First Baptist Church
1917 - Present
The first meeting of the First Baptist Church of Melrose Park was held at 110 N. 22nd Ave, Melrose Park. Rev. William Baldwin presided and later served as founding Pastor. The Church adopted the name The First Colored Baptist Church of Melrose Park. during the pastorate of the late Rev. W. Thomas. The Church also purchased property in 1920 under the leadership of Pastor Thomas to build a new church building. This effort was eventually discontinued and the name was changed to First Baptist Church of Melrose Park on November 22, 1922 during the pastorate of Rev. G.B. Donaldson.
Rev. B.S.J. Ford became the 6th Pastor of First Baptist Church in 1932 Under Pastor Ford, First Baptist built its first church building in 1945. Due to the Church's income at the time as well as banking practices during the 1940's, First Baptist was allowed to build a house without interior walls or a basement for use as its Church building. A foyer area and basement was later added. Also, the Federal Government under President Franklin D. Roosevelt intervened in insure that Pastor Ford and the First Baptist congregation were able to build and complete the Church. Until this time, the members of First Baptist would attend Sunday Worship Services at other churches but maintained the Sunday School. Upon the completion of the edifice in 1945, located at 2112 Main Street, the members of First Baptist began holding their own Worship Services each Sunday. From 1917 to present, First Baptist Church has had eight Pastors. Pastor William Baldwin (1917-1918); Pastor Eddie Minter (1918-1920); Pastor W. Thomas (1920-1922); Pastor G.B. Donaldson (1922-1925); Pastor G.E. Banks (1925-1932); Pastor B.S.J. Ford (1932-1959); Pastor Harry McNelty (1959-2001); Pastor John L. Belser (2002 - Present). To date, the Church has had eight (8) locations.
Rev. Harry McNelty served as Assistant Pastor to Pastor Ford for six months and became the 7th Pastor of First Baptist on September 18, 1959.. Under Pastor McNelty's leadership, First Baptist Church achieved much of its progress. A new edifice was built at 2114 Main Street in 1966, new auxiliaries and groups were instituted to meet the needs of the congregation, an addition to the new church was completed in 1978, a new bus and van were purchased, property around the Church was purchased; a preschool and school named after Pastor McNelty were founded in 1985 and the physical plant was constructed in 1990 with an addition completed in 2001.
Rev. John L. Belser became the 8th Pastor of First Baptist on April 5, 2002. Under Pastor Belser's leadership, First Baptist has restructured ministries to address membership and community needs, began radio and television broadcasts, instituted Children's Church and enhanced Youth Ministry, launched an internet website and enjoyed tremendous growth spiritually, numerically, and financially. Plans are currently underway for the relocation of First Baptist Church to larger facilities which will allow for continued expansion and greater Kingdom Building impact for Jesus Christ for generations to come. We Praise God for His Faithfulness!