First Baptist Church Natchez celebrates bicentennial

Published 1:00 am Saturday, January 14, 2017

By Morgan Mizell

NATCHEZ — As the city’s 300th birthday celebration came  to a close, another momentous celebration commenced.

The First Baptist Church of Natchez is celebrating its bicentennial this year with the theme “In covenant —200 years, from now and forever.”

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Cathy Moss, chair of the bicentennial committee, became a member of the church in 1966 — 51 years ago.

“I, along with a committee of seven others, have been working on this event since March of 2014,” Moss said. “It was at this time the Rev. Dr. Doug Broome called a meeting of the historical committee and told us we needed to make plans in regard to this significant event.”

The origins of the church can be traced back to a nine-person assembly in the home of John Richards on Jefferson Street. There the church was organized.

On June 11, 1822, Gov. Walter Leake approved an act of the Mississippi Legislature to incorporate the trustees of the “first Baptist church” in the city of Natchez. Documentation from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History show the words “first” and “church” were not capitalized in the original act, Moss said.

Events celebrating the history of the church have been scheduled throughout the year, and organizers hope for a large turnout.

Icy road conditions postponed the Jan. 8 celebration kickoff. The event has been rescheduled for Sunday, March 19. It will include a 10:30 a.m. worship service and presentations by Dr. Jim Futrual and Annaclaire Wilbanks Tadlock.

Other birthday events are scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 12; Saturday, April 29th and Sunday April 30th.

At the 10:30 a.m. worship service on Feb. 12th, Susan McKiney will portray  “Chloe Holt” during  a historical monologue.

On April 29, participants will enjoy an afternoon reception and exhibits in the church’s Family Life Center. On April 30, a celebration service at 10:30 a.m. will welcome the Rev. Dr. Ronnie Falvey from the First Baptist Church of Madison as the keynote speaker. Former Minister of Music for FBC Natchez, the Rev. Ken Miller,  will conduct the reunion choir. A celebration lunch will follow in the Family Life Center.

Moss said all events are open to the public and she has received word from a many past members who plan to return to take part in the various festivities.

Because some members may not physically be able to attend, The Bicentennial Committee has published a 2017 historical calendar.

“The calendar is being distributed to all First Baptist families,” Moss said. “They are also available for purchase, by anyone, for $10. We are also compiling a booklet titled ‘Memories — A Gift From the Heart’ in which church members chronicle their remembrances of First Baptist through the years.”

Through the years, the church has been in various locations and had several names. In 1837, the church was reorganized by the Rev. Ashley Vaughn. According to records, it was dissolved in 1855 after the formation of the Wall Street Baptist Church in 1850. A building was constructed for this church in 1852, located where the Adams County Sheriff’s Office currently sits. Records indicate a separate chapel was built by the church in 1858 and in 1870. A faction of the church separated and became Rose Hill Missionary Baptist Church.

The Wall Street Baptist Church renovated its building between  1902-1903 and six years later changed its name to First Baptist Church. Twelve years later the church began construction on a new building located on the corner of Main and Rankin streets. They later added an educational annex to the building between 1948-1950.

It would be 55 years before the building currently known as First Baptist Church Natchez was completed. Work began on the site in 1977. Two years later, the building was ready to house its members. The sanctuary, however, was not built until later. Construction on it began in 1983 and was completed a year later.

Moss said the church has seen many changes including one major change in the way the church once conducts its business.

“Business meetings we called ‘church in conference,’” Moss said. “Some of the things the church dealt with ‘in conference’ was the behavior of its members and the behavior’s reflection on the church.”

“If the behavior was egregious enough, that member may be ‘church’, which was the withdrawing of fellowship from the guilty party.”

While the celebrations provide a time of reflection, Moss and others at the church look to the future.

“Our historical calendar spotlights some of what has made First Baptist what it is today: building, disciplining, training, fellowshipping, giving, reaching out, welcoming, worshipping and Bible teaching,” Moss said. “ With the Lord’s help we can continue and expand on these in the future.”

Other members of the Bicentennial Committee include Paul Allen, Katie Graham, Sue Hewitt, Joan Kiser, Fran Nolan, Martha Jane Ratcliff and Charles Stephens.

Those seeking more information about the church and this celebration can contact the church office at (601) 442-1464 or visit the website,