First Baptist Church of Georgetown Celebrates 150 Years

Street fair organizer Patrice Howard with First Baptist Church of Georgetown pastor, Rev. Robert Pines, in front of the church at 27th and Dumbarton Streets, N.W.
Robert Devaney
Street fair organizer Patrice Howard with First Baptist Church of Georgetown pastor, Rev. Robert Pines, in front of the church at 27th and Dumbarton Streets, N.W.

Georgetown's oldest Baptist church community continued its 150th anniversary celebrations Sept. 15 on Dumbarton Street in front of the First Baptist Church, Georgetown and in adjacent Rose Park. The festivities included food, music, dancing, a book and clothing sale, as well as a prayer table and games in the park. The Baptist church at 2624 Dumbarton Street, N.W., is one of Georgetown's historic black churches and welcomed the entire neighborhood to its Saturday street fair. The church will continue the celebration with a 150th Anniversary Prayer Breakfast on Sept. 29 -- and an anniversary ball in October. Its 12th pastor, Rev. Robert Pines, arrived at 2006. Pines -- who went to Georgetown Washington University and Dunbar High School -- says he feels like he is back in his old neighborhood.

Here is an excerpt from a summary on church history:

First Baptist Church, Georgetown was founded October 5, 1862 by the Reverend Sandy Alexander, a former slave. (Alexander also founded Jerusalem Baptist Church which is located at 26th & P Streets, N.W.) Before the formal organization of the church, Collins Williams, a licensed preacher from Fredericksburg, Va., and his wife Betsey had led religious meetings in Georgetown in private residences on 27th and P Streets, 27th and N Streets, and then at his own home. Williams donated a small piece of land at 29th and O Streets to be used for a church.

In 1856, Rev. Alexander came to Georgetown to start a Baptist church but found only two Baptists in the community. However, he was soon able to find many converts and built up a large congregation that was greatly expanded by the arrival of a group from the Shiloh Church of Fredericksburg. This congregation erected a small frame structure known as the "Ark" on the land donated by Collins Williams at 29th and O Streets. The building was soon found to be too small, and a committee of Brothers, Henry Lucas, William Wormley and William T. Brown selected the present site at 27th and Dumbarton Streets for the new building.

Rev. Alexander embarked on a trip north and solicited $300 for the new building while the members were able to negotiate a loan for another $300. The cornerstone for the church was laid in 1882. The male members of the church dug foundations at night, while the women cooked hot suppers. The cost of the stone foundations was $800 which exhausted the building fund so for a time the building stood incomplete. Finally, Rev. Alexander himself took over the responsibility of seeing that the building was completed. When the trustees went to make the church’s first payment on the note, the receipt was made out to the First African Baptist Church. Trustee William T. Brown refused to accept this receipt insisting that he represented the First Baptist Church. The receipt was torn up and another one, correctly worded, was written. Brother Brown had objected to the congregation being robbed of the honor of being the first church of the Baptist denomination in Georgetown.

There is a third Baptist church in Georgetown thanks to Rev. Sandy Alexander. It is the Alexander Memorial Baptist Church, founded in the first years of the 20th century, at 2709 N St., N.W.

Also, we should recall that it is the 150th anniversary of the D.C. Emancipation Act, signed into law in April 1862, followed by the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

For more information, visit FBCGT.org

Article updated Sept. 26 to include mention of Alexander Memorial Baptist Church on N Street in Georgetown.

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Sat, 20 Dec 2014 23:44:10 -0500

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