“It’s a ministry of ours”: Mason City’s First Baptist Church Celebrates 150th Anniversary | Mason City and Northern Iowa
To make it 150 years as a church, a “we” ministry is key.
The First Baptist Church in Mason City is celebrating its 150th anniversary – this year and this weekend – as a congregation and as part of the fellowship.
“This is a we ministry and I think that might be the bigger issue going forward if there isn’t a ‘I ministry. It is a we Ministry, so we need you,” Pastor Jim Bringman said.
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When asked what the 150th anniversary means, parishioner Judy Allen said it was a walk down memory lane. Allen, Carmen Ramsay, and Dianne Casto helped put together a presentation spanning those 150 years that is on display in the basement of the church.
“For me, just going back and looking at so many pictures and finding out so many details about what happened at the church was really interesting,” Allen said.
Founded on November 16, 1866 by a group of Baptists led by the Rev. George W. Freeman, the First Baptist Church was the third Protestant group to organize in Mason City. This early congregation met in a stone schoolhouse which, according to the Church’s online historical record, stood at the southeast corner of Georgia Avenue and First Street Southeast.
Less than a year later, the church was accepted into fellowship with the Cedar Valley Baptist Association of the Iowa Baptist Convention. In 1872 the charter of the church was filed, church documents say.
“It was amazing how many people there were in this community for that time in history, and just to watch this community grow dramatically in number,” Casto said.
The first church building was erected in 1876 at the current location. The church was dedicated on November 19, 1876 and cost the congregation $4,050. According to documents, the original church had horse stables to house the animals of those who came from the countryside.
On a stormy winter day in February 1895, a fire of unknown origin completely destroyed the first building. The volunteer fire brigade worked all day while water froze on the roof of the church.
During the construction of the new church, services were held in an old armory. The 15 months in the armory were spent raising funds for the new church through events such as a three-day carnival, according to First Baptist documents.
“Imagine how devastated they were by the fire. I mean, it was a loss, but then they rebuilt it and it got even bigger,” Ramsay said.
The construction of the second church building took just over a year and cost $18,200. It was inaugurated on May 10, 1896.
Until another fire in 1927, parishioners met in this building. Fortunately, the fire caused only partial damage, but the building cost $15,000 to restore.
“One of the things that struck me was not just the body here alone that put this church back together, but also the community involvement. It’s like that’s something we’d like to see preserved,” Bringman said.
In 1953 the congregation worked to purchase a pipe organ and modernize the sanctuary. Since then, First Baptist Church has continued to work to improve the facilities and their aesthetics.
Today the Church has members of all ages who come to worship and fellowship through its programs. Bringman said the church, like many congregations, is still navigating to emerge from the pandemic. He added it taught them how easily things can be taken away.
“We can be a part of the sacrifice, or we can lean on God and be His instrument of healing. So we’re in there somewhere, and we have good people all around us,” Bringman said.
Bringman said First Baptist offered a reach to the church that some might not have expected. Whatever a person needs for their own spiritual well-being or for their community, First Baptist has something for everyone.
To celebrate its 150th anniversary, the First Baptist Church has participated in parades in the area such as the North Iowa Band Festival and held community meals.
A grand celebration is planned for Sunday from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and everyone in northern Iowa is invited.
For the next 150 years, the goal of First Baptist Church is to continually think of those outside the church.
“I think it’s important to be more ecumenical. We know how to pray for one another. Not only thinking about how this is the only place God has chosen to reach His church, but also how we can expand our ministry,” Bringman said.
Abby covers education and entertainment for the Globe Gazette. Follow her on Twitter at @MkayAbby. Email her at [email protected]