Faithful to God & His Word throughout the years
Devon Park Baptist Church was officially organized in 1889 as the Gibson Baptist Church with thirty-seven charter members.
The founding of the church was the result of events that dated back to 1885. In the summer of that year, preaching services, conducted by Rev. F.D. Cowley and Rev. Joseph McLeod, were held at Close’s Hall. In the same year, two Sunday Schools were organized, one in Gibson and the other at St. Mary’s Ferry, later known as North Devon. Prior to the organization of the church, these two Sunday Schools merged and became a major factor in the starting of the church. The meeting, at which the church was organized, convened on November 14, 1889, with Rev. F.D. Cowley as chairman. The following Sunday, November 17, 1889, the congregation dedicated the new church building which had already been constructed on a lot of land donated by A.F. Randolph.
The early history of the church has to do with not one but two congregations. In those days, in the community of Gibson, there were two Baptist Churches. The first was the Gibson Baptist Church, and the second was one which was organized on May 19, 1892, and was known as the Free Baptist Church of which Rev. J.T. Parsons was the first pastor.
In the Gibson fire of June 20, 1893, both churches lost their houses of worship. Although most of the community was destroyed by the fire, and the homes of many of the church members were still smoldering in ashes, both churches quickly decided to rebuild.
The Free Baptist Church, leased a lot on Neill Street for $8.00 a year, with the option to buy at any time. A church was constructed on the Neill Street lot and was dedicated on January 21, 1894.
The decision to rebuild the Gibson Baptist Church on July 4, 1893, just 2 weeks after the disastrous fire, resulted in the dedication of their new church building on December 24, 1893. This building, which has undergone several renovations and additions over the years, is still standing in the same location. Although it is no longer used as a church, it is regarded as a historic landmark.
In the fall of 1897, the building of a parsonage was commenced on a lot which has been purchased adjoining the church. In May 1898, the parsonage was ready for occupancy, at a cost of $1,700, for both the lot and parsonage. This spacious and stately house, with its gleaming hardwood floors, and magnificent view of the Saint John River, became the home for succeeding pastors until the building of the lovely parsonage on Clark Street seventy-six years later.
By 1907, the Gibson Baptist Church was known as the Broadway Baptist Church. Although Broadway Baptist Church was more Calvinistic in doctrine than the Neill Street Free Baptist Church, the two churches, after much deliberation, united. Rev. H.R. Boyer was called to be the first pastor of the united congregations. For a time following the union, Sunday services, youth, and prayer meetings were held on an alternating basis in both buildings, but eventually, only the Broadway Baptist Church property was retained.
In its one-hundred years, the church has been instrumental in assisting other churches in their organization and operation. Before the 1907 union, of Broadway Baptist Church and Neill Street Free Baptist Church, a group of seventeen members was dismissed to form the Olivet Baptist Church in Marysville, on October 23, 1892. In 1951 the transfer of forty members was granted on September 30, in order that they might form the First United Baptist Church of Nashwaaksis. For many years following the union, the pastor of the church also pastored the Kingsley United Baptist Church, a church with Free Will Baptist roots, until a pastor was called by that church in June 1979. The assistance which was given by the church to other churches was noted in a newspaper article on the history of the church in 1971 under the heading “Mother of Churches”.
To maintain its identity with the changing community and to be more easily located, the name was changed in 1918 from Broadway United Baptist Church to Devon United Baptist Church. In 1948 the church was renamed the Union Street United Baptist Church. This name was retained until the church was relocated to Clark Street, in 1974, and became known as Devon Park Baptist Church.
In the first 50 years of the church, it had ten resolute pastors, of these, Rev. H.H. Ferguson, Rev. D.C. Kaine, and Dr. David Kennedy are still affectionately remembered.
Dr. Vincent, a man of spiritual vision and sanctified wit, challenged the church to enlarge its vision and dedication to the Saviour’s work at home and overseas. Each year of his ministry, the missionary giving reached the largest in the church’s history. In 1966 the church purchased the 5.5-acre property on Clark Street for $25,000. It was paid for by the following year. The events of Dr. Vincent’s three-year ministry set the stage for the relocation of the church six years later.
On February 14, 1968, Rev. D. Bruce Moore became the pastor. In the first five years of his ministry, the growth of the church taxed the facilities, of the Union Street property, beyond its capacity. After much consideration and prayer, the church voted, on June 12, 1973, to relocate and rebuild the Clark Street site. An architect was hired to design a new building. In September 1973, the plans were accepted by the church. On October 16, 1973, the church voted to commence construction of the new building at a cost of $410,000. The sod-turning ceremony took place on October 27, 1973, and construction started immediately.
