I am privileged to serve in a church that is 176 years old and counting, the First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL, planted in 1838. In order to study out its history for myself and benefit any present or former members of my church as well, I am going to try to do a weekly post on our history each Friday. Today I’ll begin by simply posting an overview from our church website. I’m sure my lack of longevity at FBC will be exposed by informational gaps and unintentional misinterpretation of facts along the way. For any who are interested, please feel free to email me corrections or thoughts as you wish. I hope to eventually compile and edit these posts into a book for the benefit of our church.
From our history page:
Mowry and Lucy Brown, Upper Alton, Illinois
William B. Brainard, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
John and Susan Emerson, Machias Port, Maine
Dr. George and Eunice P. Haskell, Upper Alton, Illinois
James and Martha Jackson, Indianapolis, Indiana
Ransom and Laura Knapp, Upper Alton, Illinois
Isaiah Lyon, Upper Alton, Illinois
Abiram Morgan, Springfield, Massachusetts
Pierce and Evalina Wood, Conneaut, Ohio
After Pastor Allen retired, the church had several “chapels” that were organized into independent churches. These churches included Memorial Baptist Church (1955), Windsor Baptist Church (1957), and Faith Baptist Church in Beloit, Wisconsin (1958). Our church organized its Mexican Baptist Mission into an independent church in 1963. The church membership at this time was 886 members.
A number of factors led to a decrease in membership in the years to follow. Many left during a time of struggle after Pastor Allen’s retirement. The church was unable to reach its surrounding neighborhood that became increasingly plagued with crime. Rockford fell on hard times, and many moved away to find work. Many young people went to college but did not return to find work at home. The church investigated the idea of relocation, but the delay in relocating caused many to leave the church. Many of the church’s older members passed away.
Under the leadership of the previous pastor, Scott Williquette (served 1994–2013), the church relocated to its present location in 1996. He led the church in building a new auditorium and connected facilities (pictured right), started the Pillar Christian Bookstore, and he also led the church to host the Conference on the Church for God’s Glory, an annual conference that has blessed hundreds of pastors since 2003.