First Baptist Church was born out of a desire of Baptists living in the Freeport community to have a place of worship. There were Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican churches of worship in Freeport, but no Baptist church. During the period 1961 to 1965 several unsuccessful attempts were made to establish a church. On May 10, 1965, Rev. William Jennings, Pastor of First Baptist Church, Dania Florida, was approached to assist the believers in Freeport. Rev. Jennings, along with the prospective members, met with the Grand Bahamas Port Authority. The Port Authority assured those present that they would welcome a Baptist Church in Freeport and would assist. The Southern Baptist Mission in Nassau was then approached to assist in the establishment and management of the church.
On July 4, 1965 a group of twelve worshipers met at the Queen’s Cove Development Company’s office on The Mall and journeyed to the Holiday Day Inn Hotel, under construction, where a service was held. Twenty-seven persons attended the service.
On September 1, 1965, Rev. Carol Vetch was seconded from Nassau by the Southern Baptist Mission to Pastor the church. On September 10, 1965, the church was organized. Following are the names of the seventeen founding members:
|Rev. Carol Vetch Helen Vetch
Arthur Blumit Ralph Bjorkland
Nancy Bjorkland John Booth
Cornelius Christian Suzanne Ebersold
Charles Frazier Louise Frazier
|Merlin Hoppe Myra Hoppe
Janice Hoppe Lloyd Jones
Johnny Young William Bennett
The Lord blessed the church and added those that would be saved. Many came from Baptist churches in Nassau and the other Family Islands to work in Grand Bahama and joined the First Baptist Fellowship. In November 1966, construction commenced on the first edifice and on June 11, 1967 the first service was held. On October 22, 1967 the church was dedicated. Rev. Robert C. Hensley offered the prayer of dedication and Rev. Thomas Watson delivered the sermon.
On October 25, 1968, the church called Dr. John S. Wimbish of Tampa Florida as Pastor. He served from November 1, 1967 to April 1, 1971. Rev. Vetch was recalled as an interim Pastor. Led by the Holy Spirit, the church called Rev. George L. Cumberbatch, who was then serving as Pastor of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Nassau, Bahamas. Rev. Cumberbatch commenced his ministry at First Baptist Church on October 1, 1972, serving as the first Bahamian Pastor of this church. The church continued to grow under the visionary leadership of Rev. Cumberbatch, which necessitated the expansion of the sanctuary. Six classrooms were also added. It was immediately apparent that the expansion was inadequate, due to the phenomenal growth of the congregation. On July 12, 1981, ground was broken for a new edifice on additional land acquired from the Grand Bahama Port Authority. The sanctuary was dedicated on March 13, 1986. Today, we worship in this beautiful edifice construction to the glory of God.
For the past forty-six years, First Baptist Church has been carrying out the mandate of Jesus Christ to go into all the world and preach the gospel. The church has continuously supported mission work in the Bahamas and throughout the world. For many years the church supported missions in the Corn Island. Emmanuel Baptist Church, Hawksbill was also a mission of First Baptist Church for many years. The church continues to support a Haitian Mission church at Pinder’s Point, Grand Bahama. Among the additional missions supported over the years are: The Bahamas Baptist Missionary & Educational Convention, The Caribbean Baptist Fellowship’s Sunday School Literature Department, Jordan/Prince William High School, churches and an orphanage in Haiti, Grace House, The Red Cross, Rev. Jackie McCollough’s mission trips to Jamaica, Students pursuing tertiary level education, in addition to providing for the needs of its members.
The ministries of First Baptist Church have grown greatly over the past forty years. Presently the active ministries include:
The Church School Men of Covenant
Sisters in the Spirit the Youth Ministry
The Singles Ministry the Young Adult Ministry
The Evangelism Ministry the Usher Board
The Dance Ministry First Baptist Church Pre-School
The Education Ministry
The Music Ministry continues to be vibrant and includes the following groups and choirs; Sanctuary Choir, Male Choir, Majestic Voices, Trinity Praise, Junior Choir and the Youth Orchestra. The Boys and Girls Brigade function under the guidance of the Men of Covenant Ministry and Sisters in the Spirit Ministry.
The Deaconate of the church, led by Deacons Leroy Glass and Theophilus Davis, continues to carry out their liturgical and other ministry responsibilities. God has added to the deaconate consistent with the growth of the church.
Rev. Dr. George L. Cumberbatch led the congregation of First Baptist Church for more than thirty-eight years. He was a faithful servant of God, an extraordinary teacher and a Prince of Preachers. Rev. Cumberbatch led the church in a spiritual transformation over the years. His only desire was that the will of God be done in God’s church. He pursued a vision of training leaders throughout the years and as guided by the Spirit of God he ordained and mentored ministers of the gospel at First Baptist Church, including Rev. Dr. Keith Russell, Rev. Anthony Grant, Rev. Adrian Bethel and Rev. Derrick Russell. He also licensed as ministers of the gospel, Rev. Israel Laing and Rev. Susan Moss. In May of 2011, the Lord called Rev. Cumberbatch from labour to reward. The title of Pastor Emeritus was conferred posthumously on Rev. Cumberbatch.
On February 1, 2011, Rev. Dr. Keith Russell renewed his fellowship with First Baptist Church as the Associate Pastor of the church. Rev. Russell formerly served as a Minister at First Baptist Church and the Pastor of Fellowship Union Baptist Church. On Sunday, May 22, 2011, Rev. Dr. Russell assumed the leadership of First Baptist Church as Pastor. The installation service for Rev. Russell as Pastor of First Baptist Church was held on Sunday, September 25, 2011. The journey continues, to God be the glory.