First Baptist Church – Manchester, VT, USA
Image by Juan_Carlos_Cruz
The First Baptist Church of Manchester was formally organized on June 22, 1781 under the name “The Church of Jesus Christ in Manchester” by Elder Nathan Mason and a delegation from the Baptist Church of Lanesborough, Massachusetts. The fellowship that signed the sixteen articles of faith drawn up as a covenant were one hundred and ten members from Manchester and eighty-two from Dorset.
Elder Joseph Cornell came to Manchester from Swansea, Massachusetts having been ordained in 1780 by the Lanesborough Baptist Church. Settling in Manchester, he became entitled to the “First Settled Minister’s Right” designated by the Town Charter. Elder Cornell sold these lands to finance the building of the first meeting house in the northwest corner of what is now Factory Point Cemetery. Early records and local histories describe it as a large, plain frame building.
This church early subscribed to the Sunday School movement and the First Church School began in 1825. The Church School has continued to be a vital ministry throughout its history.
The present sanctuary was built in 1833 with bricks drawn from Bennington. In 1835 the Women’s Missionary Society was founded which continues as part of our Mary and Martha Fellowship.
In 1843, a marble platform was added to the church. In 1873 rooms were added and in 1876 the present belfry tower, bell and vestry were added. The same time that the Johnson Tracker Organ was installed, the kitchen wing was added to the present building. The 1981 entrance brings our church to its present form.
From its earliest time, this church was concerned with churches in other communities and expanding its fellowship beyond this valley. It early joined in the Shaftsbury Association, began a short-lived association of its own with other Baptist Churches in New York called the Manchester Association, and later was instrumental in the founding of the Vermont Baptist State Convention.
It also has participated in the organization and founding of several other churches. These include the Hubbardton Baptist Church as early as 1787, the Stillwater Baptist Church, and the East Dorset Baptist Church now known as the East Dorset Federated Church.