 1875 is ten years after the end of the Civil War. We sent a missionary out to Africa, William Joshua David. He went and served with great credibility in Africa, and then came back. He went out and became founding pastor of Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church, so it's an interesting thing how that missionary spirit continues."
Tuesday on Live at Five and Newscenter 11 at 10:00, we will learn more about the role of the Church in the community and also share some reminiscing from some of the Church's members.