This post is an assignment from a friend
If you were wondering why I have been doing so many postings on the history of the Baptist denomination the answer is a simple one. I have a friend who attends a local baptist church and he is the historian for that particular church. He is putting together a history of that church for an anniversary celebration. Since he knows I am interested in church history he wondered if I would put together these brief posting to help others understand their church’s beginnings. I accepted the challenge.
From Rhode Island to Grand Rapids, MI
This should be my final post about the Baptists for a while. Previous posts have dealt with the very beginnings of Baptists and we last left them coming to the new world. Eventually they settled all over the colonies of America but the person most recall from their studies is Roger Williams, in Rhode Island.
Roger Williams and John Clark are attributed as starting the first Baptist church in the Americas, that church was in Rhode Island. The Baptists spread quickly to all over the new world, and that’s where I would like now to concentrate on Michigan in general and specifically Grand Rapids, and even more specifically Berean Baptist Church of Grand Rapids. Many left the colonies and moved their families and lives west into the vast unknown of what we call the mid-west.
The first First Baptist Church and beyond
Records indicate that a man named Orison Allen moved with his wife into what is now Pontiac, Michigan around 1818.
In 1822 the Reverend Elon Galusha started the first baptist church in Michigan on the homestead of the Allens. Galusha was not a resident of Michigan but an itinerant preacher.
The 1st resident Baptist preacher was Lemuel Taylor, who lived in Stony Creek, in Oakland County.
The New York Convention sent Elkanah Comstock, a missionary, to take charge of the Pontiac church in 1824. Under the direction of Comstock a baptist church was started in Troy in 1825 and one in Farmington in 1826.
The Michigan Baptist Association was formed in 1826.
Baptist preachers and missionaries moved all over the state. There were churches established from Kalamazoo to Sault St. Marie.
In 1846 the 1st of Michigan’s theological seminaries was founded in the town of Kalamazoo.
The 1st missionary work done on the Grand River (Grand Rapids) was done by the Reverend L. Slater in 1826-27. He was sent by the Missionary Union to labor among the Ottawa Indians.
In 1842 the Reverend T. Z. R. Jones was sent to western Michigan by the American Baptist Home Mission Society.
In 1860-61 the first Baptist church in Grand Rapids was founded.
In 1861 the second Baptist church was started. It was began by a group of people who left the 1st church to form their own church.
Over a few years the attendance of the 2 churches dwindled so they merged to form the Baptist Church of the City of Grand Rapids. From April 1869 until January 1870 they did not have a pastor to lead them. On January 1, 1870 the Reverend S. Graves D.D. from Norwich, Connecticut became their pastor.
In 1869 Fountain Street Baptist Church was founded.
In January 1885 R. K. B. Tupper became the next pastor of the Baptist Church of the City of Grand Rapids.
In 1886 a daughter church was started on Wealthy Avenue.
In 1889 another daughter church was started, now called Calvary Church.
The Berean Mission was re-organized and The Chapel at north Coit Avenue was started.
These churches were looking at the spiritual needs of the city and tallied the attendance of church goers. The total number of Sunday School attenders in the city was recorded as 250 in 1869. This number had risen by 1894 to 1,814.
Berean Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI
On June 5, 1892 a number of people, 50 in all, started Berean Baptist Church. They called Reverend D. M. Cartwright as their first pastor.
That’s all folks
There’s obviously more to the story of the founding of Berean Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. There is also much more to tell of what an impact it has had on the city and the world since 1892. But that story is for another day. I will leave that for the historian of the local church to pontificate on.