First Baptist Church of Chillicothe
Our God is Able              Ephesians 3

About Our Church

 On July 13, 1824, David Nickens, Elder William White, DD of the Deer Creek Presbyterian Church and Rev. Nathan Cory, a Baptist, met with several African American citizens at the Nickens home with the purpose of organizing a Baptist Church . David Nickens, Abraham Nickens, William Thomas, Benjamin Jonas, Minty Day, Sarah Nickens, and Ruth Nickens were present at this meeting and questioned concerning the articles of faith. Elder White read the Covenant and then gave those assembled their charge and extended the right hand of fellowship. It was in this way that the First Regular African Baptist Church of Christ in Chillicothe was born. William Collings recorded the events. Five days later, the Revs. Cory and White began preparing Nickens for ordination. He was granted a license in October 1824 and ordained in 1825. He was the first man of color to be ordained in Ohio . The ordination permitted him to perform marriages and serve the sacraments of the Church.  The new congregation baptized 20 new members and ordained the first deacon, Abraham Nickens. They then established articles of decorum with one important item pledging them to work for the abolition of slavery.  

The new church adhered to the strictest moral standards. Drinking alcohol was not allowed, working on Sunday was not permitted, and persons living together must be man and wife. Women who bore children out of wedlock were also censured. Members were required to attend church and forbidden to take part in “worldly plays.” Many of the new members were skilled craftspeople and workers and were property owners in the community. On July 5, 1832, Nickens and his congregation joined with the congregation of the AME Church to protest the inadequacy of the rights for people of color. He charged that “the racial suffering of African Americans was linked to an unjust government.” Later in this same year, Nickens went to Cincinnati to assist in the organization of an Anti-slavery Baptist Church , but continued to serve the Chillicothe church until 1836 when Rev. Wallace Shelton followed Rev. Nickens as pastor. In 1842, Rev A.D. Fox was called to pastor the congregation and was afforded a salary of grand sum of $300.00 per year. He was followed by Rev. W.C. Carter in 1845 and Rev. John Bowles in 1848. Bowles served as pastor until 1860.

Prior to the Civil War, the congregation was instrumental in providing education for the young people of the community.  Rev. John R. Bowles and Mrs. A.E. Chancellor were early teachers operating a school in the church building. Members of the congregation excelled in the field of music. In the 1850’s, Rev. Bowles organized a choral group with James D. Hackley as the director.  Hackley’s fine tenor voice was well suited for leading songs for this group and the choir was considered the finest in southern Ohio . 

In 1867, the congregation purchased a brick structure at 65 West Fourth Street from the New Jerusalem Society. This same year, the name was changed to First Baptist Church . In 1894, the baptismal pool and Sunday school rooms were added. Then, in 1896, an extension was added at the back of the church and the stained glass windows dedicated.

The late 19th century found the Sunday School Department of the church active and the Sunday School meeting regularly with sister churches in the Second District Sunday School Convention. Ministers serving in the latter part of the 19th century were: Rev. Jesse Meeks, Rev. Isaiah Redman, Rev. H.H. Butler, Rev. John W. Carter, and Rev. Wallace Shelton for the second time, Rev. H.H. Williams, Rev. A N Howe, Rev. H. J. Storts, Rev. J. F. Walker, and Rev. Henry Randolph.

The church was quite active in community affairs during the 20th century. The congregation affiliated with the Ohio Baptist Association and the Eastern Union Baptist Association. The congregation purchased a parsonage and both properties adjacent to the church. Other improvements to the church structure were made and the auxiliaries of the church flourished.

The following devoted leaders served the congregation in the 20th century: Rev. P. H. Hill, Rev. B. S. Merchant, Rev. Forest Mitchell, Rev. Charles Douglas, Rev. W. H. Reynolds, Rev. A.L. Dooley, Rev. Melvin Woodard, (20 years), Rev. Bernard Cooper, Rev. Paul Schooler,   Rev. J. A. Outlaw, Rev. Donald Thompson, Rev. Melvin Woodard (10 years), and Rev. David Tanneyhill.

An era of progress seems likely in the 21st century. To date the following progress can be noted. In 2002, a new structure was erected and dedicated. It houses a convocation hall, a new kitchen, as well as office facilities. The lower floor of the new structure houses a clothing bank, nursery, computer room, assembly hall, and classrooms. In 2006, the former Fellowship Hall was refurbished and re-dedicated as “Woodard Hall”. Changes were made and the church ministries expanded to include a Van Ministry, Children’s Church, Children’s Nursery, the addition of 2 Sunday Services, Mass Choir, Praise Team and the establishment of a Scholarship Fund. Several existing ministries that continued to grow include the Missionary Society, Usher Board, Deacon Board, Deaconess Board, as well as the Trustee Board. 

Rev. Jonathan McReynolds served as pastor for the first seven years of the century. In January of 2009, Rev. Michael Alston of Baltimore , Maryland became the spiritual leader of the First Baptist Church  and served until 2012.

Rev. Eric Carson, of Columbus, Ohio was called to the pulpit in  April of 2014 and served until August  of 2023.

In August of 2023, The Rev. Moses Edwards Jr.  of Columbus, Ohio, was installed as Pastor.