March 26 • 04:41 PM

Economy takes a bite out of Imlay's history

First Baptist Church to close doors after 137 years in area

December 02, 2009
IMLAY CITY — For financial reasons, the First Baptist Church of Imlay City will close its doors later this month after 137 years in the community.

The nearly 50-member congregation will meet for the last time on Dec. 13 for a 10:30 a.m. service followed by an 12-2:30 p.m. open house where fellowship and memories will be shared.

This Sunday, Dec. 6, the church will host a farewell potluck dinner for Pastor Gary Freel and his family after Sunday services. Freel has served the First Baptist Church since August 2003.

Pastor Gary Freel
"I've enjoyed the church and the people that I've worked with," Freel said of First Baptist. He and wife, Lori were also very pleased with the education their four children have received at Imlay City Schools, he added.

"We're sorry that we have to leave."

First Baptist members at their Oct. 21 membership meeting made the decision to close their doors.

Freel said the church building on Weston Street will be turned over to the Mid-Michigan Baptist Association who will handle the sale of the property and then put the proceeds into a trust.

Longtime member Jan Fritch said she and fellow worshippers don't know what the future holds but they'll "go where ever the Lord leads."

The First Baptist Church was officially established in 1872. The original members began meeting Nov. 8, 1871 at a school house on Fourth Street. The following January, they voted to adopt a declaration of faith and articles of association for the First Baptist Church. They built their first church at 404 N. Almont Ave. in June 1872—reportedly the first house of worship to be built in Imlay City. Today the structure is home to the Imlay City Church of the Nazarene.

Nearly 100 years later, the congregation decided to erect a new building and purchase the Weston St. property in 1963. Services were held there starting in Sept. 1964.

Through the years, the church marked their centennial and sesquicentennial milestones with special events that often saw former pastors and missionary interns returning for the celebrations.

Church members have served as far away as Kodiak Island, Alaska, during a two-week mission work tour. Closer to home, the church has hosted vacation bible school and other youth-related activities and regularly organized bake sales outside of Imlay City businesses.

The First Baptist Church is one of 25 American Baptist churches in the Flint and surrounding area that comprises the Mid-Michigan Baptist Association, which is a regional arm of the American Baptist Churches of Michigan and the American Baptist Churches USA denomination.

Dr. Michael Williams and Rev. Ron Cary of the American Baptist Churches of Michigan will participate with Freel in the Dec. 13 service.

Contact the church at 724-8240 for more information about the potluck or open house.

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she now resides north of Capac where she enjoys working on the farm, gardening and reading.
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