By Crystal Burns
Members of Trenton’s oldest African-American church culminated a month-long celebration of the 150th anniversary with a gala Saturday and rededication Sunday morning.
First Baptist Church was organized in 1850 and established as an African-American church in 1867. Members first met on West Huntingdon Street until moving into a new building on North High. In 1999, First Baptist moved to its current location on Gibson St.
“We are thankful to God, and we give all the glory to Him for the ministry here,” Rev. Darrick Theus said. Theus is also celebrating his 20th anniversary as pastor of First Baptist Church.
In his gala address, Theus highlighted the importance of history, heritage, and legacy.
“[Our ancestors] provided an opportunity for us down the road to have what we have today,” he said. “They laid the foundation, and they laid a good foundation.”
Church members and friends began their anniversary celebration on July 9 with Dr. Beverly Green Mathis, a former Trenton resident, serving as guest speaker. A school, Dr. Beverly S. Mathis Elementary in Las Vegas, named in her honor is set to open in August.
The church added a bit of fun to the day, designating it Hat & Bow Tie Sunday.
On July 16, the church honored living legacies by giving special recognition to several members. That evening, the congregation welcomed First Baptist Church of College St. and pastor Jason Bowen for joint worship. The African-American church broke off from First Baptist in 1867.
Theus said fellowship between the churches was one of his favorite parts of the anniversary celebration.
The gala, held at Roosevelt Hall in downtown Trenton, also recognized several members. Awards were presented to Dave Lutter, Tommy Hooker, Faye Dodd, Marshal Easley Jr., Shirley Ray, Avery Nell Pollard, and Nelcey Ramsey.
Pastor Johnny and First Lady Cynthia Jarrett were the emcees, and contemporary dance artist Paige Hooker, gospel/jazz recording artist Cecily Floyd Mason, and gospel artist Patricia Cooper provided entertainment. Andrea Perry was the caterer.
Theus asked for continued prayers for the church.
“We don’t claim to be the perfect church; we don’t even claim to be the best church, but we try,” he said.
He thanked Marie Cox and Sylvia Johnson and the Connecting Hearts women’s ministry for their help planning the anniversary events.
“The whole thing has been great,” he said. “This has just been phenomenal.”