First Baptist Church History

Before any church was built in Honea Path, the residents who wanted to worship in the locality met, during suitable weather, in a brush arbor on what is now West Greer Street. The first house of worship was built by the Presbyterian's in 1860. For eight years, all denominations met there. The Presbyterian's had a minister for one Sunday a month and permitted the Baptists and Methodists to have their pastors on other Sundays.

On May 7,1869, after a preliminary meeting on May 1, 1869, the Honea Path Baptist Church was organized with nineteen charter members. On May 8, 1869, Rev. A.C. Stepp was unanimously elected as the first pastor. The congregation then elected delegates to represent the church at the Union Meeting to be held at Walnut Grove Church and made application to the Union District for admission with the privileges of a Baptist church. On July 10, 1869, delegates were elected to "bear a letter praying admission as a member of the Saluda Association". At this time, the church people were meeting in the school house.

The first revival began on Saturday, August 7, 1869 and resulted in the addition of twenty converts. Worship services continued to be held in the school house until the early 1870's. According to the Saluda Baptist Associational History, a motion was made on December 11, 1869 to build a house of worship. Two lots were purchased shortly after July 10, 1870 and the church building was begun. The only picture of that church is an artists' conception based on a description from the memory of two early members. The building was a simple structure, made of wood, with two entrances and a small steeple. It was used for thirty five years until a second church was built during the pastorate of Dr. J.W. Perry.(1905-1906) Lumber from the old church was used to build the first parsonage. The new church building cost $9,000.00 and had a seating capacity, in the main auditorium, for about three hundred fifty people. The first sermon was preached in the new sanctuary in January of 1906. One of the beautiful features of the new building was the stained glass windows donated as memorials by loved ones. Those windows were installed in the present sanctuary when it was constructed. During this time, a large number of members withdrew to enter into the Second Church of Honea Path in the Chiquola section of town. However, with a membership of about three hundred sixty, the church had a larger numerical strength than that of all other denominations in this area combined.

For many years, the church needed more Sunday School rooms. During the spring of 1939, during the pastorate of Rev. C.O. Lamoreux, a program for an annex was initiated. The addition was completed in December of 1940 at an approximate cost of $17,000.00. In 1952, because of the needs of a rapidly growing congregation, a new educational wing as added to the right of the sanctuary. Dr. D.W. Cloer was pastor at that time.Rev. E.B. Bagby was called to the church on April 20, 1958. With his leadership, the church voted to build a new auditorium. During construction, worship services were held at what was then the Honea Path High School. On March 31, 1963, the congregation legally changed the name of Honea Path Baptist Church to First Baptist Church of Honea Path. The happy congregation moved into the new building on May 24, 1964.

May 5, 1969 marked the centennial of the church. Since Rev. Bagby had resigned to become Director of Development at Connie Maxwell Children's Home, the congregation chose to wait until a new pastor was called to have a formal celebration. Rev. Law M. Mobley, Jr. was called as pastor in July 1969. In honor of the centennial, a full days' celebration was held on October 12, 1969.

The next building program occurred in 1985 when a new Fellowship Hall was constructed. This structure included a kitchen, bathrooms, small lobby, four offices, and a conference room. The church has a long history of caring about missions. The first mission offering was noted in the church minutes of February 17, 1878: "Took up collection for Domestic and Foreign Missions - thirteen dollars and forty five cents". On January 18, 1903, a committee of four men and one lady was appointed to formulate a systematic plan of contributing to the spread of the Gospel. They agreed to raise the amount that would be apportioned by the Executive Board for the various missions. This began a financial program of extensive emphasis on foreign, home, and state missions. For more than eight decades, the women of the church spearheaded the emphasis on mission offerings. From 1948 into the 1980's, the W.M.S. and the church joined in giving $2,000.00 annually toward the support of missionaries on foreign fields. One of the missionaries was the churches' own Barry Mitchell, who with his wife, Laura and three sons, served for many years in Brazil.

From the first mission offering of $13.45 through the present, the church continues to give. From 1925 to 1984, one million dollars was given to the Cooperative Program. The second million dollars was given by the year 2000. In 2001, First Baptist Church ranked in the top fifty churches in South Carolina in gifts to the Annie Armstrong Offering for Home Missions.

The 1990's were quite busy. A building fund was established, three additional pieces of property were purchased, a bus/picnic shelter was constructed, and a playground for children was built. In 1992, Rev. E.B. Bagby was named Pastor Emeritus. The 125th anniversary of the church was celebrated in 1994. The vestibule and sanctuary were renovated and redecorated in 1995.

From meetings in a schoolhouse with one pastor, services once or twice a month, and a budget probably less than $100.00, the church has grown tremendously. Our charter membership of 19 has grown to a resident and non-resident membership of 902. There are now two Sunday services, weekly mid-week prayer services, and countless meetings taking place each week. Our annual budget is over $675,000.00. Rev. Mike Moody is the senior pastor. We also have two associate pastors, an office assistant, an administrative assistant, a custodian, and four part time employees.

The church is presently looking toward future renovation and construction to take care of our growing needs. What a colorful history! What a glorious future! To God be the glory!! This history was completed in May 2003.