First Baptist Church in Cape counting down to 175th anniversary

Saturday, October 18, 2008
FRED LYNCH ~ Members of First Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau worship Sunday in the sanctuary.

First Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau is gearing up to celebrate its 175th anniversary Aug. 13. The church was organized on that date in 1834 with only nine members.

Rather than setting aside only one day for commemorating the long life of the church, First Baptist is using the theme "Countdown to 175" and planning activities all the way up to the anniversary. While honoring the past, it is looking to the future to continue its ministry. Even though all the festivities aren't completely decided upon, some events have already begun the countdown.

On Sunday, First Baptist had a joint worship service with Second Missionary Baptist. Second Missionary was formed out of First Baptist Church more than 100 years ago.

The festivities continue Nov. 23 with "A Celebration of Gifts" Thanksgiving Banquet. The banquet will be led by members of First Baptist who will sing or share other talents.

On Dec. 7 a "Christmas Praise Sing" will be held at 4 p.m., engaging choirs from other area churches.

On Aug. 13, among other happenings, speaker, author and pastor Dr. Tony Campolo will be the special guest.

First Baptist is inviting former staff members to come back and speak or sing on different days throughout the year and something related to the anniversary will be focused on each month.

FRED LYNCH ~ The praise team at First Baptist Church, from left, Collin Swoboda, Elliott Swoboda, Becky Swoboda and Brenda Shupert lead the call to praise Sunday.

Members will be placing a plaque on the wall at the original building site on Lorimier Street. After residing on Lorimier Street for 60 years and growing from nine to 92 members, the church moved to Spanish Street and Broadway, where it remained for 34 years. The congregation relocated again, this time to a church they built at Broadway and Harmony Street. After 78 years at that site, the church moved a third time, in 2006, to its present location on Lexington Avenue.

"Looking back helps remind us of all the ones who have gone before us, people who sacrificed and served God," said Bob Phillips, chairman of the Countdown to 175 committee. "We hope this will inspire everyone to seek to be what God has called us to be today."

"First Baptist Church is a great church, and to be a part of Cape Girardeau for 175 years is a big deal," said the Rev. Mike Shupert, senior pastor of First Baptist. "The Bible says over and over again to remember. We need to appreciate all those who have gone before us and sacrificed to build this church and its ministries. Looking at the stories of the past should help us do that.

"God's not finished with us yet," Shupert said. "He gave us a new beginning recently as we've moved to our new facility at 1289 Lexington Avenue. But we still want to embody the spirit and attitude of our founders who believed strongly in missions and reaching out."

FRED LYNCH ~ The Rev. Mike Shupert presents the message at First Baptist Church.

According to Shupert, First Baptist Church is a pioneer in many areas. "We now have women deacons and ordained women in the ministry," he said.

Some current ministries are Chinese Bible study at the Baptist Student Center on campus, Socrates Cafe for young adults and Parents' Night Out. The church also provides limousine service to seniors because the cars "are easy to get in and out of."

"The new location, blended worship and new programs for young adults and families have all played a role in the growth of the church," Shupert said.

The pastor also said the church has some plans for the future.

FRED LYNCH ~ Becky Shupert mixes oil, water and soap with a story to accept each other during the "Children's Moment" at First Baptist Church.

"We are focusing on niche ministries, special things that God has called and gifted us to do," Shupert said. "His passion is to see people come alive when they discover their gifts and talents, and find their place of service where they are fruitful and fulfilled."

Schupert thinks the Countdown to 175 is going to be a great celebration because "the people have a real appreciation for history. A good sign is that everyone is excited about what's going on today and in the future. They are not longing for the good old days; they see the past as something to celebrate and learn from as they seek to be faithful today."

The stained-glass window from the baptistery at the old First Baptist Church on Broadway made the move to the new church building.
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