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100 years of God's faithfulness: Immanuel Baptist celebrates centennial this weekend

Immanuel Baptist Church is lcoated at 655 Sixth St. in Westbrook

WESTBROOK -- Just one day shy of the actual milestone, members of Immanuel Baptist Church will celebrate "100 Years of God's Faithfulness" on Sunday.

A Council of Recognition to make the new church official was convened Nov. 17, 1908, according to the church history, and a week later, Immanuel Baptist's first pastor, N.H. Byers, was unanimously called to lead the new congregation.

Immanuel's current pastor, the Rev. Rob Adams -- 11th in the church's history -- has been part of the committee organizing the centennial efforts, which included the publication of a history booklet. He explained that the church's roots can be traced back to the founding of the town of Westbrook in 1900.

"In July 1900, some Baptists, among others, came to the new town to make their homes and avail themselves of the opportunities of a new trade center," the history records.

"These early settlers very soon sensed the need in a new and growing community of having a place to worship and find Christian fellowship. While they pondered how to achieve this desire with limited funds, two events in 1901 coincided to bring this about. First, the corporation that platted the village promised to give a lot to the first church that would erect a building for worship. Secondly, Mr. Hubbel, a local farmer, offered to give $500 toward its cost when finished. With these inducements, this group of Baptists proceeded to build the original structure known as the Calvary Baptist Church."

Alas, several families moved away, and within about five years, Calvary Baptist disbanded. No worship services were conducted in the building for two years.

But there was an active group of Danish and Norwegian Baptists located in the area between Storden and Westbrook, and with the coming of the railroad, this group decided to move to Storden. The members who lived in or close to Westbrook began to look toward starting their own church. At first they met in homes, but by the fall of 1908, it was decided to organize a church body and acquire the former Calvary Baptist building. There were 22 original members.

"Every one of the names of the charter members is a good Scandinavian name -- Carlson, Hanson, Nelsen, Peterson, Andersen, Larson -- a lot of 'sons,'" Adams noted.

"Naming the church was given profound consideration," the history continues. "With a deep sense of the truth of Christ's words, 'Without Me ye can do nothing," and one of His names, 'Immanuel,' meaning 'God with us,' the name Immanuel Baptist Church was chosen."

Byers served as pastor through May 1915, and during his tenure Immanuel experienced steady growth.

"Early in 1913, the church experienced a great revival at which time 40 converts were added," the history details. "As these new members were added, the church began to outgrow its facility. Therefore, a new addition was authorized: a basement was dug, the bell tower was added, and a furnace installed. Baptisms were conducted at Double Lake until February 1913, when a baptistery was built. These improvements were dedicated at a special service on Jan. 1, 1914."

Other building acquisitions or projects were undertaken over the years: A new parsonage was purchased in 1937 for $3,100 (the old one sold for $1,200); the addition of a basement, new kitchen and baptistery was finally dedicated in 1949, having been delayed a few years earlier due to the lack of building materials during World War II; a Hammond organ was added in 1953; an education unit was built and the main auditorium remodeled and dedicated in June 1969; in 2006, the church became handicapped accessible with the addition of an elevator.

Although it has changed drastically over the years, "everything was built off the original building" that was Calvary Baptist, according to Adams. Another notable addition to the church was the beginning of a Christian school in the fall of 1978 and eventual construction of a school wing.

"We did have a Christian school from 1978 to 2006," Adams explained. "This would have been its 30th (anniversary), but we had to close it. Our enrollment was down to two; for one year we had only two students. It didn't make a lot of sense (to continue the school ministry.)"

Today, the congregation at Immanuel Baptist numbers 45, and despite its small size, Adams characterizes it as an active and vibrant group.

"We've been here four years, and we're able to be full-time, even with the small congregation," said Adams, who is assisted in his ministry by wife Debby. "We have an active children's program, things for the women, things for couples, and we support several missionaries."

Immanuel Baptist is an independent Baptist church, affiliated with the Minnesota Baptist Association, a fellowship of independent Baptist churches in Minnesota specifically geared toward church planting; and the New Testament Association of Baptist Churches, a national fellowship of independent Baptist Churches.

"We take what is commonly called a fundamentalist position," Adams explains on the church's Web site: "We believe in the Old Time Religion: The Bible is the fully inspired Word of God; Jesus is the incarnate, virgin-born Son of God; Jesus died upon the cross and shed His blood to pay the penalty for our sin; Jesus rose from the dead bodily on the third day; Jesus Christ is coming again, prior to the Tribulation, to rapture the believer, and one day He will come and rule this earth as King of Kings; it is important to earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints (Jude 3)."

The usual schedule at Immanuel Baptist is morning worship at 9:30 a.m. Sunday; Sunday school at 10:45 a.m.; a Sunday evening service at 6 p.m.; and midweek service at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

But for the anniversary celebration, some special events are planned.

"Every living former pastor will be here to participate, and there are four of them," said Adams. "We have about 160 people coming to the banquet that we're having, mostly former members and former school students."

Events will begin with an open house at the church beginning at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. There will be a light supper, a time of reminiscing and a chalk drawing by former pastor the Rev. Rodney Benson. There will be three services on Sunday, each featuring a former pastor: 9:30 a.m., the Rev. Wil Peterson; 10:45 a.m., the Rev. Jim Odens; 2 p.m., the Rev. Dean Fitzsimmons. The afternoon service will also include music by a choir of former and current members.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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