Sunday, October 5, 2014

Discovering New Jersey : Peddie Memorial - First Baptist Church in Newark NJ

The First Baptist church was formed when part of the congregation of the Lyons Farms Baptist Church split on June 6, 1801. Permission to form this new church was granted by the Lyons Farms Baptist Church on July 24, 1800.

Their first ceremony, on the day of the organization, was the baptisms of Joseph Smith, Abigail Hobdey, Reuben Kellum and Jemime Bruen, performed in the Passaic River. Services were held in an old private schoolhouse, "White School House", on the corner of Clinton Ave. and Spruce St. until 1805. (Many years later, long after the church moved, this building was burnt down by a vandal).
In that year the church purchased the lot at the corner of Academy and Halsey streets measuring 87 x 100 feet for the purpose of building a "meeting house and burial ground". The church building was erected in 1806 and dedicated on September 16, 1806. The building was enlarged in 1810, improved in 1841 with the addition of a vestibule and a Sunday school room. A new church was built and it was dedicated on May 23, 1869. This building was abandoned around the turn of the century and was used by the United States Post Office for a time.

The present structure was built in 1890 by a monetary gift from a Newark Merchant, T. B. Peddie. The interior of the church is round with the pews set in theatre style seating. The balcony goes around the entire church with seating in the three quarters in front of the alter. Each window on the lower floor is made of Tiffany glass.

Griffins are present on the ends of the balcony. They once held a gas line that lit the interior of the church. Originally a statue of St. Peter stood on the roof but it was struck by lightning and never replaced.

The church grew not only in numbers but also in its commitment to mission. The present building was dedicated to God in 1890 by the generous gift of Thomas B. Peddie, who served two terms as Mayor of Newark and was later elected to Congress, representing the sixth district of New Jersey.
Thomas Peddie's vision was that the church building should be "open to every great meeting of a proper kind that people desire to hold, and should be dedicated to religion, to education and to the social purposes for the good of all the people." His vision of the church "for the good of all the people" continued to be realized when eight Chinese Christians were baptized in 1923. The demographics in Newark changed drastically during the past century, and the church responded to this change by warmly welcoming people of all ethnicities and nationalities.

Today, the church is an international church with people representing over twenty nations from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America,and West Indies.

On their International Sunday in 2004, the church celebrated God's gift of diversity with the reading of Scripture in ten languages, the music and dance of Africa, and the feast of delicious food from many nations
It is the congregations desire that they grow in strength and maturity, not to take pride in successes, but to glorify God and to care for His people, especially the weak, the poor, the lost, and the marginalized.