FARMINGTON — Henderson Memorial Baptist Church members are holding a yearlong celebration that will lead up to the bicentennial of the church.

They kicked off the event Sunday, the church’s 199th birthday, by recognizing some longtime members.

The church was established July 26, 1810, the Rev. Susan Crane, pastor of the church, said Tuesday.
“We honored members baptized 50 years ago or more,” she said.

“Members of the American Baptist Church usually have to take a class and make a statement of faith about what Jesus means to them before they are baptized,” Crane said. “They might be 10, they might be 45. They are baptized when they are ready to make a commitment to Christ.”

Among the oldest members recognized was Paul Floyd, 99, of Farmington. He was baptized in 1954. Edith McCleery, also of Farmington, was baptized in 1940, Crane said. She is a 69-year member.

“We wanted to honor those dedicated members that helped make the church what it is today,” Crane said.

In 1810, eight men and 14 women signed the covenant agreeing to be the Church of Christ in this community, she said.

Initially the church was named the first Particular Baptist Church of Christ in Farmington. Particular Baptist meant they were Calvinist — followers of the doctrines of Protestant reformer John Calvin. “It was basically a mission church,” she said. “It had no building until 1836.”

Instead, they met in people’s homes and barns. In 1835, the land at the corner of Academy and Main streets in Farmington was bought and a brick church was built.

That building was destroyed in the Great Fire that swept through downtown Farmington in 1886. A second church was built in 1887 with the help of other Baptists. This time it was of wood and it also burned after a spark flew out of a wood-fueled kitchen range on March 20, 1938, Crane said.

The existing church was built in 1940 at the same location. Church members sold bricks for 10 cents each to help finance it, Crane said.

The church changed its name to the First Baptist Church of Farmington in January 1898, and was renamed after the Rev. Albert G. Henderson on May 12, 1946. Henderson served from 1927 to 1945 and helped oversee construction of the church after the second fire, Crane said. He left to serve another church in Massachusetts but died suddenly in 1946. He was brought back to Farmington to be buried, she said.

Over the years, the number of members has varied from 22, at its start, to its peak in the 1970s. Today, there are nearly 100 active members. In 1937, the average Sunday school attendance was 164 adults and children, Crane said.

During the yearlong celebration, members are discussing such events as oral histories, concerts, including one by the Northfield group that sings old hymns from the 1800s, a memorial hymn sing, supplementing the church history and holding a supper.

“Baptists like to sing and they like to eat,” Crane said.

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The Henderson Memorial Baptist Church recognized some of its longtime members Sunday on the 199th birthday of the church’s establishment in Farmington. Among those recognized were, in front from left, Dot Richmond, Rachel Newcomb, Dot Bryant, Bill Bryant, Wilma Hobbs, Dr. Paull Floyd and Edith McCleery. Seated behind McCleery are Wally Weeks and Mary Lovejoy. Standing in back, from left, are Glen Farmer, Caroline Dingley Winch, Gaynelle Yeaton, Bev Lefebvre, Maxine Weeks, Carol Brightman and Kathleen Austin Kennedy.

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