First Baptist Church is working to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia (KOH2RVA) and beyond.
We're glad you're here. We want you to know, you're welcome just as you are.
We are a unique congregation where people from diverse cultural, ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds join together to put God’s love in action. Some have a lifetime of faith experiences. Others have become followers of Christ later in life. All find a home in our church with opportunities for spiritual growth, fellowship, and service.
Our people celebrate and draw strength from our diversity, which finds its unity in the Lord Jesus Christ. We embrace an international perspective with more than ten different languages spoken among our members. Men and women serve as deacons and as ordained staff in leading services and preaching sermons.
We have seven main ministry areas: Community, Invitation, Formation, Worship, Compassion, Support, and Communication. Our ministries include: divorce recovery, a deaf congregation, outreach to the homeless and disadvantaged, a weekly TV worship service broadcast and mission trip opportunities both internationally and closer to home.
A Brief History
"When the fires that lighted the evacuation of Richmond had died away... there was little left of Richmond's skyline to remind the frantic inhabitants of the past. Here and there, though, there were left old landmarks and amongst them the most beloved of those was the old First Baptist Church at Twelfth and Broad Streets, whose tall steeple stood like a sentinel against the sky at the top of the hill." ... a Richmond newspaper, April, 1865.
On a June evening in 1780, one year before Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown and two years before Richmond was incorporated as a city, Joshua Morris conducted a prayer meeting in the home of John Franklin at Carrington and Pink Streets on Union Hill. This group of Christian believers organized the Richmond Baptist Church, the first Baptist church to be constituted in a Virginia city and the first church of any denomination to be organized in Richmond.
The beginning was modest; there were fourteen charter members. In 1786 Morris sold his Richmond property and followed the great migration West. He was succeeded by John Courtney, a humble, devout, and courageous pastor.
The "lowly Baptists" built their first house of worship before or during 1798. "Father Courtney," as he was affectionately known, stood unflinchingly for disestablishment and religious liberty and was vilified and slandered for his efforts. He supported his family by working as a carpenter, receiving no stipulated salary from the church. He had a favorite couplet which he often quoted: "No foot of land do I possess, Nor cottage in this wilderness." He lived in a rented house between Grace and Broad Street, paying an annual rental fee of twenty-five dollars. In 1809 a deed to the house and lot was conveyed to the beloved minister. As he preached that night, Father Courtney began to quote his favorite lines then stopped and corrected himself. The next day he conveyed his property to Mr. George Pickett, his friend and landlord, saying, "I’d rather have my lines than the land."
In 1813 the women of the church formed the Female Missionary Society, the first such in Virginia and the second in the South. In 1815 a second missionary organization was begun in the church by Deacon William Crane who had come from Newark, New Jersey in 1812, opened a shoe store and joined the church. His love for black men and women led to the establishment of a school for slaves made up of twenty young men. They met three evenings each week to learn reading, writing, arithmetic and the Bible. Because of his love and devotion, two of his students, Lott Cary and Collin Teague, purchased their freedom and gave themselves to African missions, sailing to Liberia in 1821 on the first colonization ship. The Providence Baptist Church, which had been organized in Deacon Crane’s home, is today the "Westminster Abbey" of Liberia, the building in which the Liberian Declaration of Independence was signed, and is a national shrine. The heroic exploits of Cary and Teague are appropriately portrayed in the beautiful Baptist history windows in the church chapel.
First Baptist has been first in many other ways. Not only was it the first church of any denomination to be organized in Richmond, the first Baptist church organized in a Virginia city, and the first church in Virginia to organize a missionary society for women, but it also was the first in the city to organize a Sunday school for children, the first in America to send her own members as foreign missionaries to the continent of Africa, the first in the Southern Baptist Convention to have a church library.
From its inception the church has been strong in its commitment to missions. For many years after its founding in 1845, the International (formerly “Foreign) Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, occupied offices in the church building. Many missionaries have gone out from First Baptist, among whom are the following pioneers: Lott Cary and Collin Teague; Henrietta Hall Shuck, first American woman missionary to reach China; Dr. George Green, first medical missionary to the Nigerian Baptist Mission; Reverend William B. Johnson, missionary to China who became the first Southern Baptist missionary to Indonesia.
Senior Pastors of First Baptist
1780-1786 Joshua Morris
1788-1824 John Courtney
1825-1833 John Kerr
1833-1835 Isaac Taylor Hinton
1836-1849 Jeremiah Bell Jeter
1850-1854 Basil Manly, Jr.
1854-1874 John Lansing Burrows
1876-1879 Ebenezer W. Warren
1879-1884 James B. Hawthorne
1885-1903 George Cooper
1905-1927 George W. McDaniel
1928-1934 Charles W. Daniel
1936-1968 Theodore F. Adams
1968-1982 Luther Joe Thompson
1983-2006 Peter James Flamming
2008-present James Green Somerville