First Baptist Westminster
Our heritage began in 1804 when Rev. Andrew Brown, a Presbyterian Minister came as a missionary to this area and served for the next 16 years. His followers met in homes to worship until John Oliver Green gave 7 acres of land to build a meeting place. This church was called the Westminster Presbyterian Church and from this, the town of Westminster received its name. Because of the close proximity to the Richland Presbyterian Church and the need of a church in the Retreat section, the Westminster Church became known as the Retreat Presbyterian Church. We have no record as to how the 7 acres of land and log house were turned over to the Baptists, however, in 1831, a Baptist church was organized. Rev. James R. Smith was the first Pastor. The first mention of deacons being selected was in 1850. In the year 1862, we have the first recorded offering for a Pastor. The amount of $15.30 was received and used by Rev. H. M. Barton to go to Virginia to preach to the soldiers during the War Between the States. In 1925, Rev. M. J. Stansell became Pastor and soon the church was full time and a home was purchased on Hampton Street. Rev. Stansell led in an era of progress. A new brick sanctuary and Sunday School rooms were built in 1949 and soon after, a new Parsonage. During his leadership, we grew from 200 to 700 members with an average attendance exceeding 300. Rev. Ralph Cowan served from 1958 – 1965 and under his leadership, a new educational building was erected. Also during that time, renovations were made to the sanctuary and a new front structure, vestibule and steeple were added. Rev. T. Alfred Woolbright served from 1966 – 1973. The church saw more than 400 additions to its membership during his ministry. Dr. Stewart B. Simms, Jr. began his ministry in 1974. Under his leadership, the Knox & Adams property, 27 acres adjacent to the church was purchased. In 1975, Rev. M. J. Stansell was honored on the 50th anniversary of his call to the church as Pastor Emeritus. In 1978, Rev. John B. Compton, Jr. answered the call to First Baptist where he served until his retirement in 1996. During Rev. Compton's leadership, the fellowship hall was built in 1982. The sanctuary was refurbished in 1992 and a larger kitchen added to the fellowship hall. On October 26, 1997, a Commissioning Service was held for Pastor Mark Ford. Much improvement has been made to the buildings, Parsonage and landscaping of the grounds. Ministries were begun for all age groups and more than 120 members were added. In May 1999, the church body entered into agreement with the Trehel Corporation to provide studies, master planning, & drawings for facilities that are required for further growth. On May 15, 2005, Rev. M. Craig Canton was called as our pastor and began his ministry with us on June 15. On July 24 of that year, the church made a Shepherd's Covenant together as pastor & people. Under Pastor Canton's leadership, the church has experienced an exciting addition of many members. In his first year of ministry alone, there were more baptisms than in the previous 37 years of the church's history. In the first four years of Pastor Canton's tenure here, the church has added 150 members. This growth has required an expansion of the church's ministry organization on the both the lay leadership and staff leadership levels. For the first time ever, the church was led by three full-time staff members. On July 8, 2007, the church voted to reenter a partnership with the Trehel Corporation to compose plans for a new Multi-Purpose Facility and in a subsequent phase the expansion of the current sanctuary. Ground was broken on May 25, 2008 for the Multi-Purpose Building/Family Life Center, and the building was dedicated for service to the Lord and the edification of His people on January 11, 2009.
On July 8, 2007, the church voted to reenter a partnership with the Trehel Corporation to compose plans for a new Multi-Purpose Facility and in a subsequent phase the expansion of the current sanctuary. Ground was broken on May 25, 2008 for the Multi-Purpose Building/Family Life Center, and the building was dedicated for service to the Lord and the edification of His people on January 11, 2009.