In early 1906, a small courageous group of Baptists – 21 to be exact – formed what is now known as The First Baptist Church of Fort Meade, Florida. At the time, they met in various homes, a schoolhouse, the Methodist building in “old Fort Meade”, and in the shade of trees when weather permitted.
Due to records being lost in a fire, the early membership records are limited. The only known original members who helped develop the church during the early years were Mr. and Mrs. F. N. Varn, Dr. O. B. Lewis, Mr. and Mrs. J. O. Densfore, Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Jones, Martha Smith, Sue Smith, Mrs. B. M. Barrow, Mr. and Mrs. Cummings, Mr. and Mrs. J. A. McAulay, and Mrs. Susan Hurst.
Soon after the grouped formed, Reverend Irvin Walden from Plant City became their first pastor and commuted twice a month for preaching services. He soon resigned because of the great distance and the difficulties associated with traveling in 1906. A few months later, Reverend Richardson came down from the ‘extreme north’ and pastored the church for about two months before returnign to his home territory. In the later part of 1906, Reverend E. E. Sanford from Winter Haven became their third pastor. With Mr. Fred N. Varn, one of the first Deacons, by his side, construction of the small congregation’s first 40’ x 60’ concrete block sanctuary began. Dr. O. B. Lewis, who served as a Deacon of the church until his death, donated the lot that the sanctuary is built on. He lived in the house that was purchased in 1993 by the church for our Minister of Music.
In 1909, construction was completed and Reverend H. S. Howard was called to be the first resident pastor. Several pastors later and after World War I, the first pastorium was constructed in 1921 on the corner of Broadway and Oak Avenue for $5,500. Dr. A. W. Mathis, who came to the church for a long and fruitful ministry, was the first pastor to live there. It was moved to its present location on the corner of Oak Avenue and 1st Street in 1950 and is occupied today by our Hispanic Minister.
Between 1939 and 1943, $14,000 was spent on remodeling the old educational rooms and additional space was added. Reverend Andrew W. Tampling became the pastor in 1950. He led a two-week tent revival held in March and April of 1951. At end of that revival nearly 100 people were baptized in a service that lasted until 11:25 pm. During the middle of that baptismal service, which 1,018 people attended, a $10,800 offering was taken up for the construction of a new sanctuary and in 1951 the church entered into a $67,000 construction project of our present sanctuary. The original 1906 church building is still being used by the church.
For more than a century, the First Baptist Church has enjoyed the leadership of 24 pastors and five interim pastors. Many things have changed over those years but the same fundamental principles and doctrine have not. The church still stands for the same faith “once delivered unto the saints” in the book of Acts so long ago.
Above all else, our church is a fellowship of Christian love where we believe in ministering to persons of all ages by sharing the joy of Jesus Christ through planned activities for every age group. In essense, it is our belief that every member is a minister.