PALMER — Congregating for the first time in 1873 and turning 144 years-old this year is the First Baptist Church of Palmer, which is now under the leadership of Pastor Paul Gauntt. Gauntt is the forty-sixth pastor of the church and, after a four-year hiatus, moved the congregation back to its 117-year-old home just over one year ago.
“About six years ago, the pastor that was here felt the need to move the worship services over to our daycare. Our church built a daycare center in 2008 and when the economy tanked it went belly up,” Gauntt explained. “The payments for the center were high and the pastor at the time thought it would be the best choice to move there since they had to pay so much for it. They worshiped there in four years.”
Though the relocation was not ideal for long-time members, they would soon return to their home. The rich history of the sanctuary picked back up where it left off in the fall of 2015 after Gauntt became the pastor.
According to the PFB website, “In the early years, the church had no building of its own and met in homes until about 1881 when they began to share a union church building. The union church held services for the Presbyterians one week of the month, the Methodists one week, the Christians one week, and the Baptist one week. [...] On March 28, 1900, the church purchased three lots at the cost of ninety dollars on which to build a church building. The building begun in 1900 and was designed and constructed by Jake and Frank Schwartz from Illinois at the cost of $4,000 and was completed in 1901.”
The original structure has been kept up as well as possible with few additions and changes made. Two of the biggest changes were the addition of a balcony providing 100 extra seats 25 years ago and the replacement of the original, curved pews.
“When I came here, the plan was to sell the daycare and move back to the original sanctuary. I suggested that we go ahead and move back and sell the daycare center empty because we needed to be back in the old church,” Gauntt said. “We had some insurance money from a hailstorm which damaged the roof and for the vandalization that destroyed our education building. We collected the insurance money, raised about $50,000 and for about $150,00 we completely redid the inside of the buildings, the Pew paneling, some of the outside of buildings and completely repurposed the education building which serves as our academy.”
The congregation was more than happy to return to their home in November 2015.
“Everyone pitched in to help get it done, even the pastor put on the door knobs. It’s not as big or efficient as the other building, but it has its own charm. The other building served great, but it was a building that could’ve been used for anything,” Gauntt said.
The church is now back in full swing and has welcomed back many of its long-time members, as well as newcomers.
Sunday school begins at 9:30 a.m., worship starts at 10:45 a.m. following with an evening service at 5:00 p.m. For more information, please call, (972-845-2199) or visit at 200 S. Sherman Street Palmer, TX.
Kelsey Poynor, @KPoynor_WDL