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Our Past and Present
Baptists in Bloomsburg boast a sometimes tranquil, sometimes turbulent history of 168 years, beginning with a Baptist service preached by Reverend J. Green Miles in 1841. After worshipping in temporary places, the congregation dedicated a permanent Baptist meeting house in July of 1859, and 19 original members received its charter on November 7, 1859. The popularity of Baptist Bible-based churches was developing in our region in answer to the hunger of residents for preaching that addressed the needs of daily life, not just hellfire and damnation. First English Baptist followed a Welsh Baptist church previously established on East First Street.
Ministers and laity alike have guided and left their inimitable marks on the present church from the days of Pastor J. R. Shanafelt who held the first regular services in 1861 to C. W. Smith who became the first full-time pastor in 1882, with many others in between and beyond. The beloved Pastor E. J. Radcliff served from 1915-1939 and refused a salary during the Depression. Pastor M. C. Hunsicker (1944-49) led the church to become debt-free. Kimber Kuster, as lay moderator, led the congregation in 1962. An auditorium in Hartline Science Center at Bloomsburg University bears his name, for his actual career was a biology professor at (then) Bloomsburg State College. He was followed by "super preacher" Dan Abrams (1963-67) and well-known community activist Vincent Siciliano (1968-98) who led the congregation through many "firsts" plus a new church building.
Besides Kimber Kuster, the laity has also produced many irreplaceable members whose contributions are treasured to the present day. Among these were C. B. Brockway, ambassador to Ecuador; George Supplee, a 27 year missionary to India; the entire Pursel family; and Ruth and Howard Fenstemaker. Ruth started the Girls' Guild in 1934, and Howard served as church organist for 50 years. His name graces the Fenstemaker Alumni House at Bloomsburg University where he taught seven languages. Others beloved by the congregation in even more recent memory include omnipresent greeter Al Price, choir mainstays Madge and Doug Ensley, our ever-productive historian Betty "Betz" Fisher, and indefatigable Head Usher, Bill Johnson.
In 1992 the church moved into a newly-built meeting house at 700 Millville Road in Bloomsburg. 2009 marks the sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary of the church's founding charter and promises to be a year full of special events and ministries to mark this milestone.
FEBC is a member of the Heartland Fellowship of the Northumberland Association, which is part of the American Baptist Churches, USA. These organizations are channels of our ministry, fellowship, outreach, and benevolence.
Additionally, the congregation is highly committed, through funds and volunteers, to local missions including the Bloomsburg Ministerium, Protestant Campus Ministries (Bloomsburg University), the Red Cross, Meals-on-Wheels, the Food Cupboard at Winona, the Women's Center, Bloomsburg's Tree Fest, the SERRV Center (in New Windsor, MD), the CROP walk, Relay for Life, Christmas Boxes (Samaritan's Purse), Habitat for Humanity, and the Bloomsburg Fair Ministry.
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