BY GOD'S GOOD WILL
WE WILL STAND
For over 170 years, through eight wars, 44 presidents and shifting times, Medford Baptist Church, nestled at the foot of Bank Street, has been a quiet but consistent voice in the Community, helping to carry the burdens of the town and its people.
Birth of An Idea
While the area, now known as Medford, saw its first settlers as early as the mid-1600’s, organization of towns and villages generally began when Quakers came to farm the area in the mid-1700’s. Serious population growth after the Revolutionary War led to major settlements in the New Jersey area and the development of Evesham.
Baptists in three separate congregations in that area gathered in 1801 to plan and promote a new fellowship in the central region of Evesham that could accommodate the sudden unexpected increase in Baptist settlers in Evesham. The Medford area was chosen due to its proximity to a major highway and its centrality among the villages. Thomas Jefferson was president and there were only 16 states in the Union.
Construction and Cooperation
It took forty years, but in 1841, fully six years before Medford itself was an incorporated town in New Jersey, the church was gathered, a building was built and they called their first pastor, Rev. John Richards.
Property had been purchased along the heavily traveled Rancocas Creek and just two blocks from the center of activity in the growing commerce area of the village, which gave the church a central place in the town’s affairs.
While the area was still largely Quaker, the small group grew from 15 in its first year to four times that in its first decade. The number of prominent names memorialized on the grave markers in the Baptist Cemetery give testimony to the church’s rising impact on the town. When the church doors first opened in 1842, John Tyler, the last of the southern gentlemen in the pre-Civil War White House, was in office. His presidency paved the way to a state of serious unrest in the Union and the Baptists were no strangers to the conflict.
In later years, when a tree was removed from the Baptist property, a steel insignia that marked a safe house for the underground railroad - helping to give safe harbor to runaway slaves, was uncovered deep in its trunk. Apparently the Baptists were happy to join the Quakers in acting on their objections to slavery.
Difficulty and Deliberation
For fifty years the Medford Baptists met in their plain, unheated clapboard building until the building went up in flames in the early part of 1891. The group was too large to meet in homes so they quickly purchased the property at Bank and Filbert from a local businessman, also a member of the church, and broke ground for their new sanctuary. In 1892, the building that now stands on the corner of Bank & Filbert became the new home for the First Baptist Church in Medford.
The town, itself, had become a thriving place of commerce. Several religious groups had settled in the area and the Baptists maintained a quiet but consistent voice in the community.
Baptists and Belief
In spite of that kind of transition in leadership, the church believes that it owes its continued existence, not to the able men who have led and ministered over 170 years, but to God, Himself, who has promised to sustain His people in belief. Thus it has taken its doctrine seriously and has maintained those basic beliefs that mark it as a Baptist church. It is to this end that The First Baptist Church of Medford continues to open its doors each Sunday.
"But God commended His love
towards us in that while we were
yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5: 8
Leadership and Longevity
By 1900, the church had been led by 22 different pastors and the leadership felt that a greater consistency could be maintained if they had their own parsonage. A house was constructed on the property adjacent to the new church building; both structures enjoy prominent places in the Medford Village history. The parsonage was built as a three-story balloon-framed house with clapboard siding, blending in with the other Victorian-style homes that were quickly becoming a part of the Medford landscape. By God’s good will we stand.