November 20th - November 22nd,  2009
Image courtesy of the Salem Public Library Online Historic Photographic Collection

"A Faithful Witness: 150 Years"
The 1832 account of a delegation of Nez Perce Native Americans' pilgrimage to obtain the Book of Heaven excited many Christian churches in New England. Reverend Jason Lee was the first missionary to the Oregon Territory, and held Methodist services in the Willamette Valley in 1834.  He was recalled to missionary headquarters in New York in 1843, the same year the first Baptists arrived in the Oregon Territory.  Baptist exploration to establish a permanent place of worship in Salem began as early as November 1850.  On December 29th, 1859, Salem First Baptist's beginnings were recorded.  

Charter members at the first meeting included Bartholomew Holley, Agatha and George Holley, Michael and Mary Meyers, Adam and Lucinda Stephens (whose descendants still attend Salem First Baptist Church today), and Seth Webb.  Two lots on the corner of Marion and Liberty Streets were donated by Dr. William H. Willson, who also had donated real estate for the Capitol Mall and Willamette University in downtown Salem. Reverend Charles L. Fisher traveled the Oregon Trail in 1860 to become the first pastor. Rev. Fisher purchased the church's bell.

The membership of 225 outgrew the original building by 1887.  In 1895 a new sanctuary and education building was finished, complete with stained glass windows and a new belfry. In another fifty years the building was once more outgrown. Classes had been meeting in places such as the belfry and a restroom.  The 1895 building served Salem First until the 1950s when the modern sanctuary was completed.    

Salem First Baptist's efforts to minister to the people of Salem resulted in assistance to establish: the Union Gospel Mission, the Salem chapter of Young Life, Sonshine School, Grace Baptist, West Salem Baptist, Salem Heights, Halbert Memorial Baptist, Rolling Hills Baptist, and Dayspring Fellowship. Services in Cambodian and Russian have been conducted in former years to minister to refugees until they have been able to fully support themselves. Notable members of the church include Thomas L. Kay, U.S. Senator Charles L. McNary, U.S. Senator Mark O. Hatfield, U.S. Representative Dennis A. Smith, Douglas E. Coe and Dr. Earl D. Radmacher.

"the burning of the mortgage," Lee Cross, May 1961

The weekend of celebration kicks off on Friday, November 20th at 6 pm. Beth Lambright will be sharing a Spiritual History of Oregon, and the church's cornerstone will be removed and presented via video. Reception to follow.

On Saturday, Nov. 21st a barbershop quartet and a dance group will perform, and the church's historic stained glass windows and the bell will be on display. Various historical exhibits will be open between 10 am - 7 pm. Oral history sessions, sword drills, vintage games, and a butter churning demonstration will be held.

On Sunday, Nov. 22nd former members and staff will be recognized in the identical morning services. A reunion choir will sing. Old fashioned cinnamon rolls and fruit will be concurrently served in the Community Life Center during both services and the historical exhibits will be open for viewing. RESCUE will be in concert at 6 pm.

"Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith"
Heb. 12:2

395 Marion St. NE