From its beginnings, First Baptist has been involved in strategic ministries. In the late nineteenth century, our church became a center for the women’s suffrage movement in upstate New York: in 1902 meetings of the Tompkins County Suffrage Association took place in the church parlor, and in 1914 a mass meeting of suffragettes from nine counties met at the church. First Baptist was willing to take real risks because it saw the marginalizing of women as a biblical justice issue.
The church has been willing to stand up and be counted on other controversial issues as well. It was willing to do so during the civil rights turmoil of the 1950s and ’60s and also during the Viet Nam War in the late 1960s and ’70s. In the 1980s, it became a leader of the “Sanctuary” movement in the Ithaca area, calling “upon the U.S. government to acknowledge the right of Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees to political asylum.” First Baptist declared its opposition to the deportation of “refugees as long as persecution, torture and murder of civilians continued.” The church has continued its active support of refugees into the present.
For decades, First Baptist has been a champion of inclusiveness. It has long been a home to people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered. In 1997, as a result of the current move by some within the American Baptist Churches of the USA to disfellowship Welcoming and Affirming churches, FBC took the step of becoming a member of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. (Drawn from an account by Mike Easterling)
Founded after the harvest season of 1821 by 23 people in Danby, New York, the church moved a few miles north to Ithaca in 1826. The first home for the First Baptist Church in Ithaca was built in 1831, with a young Ezra Cornell serving as one of the carpenters. Upon the building’s destruction by fire in 1854, a second structure was built and used until the growing community required a larger building. The present structure was completed in 1890, with financial assistance from John D. Rockefeller. Its architect was William Henry Miller, who designed a number of major buildings on the Cornell campus and in downtown Ithaca. Now widely recognized as an example of Romanesque architecture, the building has been called the “Jewel of DeWitt Park.” In 1971 it was designated a historic landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission of the City of Ithaca. It is also listed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Landmarks.
Click here for a list of our past pastors.
What does the Lord require of you?
To do Justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.
Peace to all who enter here.