On December 27, 1803, the counsel, comprised of delegates from the Baptist churches of Boston, Beverly, and Newton, convened in the Faulkner Barn for worship and The First Baptist Church of Malden, MA. came into being. Taking the text 1 Chronicles 29, verse 5, Dr. Stillman of Boston’s First Baptist Church preached the recognition sermon. “And who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord?”. The 52 members of the newly formed church, including the Pastor, Rev. Henry Pottle, were then extended the right hand of Fellowship by the Rev. T. Baldwin of Boston.
In 1803, the world was a different place. There was no internet, Google, Bing, Facebook or Yahoo. The church website, the Witness Mail, and e-mail were non-existent yet. Remember, that was before there were movies and tvs. No computers, iPads, and smart phones. No NBA games, as James Naismith invented basketball only in 1891. Baseball was played regularly on Saturdays in New York, not until the year 1823. Professional U.S. Football was only played in 1892.
In 1803, the United States had a population of 5 million and Malden just over a thousand souls. There were 17 States at that time as Ohio was added on March 1, 1803, and became the 17th State. Thomas Jefferson was President (3rd President of the U.S.). During his 3rd year in office in 1803, the U.S. wanted to buy New Orleans but the French offered the vast tract of land from the Gulf of Mexico to the Northwest (a total of 828,000 square miles) for $15 million dollars a price of less than 3 cents per acre. The Louisiana territory encompassed all or part of 15 present U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. The land purchased contained all of present-day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; parts of Minnesota that were west of the Mississippi River; most of North Dakota; most of South Dakota; northeastern New Mexico; northern Texas; the portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide; Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, including the city of New Orleans.
Many things happened in 1803 some known and some just faded from memory. Adoniram Judson, born in Malden, Massachusetts and the first significant missionary to Burma was only 15 years old and just about entering college the next year. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a famous American Essayist, Lecturer, and Poet was born in Boston Massachusetts on May 25, 1803. In Technology, Robert Fulton, an American Engineer, and Inventor propelled a boat by Steam Power and was widely credited with developing a commercially successful Steam Boat. Years went by and things changed in 214 years of existence. The U.S. is now composed of 50 States and a country of technological and cultural advancement. Malden is now a city of 60,000 souls and the U. S. 326 million (3rd in the world after China and India). Baseball, Football, and Basketball are now played on Sundays. Electronic devices are getting the most share in entertainment. Work has become a priority even on Sundays. Funny, but our church maintained its membership since it started in 1803 at 52 active members (more or less) to this day. There was a time, though, that our church buildings were replaced due to the swelling of membership to as many as 2,000 worshiping members.
Do you wonder where the world is heading to? Technology today would have blown our forebears’ mind in 1803. But great virtues were they known for. Commitment to the work of Christ in the church, perseverance, and hard work. Rev. Dr. George H. Tooze, Jr., Pastor of the church in May 1979 wrote: “I believe that our roots are strong, that our faith is deep, that our commitment is a strong life-force that will result in continued growth and ministry. To that, we must look forward and for that we must work diligently, knowing that God’s love sustains always those who are His children. With that faith we commit ourselves to the future, believing that the best years of our history are those yet to be written”. With that remarks, Dr. Stillman’s message 213 years ago come to mind, “who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?”. May God continue to encourage and bless us in the years ahead.
The article was written by Jose Lantin, Jr., Member of FBC Malden Property Board. Revised April 12, 2018.