And So it Begins

In July of 1870, Rev. John R. Downer of the Mission Society of Kansas was visiting in Kirkwood, Missouri, home of Dr. Benjamin F. Edwards. In the course of conversation the subject was broached of organizing a Baptist church in the community. The two men prayerfully discussed the prospects of such an endeavor and made a canvas of the known Baptists in the area. “They were happy to find that a number of those interviewed were pleased at the thought of a church of their own denomination.”

“Believing that the time was ripe for a start, invitations were extended to those interested,” asking them to a 3:00 p.m. meeting at the Presbyterian Church Building. On Sunday afternoon, July 31, 1870, fourteen members pledged themselves to become a new church. It was unanimously voted to adopt Articles of Faith as published by the American Baptist Publishing Society and Rev. Downer was invited to pastor the fledgling congregation known as First Baptist Church. “He accepted the call with the proviso that the American Baptist Home Mission Society would augment the small salary of $600.00 a year which the church could afford to pay him, so that he could adequately provide for his wife and four children.

July 31, 1870 – congregation meetings  begin in the Presbyterian Church

January 1, 1871, services begin being held in a hall on Kirkwood Road, owned by Dr. John Pitman.

February 4, 1871 –  Six candidates for membership were baptized at Third Baptist Church in St. Louis.

February 5, 1871 -the congregation celebrated its first Lord’s Supper together.

May 1872 – A deed to a lot near Washington Ave. and Webster Ave. (later called Kirkwood Road) was to given to the church by Mr. W.M. McPherson.

Late in 1874 – The eighteen-member church lead by Rev E.H. Sawyer found the means to erect its first sanctuary and adopted its first constitution.

1887  – Mission Sunday School, later known as the Rose Hill Mission, was organized in South Kirkwood.

1888 – Plans were begun for a larger building at the same location, Washington Ave. and Webster Ave. (later called Kirkwood Road). A Young People’s Society was organized and concern was raised for a building to house the mission Sunday School.

1892 – Rev. Sawyer returned to serve his second term with the congregation in

1896- the church doubled in membership to fifty-eight, the new building was completed, improvements had been made to the mission Sunday School, and the church had become self-supporting.

1898 – The church was renamed the Wetzel Memorial Baptist Church in honor of Mrs. Mary H. Wetzel of St. Louis who had given liberally toward the completion and furnishing of the church building shortly before her death.

1898 – 1902 – An additional fifty-seven members were added to the roll and  there came an awareness of responsibility for missions in the lives of individual members.

1905 – Rev. Burtt N. Timbie became the pastor and gave direction to enlarging the Sunday School facilities. The men of the church joined in the The Laymen’s Missionary Movement and The Men and Religion Forward Movement, as the movements took shape.

1917 – Reverend C.S.G. Boone became pastor guiding the church through the Great Depression. While finances were an ever-present worry, under his leadership membership grew.

1947 – Continued growth spurred the purchased of the property at 212 North Woodlawn, the site of the Woodlawn Inn. Originally known as the Lexington Hotel, the building had been used to accommodate visitors to the 1904 World’s Fair. At this time the church was again renamed becoming Kirkwood Baptist Church.

1954 – The second addition to the educational building was completed and the Valley Park Mission was established.

1959 – The present sanctuary was completed.

1967 – The third addition to the educational wing was added. Further developing its sense of mission in the community, the church, in cooperation with Parkway Baptist and St. Johns Baptist, helped to organize the Green Trails Mission.

1980s – Growth in all aspects of church life continued, particularly in Sunday School and church membership.

1982 The sanctuary was renovated.

1984 o- Restoration work began on the 27-rank Pilcher pipe organ.

1980’s – In conjunction with its decision to renovate, the church voted to set aside a tenth of the building fund receipts for missions. During the ’80s the church began to adopt more of a “hands-on” approach to sharing the gospel. Projects both locally and on “home and foreign fields” were undertaken.

1988 – Renovations were completed tin the educational space to accommodate 850 in Sunday School. Office space was remodeled and expanded; a new music suite was added; the Great Hall was refurbished, and the kitchen area was modernized.

June 1990 – The Church Leadership Council established. The group was intended in part to look at long-range planning with reference to space, parking, and other “Dreams of Faith” to date not fulfilled.

1990 – Because of controversy within the Southern Baptist Convention, KBC began to give consideration to alternative means of funding programs, agencies, and mission endeavors that to that point had been channeled through the SBC.

1991 -1992 – The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship formed and moderate Baptists, who felt uncomfortable with the current activities and decisions of the SBC, were able to unite and move toward some common goals. After much discussion in open meetings, deliberation through the Church Leadership Council, and prayer on the part of individuals, Kirkwood Baptist Church voted in 1992 to no longer send money through SBC boards and agencies, but to give directly the support of missions through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

March 14, 2001 – KBC members present at the regular business meeting unanimously approved a resolution from the Church Leadership Council stating that we disaffiliate ourselves from both the Southern Baptist and Missouri Baptist Conventions.

Today, KBC continues a strong commitment to persons throughout the greater St. Louis communities who hurt and are in need of support. Twelve-step recovery groups meet each week in our facilities. Workshops are offered periodically to help persons who are co-dependent or struggling with chemical addictions. And we are actively involved in Kirkcare and Educare to meet the needs in our own neighborhood.

The missions thrust of Kirkwood Baptist Church today includes education, action, and support. Church members have been actively involved involved in partnerships with churches in England, Cuba, St. Lucia, South America, Poland and various areas in the United States. Members support our mission activities through financial giving, prayer and personal participation in the mission locations.

Finally, Kirkwood Baptist Church unites in worship to praise God, to pray, to hear God’s Word and to respond with our lives and resources. The congregation participates in every aspect of worship. We employ a variety of music and forms in our worship. We are inclusive in our language and expression, which fully honors and welcomes all persons.