Although First Baptist Church was organized as Waynesboro Baptist Church in December, 1875, the pioneer Baptists laid a foundation for the growth of Baptist work in Waynesboro as early as 1835. Baptist families moving to this area first held services in a small building in the Oak Hill (Antioch) area on Lyndhurst Road but they were never organized formally. Our Sunday School began in 1872 in a home on Wayne Avenue and we were organized as a church in 1875 with a membership of 55. Most of these members came from Laurel Hill Baptist Church and Staunton Baptist Church. Dr. C. P. Manly, pastor of Staunton Baptist Church, helped With the organizing and served as the pastor until Rev. Samuel P. Huff was called here by the congregation.
The Baptists bought a small church building on Ohio Street (which is still standing as part of a larger building) from the Methodist congregation in 1874 and used it until 1891 when a new sanctuary was built on the comer of Chestnut Avenue and Eleventh Street under the leadership of Rev. H. G. Ferguson. The membership at that time was 120. The Woman's Missionary Union was organized in 1893 and the ground work was laid for the Waynesboro Public Library in 1912 by a young ladies Bible class in the church taught by Mrs. Mary C. Stevens.
Over the years several additions were made to the sanctuary building providing Sunday School rooms and a kitchen. In 1940 the sanctuary was remodeled and a new education building was dedicated. As the years passed, a growing membership required two services each Sunday morning and the purchase of a house on Wayne Avenue for overflow Sunday School classes. A mission of the church was operated in the Calf Mountain area for a time but was discontinued. A mission started in the Shenandoah Heights area, however, was organized as a church in 1949. We also helped organize and sponsor a church in Wayne Hills in 1956 and Westwood Baptist Church in 1959.
In April 1961, the decision was made to build a new sanctuary on the comer of Wayne Avenue and Eleventh Street. The first service was held in the new sanctuary March 10, 1963 and the old sanctuary was tom down in the mid 1970's. The most recent construction was the addition of a new Fellowship Hall on Wayne Avenue that connects to the present sanctuary building with a children's department on the lower floor.
The New Fellowship Hall, dedicated on March 27, 1997, quickly became a focus for community service as well as expanded church activities. The church has also hosted many community breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and meetings. The church takes part in the annual Lenten Luncheons sponsored by five local churches each year during the weeks of Lent. The New Fellowship Hall can be partitioned off into smaller rooms for Sunday School each week and small group meetings.
A community Christmas dinner for anyone who wished to attend was begun in 1997 (and continues each year) with food and entertainment provided by the church family, local businesses, and many non-members who wanted to help with the project. Taking part in this has become a tradition with many of our families.
On March 1, 2005, David B. Washburn became the twenty-first Senior Minister of First Baptist Church. Under his leadership the church would continue to grow in membership, serving the local community and beyond, and in sharing our faith with others. In October of 2007, a second worship service, The Awakening, a contemporary service held in the Fellowship Hall, was begun and has seen increased participation and outreach to the Waynesboro community.
On August 10, 2015, J. Barrett Owen became the twenty-second Senior Minister of First Baptist Church. Since his arrival, the church has begun a strategic planning process that looks to enhance the mission and ministry of the church as well as rebrand to create a more innovative and contemporary expression of mission. In less than a year, the attendance has increased by 40%, tithes are up 19%, and the children’s and youth ministries have doubled. Barrett credits this early success to a ripe and healthy time in the congregation’s history.
A comprehensive church history was written in 1999 and gives more detailed information about both church and W.M.U. history and special projects. Copies of this book are available from the church office.