A Little Church History
The First Baptist Church of Festus/Crystal City rented the old Hunter’s Store building on Highway CC in June 1958. Those first two months were spent in painting and preparing the building for worship services. On Sunday, August 3, 1958, a group of people met together for the first time in that building. Thirty-seven people attended Sunday school and church that morning.
At the first service on that Sunday morning, it was voted to have the four regular services each Sunday and also a midweek prayer meeting. The first Sunday, six classes were started in Sunday school. They included a men’s class, a women’s class, a youth class, a junior boys’ class, a junior girls’ class, and a primary class. In October, a nusery was started for those newborn to three years old.
During the first fourteen months, the Mission had a revival, a Christmas program, a New Year’s Eve service, a Sweetheart Banquet, and an Easter sunrise service. In August it celebrated its first anniversary with an open house. It was necessary in April of 1959 to organize a beginner’s class and a second primary class. Also, during that same year, some of the children attended camp at Bates Creek, and the young people visited teh Old Folk’s Home in Ironton. The first revival meeting was held as part of the 1959 Spring Simultaneous Revival. The first VBS was held June 1-12, 1959, with an enrollment of 70.
In August of 1959, an organized program of visitation was started and continued through the years. The young people often had a second visitation during the month. Everyone who had taken part in those visitations found it a real joy to do so. Prayer meeting was well attended throughout the year and the Training Union started the first night in August 1959, with 30 members, and while its growth was somewhat small, the average attendance was remarkable. The Mission had two choirs and sometimes three. There was always an adult choir and a junior choir, but often there was also a young people’s choir.
Land was purchased, plans drawn, and a contract let for the construction of a new church building in 1960. The cornerstone laying ceremonies for the new building were held Sunday, January 29, 1961. The congregation moved into the new building on Sunday, April 2, 1961. The church building was formerly dedicated on Sunday, July 2, 1961, with Dr. Earl Harding, Executive Secretary of the Missouri Baptist Convention, as the speaker.
Destruction and dismay fell upon the congregation on the evening of January 11, 1988. A fire, which was eventually determined arson, destroyed the educational and daycare facilities at the church. The smoke and water damages to the remaining portions of the church indicated total destruction. The congregation had completed the new addition of officees and educational rooms just six months prior to the fire. At the time of the fire, the congregation was also without a pastor. Disheartened, yet determined in strength from God, the congregation vowed to rebuild. Services continued regularly at the parsonage and the Athena School gym, with an interim pastor, and through it all, membership continued to grow.
In May of 1988, the original church building was totally removed, and the groundbreaking ceremony was held for the rebuilding of the new church. Finally, in August of 1989, on the first day of VBS, members were able to occupy the basement area of the new church building. Then, on December 31, the first Sunday morning service was held in the new sanctuary. The Dedication Service was held on May 20, 1990.
During the years of 1997-2002, the east wing of the newest church building was completely finished and debt-free! Over these past few years many improvements to the church have been completed through donations and love offerings, all of which are blessings from God and so greatly appreciated by the membership.