MARLBOROUGH, Mass. (BP) – The revitalization story of First Baptist Church features a pastor’s dying wish, a merger with a church plant and the church’s first VBS in more than 30 years.
First Baptist Church of Marlborough has been a prominent presence in downtown for more than 150 years. Despite having a congregation of hundreds in the 1970s, the church had slipped down to around 12 attendees by 2021.
That all changed when the First Baptist merged with a neighboring young church plant called Hope Community Church.
Since the merger, First Baptist now has about 75 average attendees.
Terry Dorsett, executive director/treasurer for the Baptist Convention of New England (BCNE), described the revitalization of First Baptist as “the most wonderful thing we’ve seen in years.”
“The older people had the wisdom, commitment and love for the community, while the younger people brought the energy and the kids,” Dorsett said.
“Those initial services with the two congregations were definitely a Holy Spirit moment. It’s been an incredibly encouraging story because there are hundreds of churches out there in New England who are in need of revitalization.”
First Baptist’s turnaround began when things seemed their worst.
The church was already in heavy decline when their interim pastor announced he could not continue pastoring the church because of his deteriorating health.
He made a request to the church to reach out to the BCNE for help.
The pastor, who recently passed away, had heard Southern Baptists are very evangelistic and that the BCNE was helping several churches in its convention revitalize.
First Baptist followed the pastor’s suggestion by reaching out to Dorsett and becoming dually aligned with American Baptist Churches USA and the Southern Baptist Convention.
In addition to attending strategy meetings with the church, Dorsett would frequently preach on Sundays or assist in providing pulpit supply.
One Sunday, Dorsett could not find anyone available to preach at First Baptist. He decided to turn to pastor Logan Loveday of Hope Community.
Loveday planted Hope in 2017 after he said God laid the community of Marlborough on his heart.
The congregation has steadily grown over the years, but struggled through the COVID-19 pandemic. Church leadership had explored merging with another established congregation, but plans fell through.
Hope Community had grown its congregation to a steady group of 25 to 30 attendees, most of which were young families.
When Loveday was asked to preach at First Baptist, the members of Hope decided just to attend the service at First Baptist that Sunday. The worship teams even joined together to lead worship.
The strong connection was instantaneous. Loveday would be asked to preach again for First just a few weeks later.
Shortly after, the leaders of First Baptist voted to merge the two congregations and install Loveday as lead pastor.
Loveday said the two congregations fit so well together, only God could get the credit for it.
“This was honestly not a plan that we had because God orchestrated all these pieces,” Loveday said.