Letter: Church has rich history in Franklin

To the editor:

I feel it is important to tell some interesting facts about First Baptist Church and its congregation that maybe you didn’t know or had forgotten.

It is unique in many ways.

It is the oldest church in Franklin (1832), and its members also helped start Franklin College (1834). If you note, some of the names on the beautiful stained glass windows, they are some of the same people.

When I attended Franklin College in the late 50s, President Harold Richardson and many of his staff also attended First Baptist Church. Students at the college sang in the choir at First Baptist Church. It was still known as a baptist college. The Richardson Chapel at Franklin College are members of that same family.

That is the place now where First Baptist Church members will be paying rent to use each Sunday morning. Franklin College trustees Cliff and Paula Dietz were active members of First Baptist Church and are responsible for many things that continue at Franklin College, such as the Dietz Center and the baseball field, in honor of their grandson and recognition of outstanding faculty members each year.

First Baptist Church was the largest church in the area. It had a balcony and unlike other old churches, the floor of the sanctuary does not slope to the altar, but is level.

First Baptist Church has gone through more architectural changes probably that any other church in the area (1923, 1951, 1992).

Did you know there are four floors in the sanctuary level and three levels to the educational building?

In the 1950s and 1960s, First Baptist Church was the first church to broadcast its services on the radio via the station at Franklin College. Twelve radios were purchased at Arvin’s Co. in Columbus. Each weekend, they were taken to the elderly and convalescing in hospitals.

Did you know why Franklin has a sister city in Kuji, Japan? Dr. Thomasine Allen, a member of First Baptist Church, was a missionary to Kuji, Japan before World War II. While she was incarcerated during the war, she made a wooden cross she would bring out when she taught lessons to the Japanese. The cross is still used today. She started a Christian school there and later, a college. Hence, why Kuji and Franklin are sister cities.

Members of First Baptist Church have always been devoted to Christian outreach within our community and in the world. Did you know that the InterChurch Food Pantry started in the basement of First Baptist Church? Members of the First Baptist Church helped start an annual Thanksgiving banquet at Scott Hall as an idea to help people recover from the flood. A member of the church, Eddy Teets was integral to the Good Cheer Fund.

It was a long tradition that people from all over Franklin and the surrounding area looked forward to their tradition of attending Christmas Eve services at First Baptist Church. There were candles lit in each stained class window, lots of music, etc. The ambiance and atmosphere was unparalleled.

First Baptist Church and Second Baptist Missionary Church on Madison Street have joint services several times during the year at each other’s churches. Out staff will be moving their office to their church.

I hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane. Mary Alice Medlicott, the longest remaining member of First Baptist Church and former Franklin College historian, helped me with the facts. Eddy Teets, a member of First Baptist Church is responsible and can tell you about No. 5 and No. 7 above.

Betty Chastain