Two men of the church, who played a major part in the construction of the building, were Lloyd Fowler, as the contractor, and Irvine Curtis, as the Building Committee chairman. As the building neared completion, the cornerstone was laid by Deacon A.D. Neill on June 1, 1974.
Although the Union Street property was sold, in January 1974, for the sum of $73,000, the congregation was able to use most of the facilities until the end of June 1974. On Sunday, June 30, 1974, with great gratitude for the past and high hopes for the future, the congregation held the final services in the 74-year-old building.
The church was to reach still greater heights at the new location. From the time of the first services, on Sunday, July 7, 1974, and the dedication of the new building on Sunday, September 29, 1974, with Dr. Arthur C. Vincent preaching, the church was to move steadily forward.
Pastor Moore, who holds the honor of founding the school, has had the privilege of serving as the school principal several times during its history. Graduates have gone out from the school to a wide variety of Bible Schools, Technical Schools, Colleges, and Universities, as well as, into various fields of employment.
Due to the overflow congregations in the 550-seat auditorium, and cramped space for the operation of the growing Sunday School and Christian School ministries, the church voted in October 1979 to extend the church building. This extension, which increased the seating capacity of the auditorium, to approximately one thousand, and increased the Christian Education facilities, was completed in May 1980, at a cost of $308,000, including furnishings.
The financial giving of the church rapidly increased over the years from $36,857.21 in 1968 to a high in 1982 of $556,487.75. For a twenty-year period from 1968 to 1987, a total of $5,238,782.81 was raised for the work of the Lord at home and abroad. An occasion for much praise and thanksgiving was the complete liquidation of all indebtedness in 1985. This achievement, in less than eleven years from the time construction, started on the Devon Park Baptist Church facilities, was marked by a mortgage burning ceremony on Sunday, September 29, 1985.
In these years of extensive and expensive building, the soul-winning and missionary zeal of the church continued to strengthen. Judy Dickinson went forth, as a missionary to Austria. Milton and Mary Carr went out with Midwest Baptist Mission to Utah. Ray and Alice Boone, serving with Shantymen, made Devon Park Baptist Church their church home. Bob and Gail Gillen, went to Europe with Operation Mobilization. Debbie Lynne Kitchen, as a graduate of the Christian School, became a full-time staff member in the Atlantic provinces, with the Canadian Sunday School Mission. Michael Ralston felt God’s call to become an area representative with Child Evangelism Fellowship, in New Brunswick. In addition to those already named, the church has become involved in supporting several missionaries and missionary agencies around the world.
The church has been privileged to ordain two of its young men to the Gospel ministry, John McFee on May 19, 1981, and Derek Jones on March 24, 1985. John McFee became a pastor and Derek Jones became an evangelist.
The various areas of ministry have been furthered through the years by a staff of faithful and resolute men and women. In the ministries of music and education alone, such men as, Paul Saunders (1974 – 1978), Darwin Beale (1979 – 1986) and David Steeves (1993 – 2009) will be long remembered for their resolute and diligent service.
In this period of extensive growth, various conferences have been held at Devon Park Baptist Church, helping its members, and others, in winning the lost and building up the body of Christ. These conferences have brought to the church such outstanding church leaders as Dr. Jack Hyles, the beloved pastor of First Baptist Church, in Hammond, Indiana, and a great host of others. In music, the church has been blessed by such renowned musicians as Dr. Al Smith, the widely esteemed composer and singer.
During the more than twenty-one years of Pastor Moore’s ministry at Devon Park Baptist Church, many hundreds have professed faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. It is with much gratitude to God for these, and the hundreds of others who have come to Christ in the church’s long history of service, that the congregation celebrates the faithfulness of our God.
Senior Pastors of the Church:
B. N. Nobles – – – 1890 to 1893
F. D. Davidson – – – 1893 to 1897
J. B. Champion – – – 1897 to 1900
W. R. Robinson – – – 1900 to 1905
H. R. Boyer – – – 1907 to 1908
C. P. Wilson – – – 1908 to 1910
W. H. Jenkins – – – 1910 to 1913
H. H. Ferguson – – – 1913 to 1924
D. C. Kaine – – – 1924 to 1934
D. L. Kennedy – – – 1934 to 1938
A. B. Gibson – – – 1938 to 1965
A. C. Vincent – – – 1965 to 1968
D. B. Moore – – – 1968 to 1992
S. P. Little – – – 1993 to 2000
Lawrence Meade – – – 2000 to 2008
Terry Woodcock – – – 2008 to present
Names of the Church:
Gibson Baptist Church
1889 to 1905
Broadway United Baptist Church
1905 to 1918
Devon United Baptist Church
1918 to 1948
Union St. United Baptist Church
1948 to 1974
Devon Park Baptist Church
1974 to present