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Central Baptist Church

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Livingston, Texasmap
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In 1906, a new church building of red brick was constructed at a cost of $3,500. It soon became commonly known as “The Brick Baptist Church.” It was the first church with a baptistery inside the building. The Ladies Aid Society contributed $600 to pay for the pews and the stained glass windows.
In 1907, W. J. David, a former missionary to Africa, became pastor. In September 1908, the church felt there was a need for an association for Polk County and withdrew from the New Bethel Association and organized the Unity Baptist Association. The first meeting was held in Moscow, October 1909. The Membership Roll of the Livingston Baptist Church, as is recorded in the first available minute books dated 1899-1910, contains 233 names. Many named on this list remained as life-long members. Many of their descendants are members today. Alonzo Finch was pastor from 1911 to 1915. During his pastorate, the church adopted a number of innovations. In the fall of 1911, a church newspaper, The Livingston Baptist Helper, was begun, edited by Miss Addelle Green. A project of the Baracas and Philatheas classes, the paper was financed by fourteen of the town’s businesses. Pledge cards were used to promote giving. A parsonage was constructed on the same block as the church and was wired with electricity. Even though the church auditorium had electricity, it continued to be heated by wood stoves for many years. J. G. Looper became pastor in April 1915. The church voted to change the name of the church from “Livingston Baptist” to “Central Baptist Church” on March 13, 1917. The Baptist Standard was sent to every family in the church. The first recorded Laymen’s Sunday was held on March 24, 1917. During this period, Central Baptist Church purchased a house at the Baptist Encampment at Palacios. Many of the members enjoyed services at this retreat each summer. In 1921, L. S. Cole became pastor, followed by Earnest Baldwin in 1923. The church voted to build a large wooden building with a dirt floor for Sunday school needs. The estimated cost was $1,700. Later the building was floored and was used for over twenty years. It was referred to as the “Tabernacle.”
A former missionary to Brazil, R. A. Clifton (a son, or grandson of the first R. A. Clifton) became pastor in 1924. In the early 1920’s, the congregation began making plans for a new church auditorium. Completed in 1926, the new church auditorium was English-style architecture. The total cost was $32,000. The auditorium was used until 2009, when the new worship center was completed. After being pastor to Central Baptist Church for seven years, R. A. Clifton resigned to take another pastorate, and Arnold E. Rieman was called as pastor. After seven years, he was succeeded by James W. Read in 1940.
In March, 1941, a brick parsonage was constructed next to the church. The old parsonage was moved a short distance away and is still being used as a residence. The church auditorium, the wooden annex, and the parsonage are shown on the 1927 and 1935 Sanborn Maps of Livingston. During World War II, many men of Central Baptist served in the armed forces. An honor roll was placed on the auditorium wall, and the church also found other ways to contribute to the war effort. In January of 1943, Brooks Sasse became pastor. The total church budget was $6,700 in 1943, and the official newspaper for the church was the Informer, a name used until recent years. Ben H. Welmaker served as pastor from 1946 to 1950. By 1950, the membership was 949, with 729 resident members.
The first electric organ was installed. Two brick educational buildings were completed in 1949, located behind the auditorium where the wooden building had been, followed later by a third building. The church property was valued at $300,000. Total Membership was 1072.
Vester E. Wolber came to Livingston as pastor in May, 1951 and served until January, 1955. Wade Hopkin became pastor in March 1955. He was followed by James T. Garrett in March 1959, who served until his resignation in May, 1967.
In November, 1967, David Michael was called as pastor, and W. William Kennedy became pastor in 1973 and served until his death in 1989.
The income in 1967 was $63,027, 45% of which went to missions. In 1968, the church purchased two acres of land east of the original block for future expansion
A new parsonage was completed in 1974, located in the Briar Bend Subdivision of Livingston. The Unity Baptist Association purchased a home next to the parsonage for a residence for missionaries on furlough, enabling the church to be host to missionaries. The old parsonage remained for several years, used for various purposes. It was torn down about 2007 to make room for the new sanctuary. In 1974, the large attendance at morning worship caused the church to schedule two services on Sunday mornings. The Family Center, located across North East Avenue was completed in 1977. The cost was $350,000. It contains a kitchen, a large room for gatherings, and classrooms. A playground is behind the building.
