IN RECOGNITION OF THE 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF FIRST CHURCH OF NEWPORT NEWS (BAPTIST)

November 13, 2014
Floor Statements

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate a continuing legacy of faith and community in Virginia's Third Congressional District. This year, First Church of Newport News (Baptist) in Newport News, Virginia is celebrating its sesquicentennial, and I would like to take a moment to reflect on the history of this esteemed institution and its contributions to the greater Newport News community.

First Church of Newport News (Baptist) holds the distinction of being the first form of organized religion located within the original city limits of Newport News. In fact, it predates the city by 32 years, having been originally organized in 1864 as First Baptist Church by the Reverend Thomas Poole of Isle of Wight County. The small wood framed church located under what is now the 28th Street Bridge was a spiritual home for many slaves, freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, whose only exposure to Christianity had come from their previous masters.

Under Reverends Carr and Cooley, the church moved its location to 23rd Street and Jefferson Avenue and continued to grow. Under Reverend William H. Dixon in 1897, planning and construction began on the new church building that would house the church for most of the 20th century. The impressive structure would include a steeple that was believed to be the highest in Newport News and was a landmark on the city skyline for decades.

A church is more than its building, and First Baptist's ministry in Newport News continued to expand under Reverends Harris, Taylor and Henderson. In 1919, Dr. A. A. Galvin became Pastor and many ministries and facets of parochial life at First Church that still exist were founded during his tenure, including the Benevolent Fund and the Men's Star Bible Class. Under the next pastor, Dr. John F. Williams, the church formed both a Gospel Choir and a Deaf and Blind Ministry.

In 1961, Dr. Fred J. Boddie, Jr. succeeded Dr. Williams and began his 39-year tenure, the longest of any pastor in the church's history. It was under Dr. Boddie that the church moved to its current location on Wickham Avenue and changed its name from First Baptist Church to First Church of Newport News (Baptist) to reflect its historic roots. Dr. Boddie led First Church into the 21st century, retiring in 2001. Under his leadership, the church truly lived up to its motto becoming, ``the friendly church on the corner where everybody is somebody and Christ is all''.

In 2005, Dr. Reginald Dawkins was called to be pastor. In 2011, Rodney Johnson was installed as the twelfth leader of First Church and the church continues to grow in its outreach to the community under his stewardship. This dedication to service is reflected in the theme for First Church's Sesquicentennial, ``Renewing Minds and Transforming Lives with a Legacy of Hope and Charity''.

As First Church gathers to celebrate this historic milestone, the church can truly remember its past, celebrate its present, and focus on its future. I would like to congratulate all of the members of First Church of Newport News (Baptist) on the occasion of its 150th Anniversary, and I wish them many more years of dedicated service to the community.