Celebrating 150 years: First Baptist Church of Lincoln

First Baptist Church of Lincoln celebrates 150 years.

The First Baptist Church on 13th and K street lies adjacent to the capitol building.

The first building was finished in 1870 at 11th and L St., the second was built in 1888 at 14th and K St. Their newest building was built in 1965 at 13th and K St. and remains ever since. 

The church service today catered to 4 different congregations and cultures at the same time in a 2 hour long joint service, something that is very unique among any holy community.

“This church has been here for 150 years, early settlers, early life of Lincoln, putting down roots, getting things started,” Executive Minister of the American Baptist Church of Nebraska, Susan Gillies said. 

First baptist is a place for congregation for all communities and backgrounds, welcoming services for those ranging from the Karen people from Burma, as well as the Chinese, Sudanese, and English speaking communities.

“This church is a good example of multiculturalism where people maintain the vibrancy of their own culture, but also bring that together with other cultures, and that’s what so healthy for our communities,” Gillies said. 

They say, it all started with the mission, and successful missions overseas have brought a welcoming community back to Lincoln.

“In sending people out, the seeds that you sow often come back to you. In this case, the nations have come back to first baptist church. I think that’s what makes us strong. We’ve always had a strong heart and vision from mission,” former Pastor of 12 years at the First Baptist Church, Harry Riggs said. 

12 years ago, Pastor Harry Riggs first prayed door to door in the surrounding neighborhood. What came, was an entire refugee community from Burma that now uses the church alongside the 3 other congregations.

This diverse community congregation was his vision and has now become the environment of the baptist church.

“Churches last a long time when they’re vibrant and engaged, and that means caring about the communities in which they exist. They’ve got to be sending out love and energy and joy and affirming the communities they are in,” Gillies said. 

“Where we all worship together, that’s unique to Lincoln, that’s unique to many places. And so, we are not just occupants to our building, we’re partners in ministry,” Interim Pastor of First Baptist Church, John Leonard Harris said. 

“But I think we’ve got a great head start in a place where a lot of churches left years ago to go out into the other areas, we have stayed put, and I think that is a tremendous testimony to the grit and determination to minister where you’re planted,” Pastor Riggs said.

For the next 150 years, Pastor Harris says it can only get better from here.

“The history of this church in 150 years only means that’s just the first 150. We’ll see what the next 150 hold for us.” Pastor Harris said. 

They say the purpose of their church is to serve as the light in the darkness. They are welcoming of anyone who is in need of a little community help.

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