First Baptist Church in the City of New York

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The First Baptist Church in the City of New York is a Christian congregation based in a sanctuary built in 1891 at the intersection of Broadway and West 79th Street in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York at the 79th Street subway station (1 2 trains). The First Baptist Church in the City of New York is a conservative, independent, evangelistic, mission-oriented church in fellowship with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, based in Schaumburg, Illinois. Regular services are held on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Sunday School begins at 9:30 a.m.

Revolutionary years[edit]

Rev. John Gano, George Washington's chaplain and captain in the Continental Army

The first attempt to establish a Baptist presence in New York City dates to 1711, when William Wightman began his ministry. A church was built on Gold Street but disbanded eight years later because of financial recession. Earlier attempts at forming a Baptist church in Flushing, Queens took place by William Wickenden and others in the 1650s.[1]

In 1745, Jeremiah Dodge settled in New York City, and began holding prayer meetings in his home. He was a member of the Fishkill Baptist Church. When he learned of Benjamin Miller at nearby Scotch Plains (New Jersey) Baptist Church he asked him to come and hold preaching services at the prayer meetings, which he did. Other ministers preached to this group from time to time, and in 1753, all thirteen of them joined Scotch Plains (New Jersey) Baptist Church after Miller had baptized some of them. They were organized as an independent Baptist church on June 19, 1762 by Benjamin Miller and John Gano, the latter being called as Pastor and took the name "First Baptist Church in the City of New York". Pastor Gano served as pastor until 1776 when he became Chaplain in General Washington's American Army. John Gano (Hopewell Township, New Jersey on July 22, 1727 - August 10, 1804) was ordained as pastor of the Scotch Plains, New Jersey, Baptist Church on May 29, 1754. In 1760, he became the founding pastor of what became two years later the First Baptist Church in the City of New York, now located at the intersection of Broadway and 79th Street.

The church supported the American Revolution even though New York City was occupied by British forces from the summer of 1776 for the duration of the war. Elder Gano joined the army and was a chaplain to General George Washington. On his return to New York City after the revolution, Gano found thirty-seven members who restored the church building and grew thereafter to two hundred. When the Congress offered former revolutionary soldiers land on the frontier, Gano departed from New York to Kentucky. There he started several Baptist churches. He was also a founder of the Baptist-affiliated Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Early 19th century[edit]

In 1802, The First Baptist Church built a new stone structure at its site on Gold Street. Under the leadership of Dr. Spencer Cone, the congregation relocated in 1842 to the intersection of Elizabeth and Broome streets in a Gothic structure, still in use by another church today. This was also the headquarters of the Baptist Home and Foreign Mission Board.

When the congregation outgrew the facility, it moved further uptown with population to the intersection of 39th Street and Fourth Avenue.[2] Under the leadership of Dr. Thomas Anderson, a Gothic brownstone sanctuary was constructed, as well as a separate Bible school building.

Symbolism of the Sanctuary at Broadway and 79th Street[edit]

The sanctuary at Broadway and 79th Street, with unequal towers
Inside the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church

Isaac Massey Haldeman was the pastor who thus far has served the longest tenure at First Baptist Church—from 1884 to 1933. Six years after his arrival, The First Baptist Church relocated to the present facility, which occupies a site that, because of a bend in the direction of Broadway, is prominent from a distance down the avenue; and it is also adjacent to the 79th Street subway station (1 2 trains).

The First Baptist Church building was designed by George M. Keister, who also planned the Apollo Theater. A balcony was added in 1903. This created a seating capacity of one thousand. Two unequal towers over the corner entrance to the main auditorium are examples of biblical symbolism. The taller tower represents Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church. The lower tower, which appears incomplete, was designed to represent the Church, which will remain unfulfilled until the return of Christ. Two shorter towers represent the Old Testament and the New Testament.

A large rose window facing Broadway pictures Christ as the center of the New Testament church. He is in the large inner circle. The star depicts Him as the Bright and Morning Star. The crown shows Him as King of Kings. The frame of sun portrays Him as the Sun of Righteousness. The five upper circles depict the writers of the New Testament Epistles, while the bottom four circles represent Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the Gospel authors.

First Baptist Church in the City of New York faith and practice[edit]

The five front steps of the sanctuary conform to the teaching that salvation is by the grace of God alone through Jesus. The First Baptist Church in the City of New York teaches the "faith once delivered to the saints":

(1) Sovereignty of the Trinity (God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)

(2) Inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture

(3) The Virgin Birth of Christ

(4) The sinlessness of Jesus

(5) Christ's vicarious atonement at Calvary

(6) Bodily resurrection and ascension of Christ

(7) The pre-tribulation rapture of the church

(8) The pre-millennial return and reign of Christ.

In the church's Gano Chapel are paintings of Gano's baptizing Washington and of Gano's praying in thanksgiving for the British surrender. They are copies of originals located at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. The college collection includes Gano's sword, which was a gift from General Washington, who had received it from the French General Marquis de Lafayette.

List of First Baptist Church in the City of New York pastors since 1884[edit]

First Baptist Church has had eighteen pastors, two of whom were chaplains of the United States Congress. Two were also college presidents. Two founded colleges. Collectively, the pastors have written more than three hundred books, mostly on the Christian religion. Many have been denominational leaders.

  • I. M. Haldeman, 1884–1933
  • William H. Rogers, 1934–40
  • Arthur Williams, 1941–47
  • William L. Pettingill, 1948–50
  • Arthur Whiting, 1950–55
  • Peter Hoogendam, 1956–65
  • Carl E. Elgena, 1965–68
  • William Fliedner, Jr., 1972–75
  • Richard D. Burke, 1976–98
  • Robert C. Gage, 2000–07
  • Matthew C. Hoskinson, 2010–present

First Baptist was led by a number of interim ministers during years without a pastor.


  1. ^ Albert Henry Newman, A history of the Baptist churches in the United States, Volume 2 of American church history series, edition 6 (C. Scribner's sons, 1915), pg. 233
  2. ^ Fourth Avenue above 32nd Street was later renamed Park Avenue.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°47′3″N 73°58′49″W / 40.78417°N 73.98028°W / 40.78417; -73.98028