THE 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF HAMPTON
Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate a legacy of faith in Virginia's Third Congressional District. This year, First Baptist Church of Hampton is celebrating its 150th anniversary, and I would like to take a moment to reflect on the history of this esteemed institution and its contributions to the greater Hampton Roads community.
The history of many African American churches in existence today developed from a small band of worshippers who sat in the ``designated section'' of a white church. In this respect, First Baptist Church of Hampton is no exception and was borne out of worshippers at the Hampton Baptist Church located a short distance away from the present church site. With Reverend Zechariah Evans as its first pastor, First Baptist Church of Hampton came into its own and built its own building to house services.
The Church continued to grow and prosper, but in September 1944, a catastrophic fire destroyed the church building. Members of the community and sister churches rallied to support First Baptist Church. With generous support from the Hampton Baptist Church and other supporters in the community, the sanctuary was restored and the facility was improved and expanded.
Over the years the Church grew in its capacity, its membership, and its mission. Community outreach became an integral part of the work of the Church. The accomplishments of First Baptist Church of Hampton are far too many to list, but among them are the founding of the People's Building and Loan Association under Reverend Richard Spiller and the organization of the Big Brothers of America in Hampton under the leadership of Reverend Seymour J. Gaines.
On July 6, 2006, First Baptist Church officially elected Reverend Dr. Richard W. Wills, Sr. as its tenth and current pastor and he has continued to lead the church in its strong tradition, dedicated to fellowship and social action.
Over the years, the First Baptist community has continued to grow and flourish. The church now offers programs to increase healthy living through its Health Ministry program, hosts voter registration drives, provides housing for the homeless through ``A Night's Welcome,'' and remains steadfast in providing for the least of these, through its efforts in meal service and food distribution.
On Saturday, October 26th, I was honored to join Reverend Wills and everyone at First Baptist for their anniversary celebration banquet, which featured Reverend Al Sharpton and many other luminaries from across the Commonwealth of Virginia and across the country. President Barack Obama also provided a celebratory letter commemorating the church's rich history and its 150th anniversary. The banquet was truly an event to remember and offered a chance for the celebration, reflection, and hope that such a monumental anniversary invokes.
As First Baptist Church of Hampton continues to celebrate this historic milestone, the church can truly remember its past, celebrate its present, and focus on its future as ``[a] place on the harbor where haven meets heaven.'' I would like to congratulate Reverend Wills and all of the members of First Baptist Church of Hampton on the occasion of its 150th Anniversary. I wish them many more years of dedicated service to the community.