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Church will mark a milestone Sunday

In 1959 a handful of folks felt led by God to establish First Baptist Church. Fifty years later the independent Bible-led church continues on strong with more than 1,000 members.

On Sunday the church will celebrate its birthday and more importantly the reason for its existence: the Lord.

"Fifty years is a long time for a church," said senior Pastor Dave Clear. "(The celebration) will be a time of reflection and thanksgiving."

The church started in April of 1959. The first Sunday school hour was held April 6. A few weeks later the founders adopted a constitution and bylaws. That constitution is still in use today, although Clear said the church will update it this year to make it more relevant to the church today.

Although small the congregation of the church was dedicated and put together the money to buy the former St. John's Lutheran Church that used to be located on Cameo Avenue near the current post office. They bought the building for $7,500. The first building was torn down in 1996 despite an effort by the Rosemount Historical Society to save it.

In the beginning, the church went through several pastors. The first was Herb Rogers. John Swearingen and Chester Jackson followed. In 1967, fresh out of seminary, Ed Johnson became the pastor and led the church until 2002, when current senior pastor Clear took over. Johnson became pastor emeritus and still serves the church in a number of ways.

Under Johnson's leadership the church rocketed from 35 members to more than 1,000. To accommodate all those people the church moved to its current location in 1970. Over the years the church has added onto its building several times to meet its needs. Additions include an auditorium and educational section.

The last addition was an educational unit in 2000. The area contains classrooms, the nursery and an area where the Spanish church congregates.

Over the years the church has added a number of ministries and outreach programs, some traditional and others not so much. Clear said the church was one of the first to offer a summer vacation Bible time program in the late 1960s. In 1971 the school opened to provide quality Christian education.

Other outreach ministries include a Spanish ministry, a deaf ministry and a bus ministry that transports people to church.

While Johnson knew he wanted to establish a "significant ministry" he said even he is amazed at what God has done with the church. Johnson credits a dedicated congregation for making the church what it is today.

"You don't see a church grow without dedicated people," said Johnson.

The church serves as an extended family for its members. Pauline Dark, the pastor's secretary and church member for more than 30 years, said hitting 50 is a great accomplishment for the church.

"It's amazing what the Lord has done," said Dark.

Dark said she is looking forward to the festivities on April 26.

"I'm excited that everyone is getting together and thanking the Lord for what He has done with the church," added Dark.

To celebrate the occasion the church will have a potluck and special afternoon service. Dr. Shelton Smith, editor of The Sword of the Lord, will be the guest preacher for the day. In addition the Johnson Chapel will be set up like a museum with photos and artifacts from the past 50 years.