First Baptist Church in the City of New York

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First Baptist Church in the City of New York

The First Baptist Church in the City of New York is a Christian congregation based in a sanctuary built in 1891 at the intersection of Broadway and West 79th Street in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York on the 79th Street stop of the #1 (red) subway train. FBC is a conservative, independent, evangelistic, mission-oriented church in fellowship with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, based in Schaumburg, Illinois. Regular services are held on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. and Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Sunday School begins at 9:30 a.m.

Revolutionary years

The first attempt to establish a Baptist presence in New York City dates to 1711, when William Wightman began his ministry. A church was built on Gold Street but disbanded eight years later because of financial recession. Earlier attempts at forming a Baptist Church in Flushing, Queens took place by William Wickenden and others in the 1650s.

Scattered Baptists organized in 1745 under the businessman Jeremiah Dodge and the pastor Benjamin Miller of Scotch Plains, New Jersey.

A church edifice built in 1760 was again located on Gold Street. John Gano (1727-1804), a New Jersey native, became the first full-time pastor of the congregation of twenty-seven, which by 1762 had grown to three hundred members and took the name "First Baptist Church in the City of New York".

The church supported the American Revolution even though New York City was occupied by British forces from the summer of 1776 for the duration of the war. Elder Gano joined the army and was a chaplain to General George Washington. With the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, a celebration took place in Newburg, New York. Washington called upon Gano to offer the prayer of thanksgiving. The Anglican (Episcopalian) Washington also requested that Gano baptize him. After Washington's study of the scriptures, he concluded that baptism by immersion should follow the conversion of a believer.

On his return to New York City after the revolution, Gano found thirty-seven members who restored the church building and grew thereafter to two hundred. When the Congress offered former revolutionary soldiers land on the frontier, Gano departed from New York to Kentucky. There he started several Baptist churches. He was also a founder of the Baptist-affiliated Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Early 19th century

In 1802, FBC built a new stone structure at its site on Gold Street. Under the leadership of Dr. Spencer Cone, the congregation relocated in 1842 to the intersection of Elizabeth and Broome streets in a Gothic structure, still in use by another church today. This was also the headquarters of the Baptist Home and Foreign Mission Board.

When the congregation outgrew the facility, it moved further uptown with population to the intersection of 39th Street and Fourth Avenue. Under the leadership of Dr. Thomas Anderson, a Gothic brownstone sanctuary was constructed, as well as a separate Bible school building.

Symbolism of the Sanctuary at Broadway and 79th Street

Isaac Massey Haldeman was the pastor who thus far has served the longest tenure at FBC -- from 1884 to 1933. Six years after his arrival, FBC relocated to the present facility, which occupies a site that, because of a bend in the direction of Broadway, is prominent from a distance down the avenue; it is also adjacent to the 79th Street subway station.

The FBC building was designed by George M. Keister, who also planned the Apollo Theater. A balcony was added in 1903. This created a seating capacity of one thousand. Two unequal towers over the corner entrance to the main auditorium are examples of biblical symbolism. The taller tower represents Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church. The lower tower, which appears incomplete, was designed to represent the Church, which will remain unfulfilled until the return of Christ. Two shorter towers represent the Old Testament and the New Testament.

A large rose window facing Broadway pictures Christ as the center of the New Testament church. He is in the large inner circle. The star depicts Him as the Bright and Morning Star. The crown shows Him as King of Kings. The frame of sun portrays Him as the Sun of Righteousness. The five upper circles depict the writers of the New Testament Epistles, while the bottom four circles represent Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the Gospel authors.

FBC faith and practice

The five front steps of the sanctuary conform to the teaching that salvation is by the grace of God alone through Jesus. FBC teaches the "faith once delivered to the saints":

(1) Sovereignty of the Trinity (God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)

(2) Inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture

(3) The Virgin Birth of Christ

(4) The sinlessness of Jesus

(5) Christ's vicarious atonement at Calvary

(6) Bodily resurrection and ascension of Christ

(7) The pre-tribulation rapture of the church

(8) The pre-millennial return and reign of Christ.

In the church's Gano Chapel are paintings of Gano's baptizing Washington and of Gano's praying in thanksgiving for the British surrender. They are copies of originals located at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. The college collection includes Gano's sword, which was a gift from General Washington, who had received it from the French General Marquis de Lafayette.

List of FBC pastors since 1884

FBC has had eighteen pastors, two of whom were chaplains of the United States Congress. Two were also college presidents. Two founded colleges. Collectively, the pastors have written more than three hundred books, mostly on the Christian religion. Many have been denominational leaders.

I. M. Haldeman, 1884-1933

William H. Rogers, 1934-40

Arthur Williams, 1941-47

William L. Pettingill, 1948-50

Arthur Whiting, 1950-55

Peter Hoogendam, 1956-65

Carl E. Elgena, 1965-68

William Fliedner, Jr., 1972-75

Richard D. Burke, 1976-98

Robert C. Gage, 2000-07

Matthew Hoskinson, 2010-present

First Baptist was led by a number of interim ministers during years without a pastor.

Building Activity

  • removed a media
    about 6 years ago via OpenBuildings.com