During the 1980’s Central Baptist began its radio and television ministries. By 1989, the total membership of the church had grown to 1,245, with resident members of 913. The total receipts were over $400,000.
Central Baptist continued to grow in its educational programs, community outreach, and missions. Worship service attendance reached over 400, with annual receipts of over $500,000 by 1992. In 1992, the church voted to build a new educational building on the block north of the sanctuary. It is named for Ben H and Janice Welmaker. William Skaar was called as pastor in 1989 and served until 1999. Central Baptist entered the twenty- first century with church property valued at $6,000,000 and was debt free by the end of 2001. David Roberts served as pastor from 1999 to 2001. Barry Jeffries became pastor in 2004. In 2004 and after 30 years of two worship services, it became apparent that more room was needed for growth, and a building committee for a new sanctuary was formed. The construction on the 900-seat worship center was completed in early 2009. In 2009, the church property, consisting of the new worship center, the original sanctuary, office building, two educational buildings, and a family center is valued at $7,842,000. The church membership in 2008 was 1,626 members, which included 953 are resident members. Worship attendance averaged 421 weekly. Many are involved in Bible study, music, missions, discipleship training, and community outreach.
Along with its primary purpose of worship, the Baptist church at Livingston has emphasized education in the scriptures, for both children and adults, and missions. Sunday school, or “Sabbath School” as it was first called, began with the organized congregation in 1849. By 1913, in addition to Sunday school, the church was sponsoring the Baptist Young People’s Union (later named “Training Union), the Cradle Roll, and the Home Department. Vacation Bible School has been popular with children from all over the community for many years. Central Baptist Church is the direct result of mission efforts, and a concerted effort for missions have been emphasized throughout its history
In September 1904, the Ladies’ Aid Society was organized, and Mrs. H. Beamon Davis was its first president. Misses Nannie and Justa David of the Ladies’ Aid Society organized the Sunbeam Band for small children in 1910. The ladies sponsored mission organizations for older children by 1925. Over the years, this organization, later known as the Women’s Missionary Union and now known as Women on Mission, has inspired a love for missions within the church and has led to giving to home and foreign missions. A men’s organization, The Brotherhood, was active for many years. Several pastors of the Livingston church had been missionaries or became missionaries after their pastorates: J. W. D. Creath, E. Vining, Reuben H. Brown, D. W. Jackson, T. R. McCrorey, W. J. Davis, R. A. Clifton, Ben H. Welmaker, Lynn Sasser, and Ted Savage. Dr. Ben H. Welmaker resigned as pastor in 1950 to fill an appointment by the Southern Baptist’s Foreign Mission Board in Cali, Columbia. He was the head of the seminary in Cali for several years, and after his return, he served as interim pastor and as the seniors’ pastor.
As was previously planned by R. A. Clifton, the church contributed toward the Unity Association’s purchase of the Piney Woods Baptist Encampment at Woodlake in 1945. The camp has been modernized and has been used ever since. Central Baptist contributes toward its support. Since 1947, Central Baptist has sponsored several missions, most eventually becoming self-sustaining churches. Over the years, several young men of Central Baptist have been called to the ministry, and others have been called into other service. Other than Polk County and nearby counties, Central Baptist has impacted several states and foreign nations, either through mission trips, financial aid or by those from Central Baptist serving as missionaries: Rio Grande Valley, Wisconsin, Montana, South Dakota, Mexico, Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Guatemala,Ukraine, Zambia, Uganda and South Sudan. Central Baptist Church has played a very large part in the life of Livingston for all its many years. Beginning with a membership of less than twenty and no church building, it has become a growing, dynamic church with facilities for a thousand people. Its Christian influence on the community cannot be estimated. The church has provided a place of worship and prayer, comfort and joy, Bible study, training, fellowship, and community support. One of the largest churches in Livingston, it has had a significant impact on the community. In addition, its impact has been felt in many places in the world. All this would not have been possible without the first few devoted Christians in the nineteenth century, followed by many other like-minded Christians in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries who are dedicated to the church’s mission as outlined in its Vision and Mission Statement.

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