Twelve Decades of Devotion: A 120-Year Celebration at Third Baptist Church

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Photo by Beth Chafetz

The Third Baptist Church invites all to attend its 120-year anniversary celebration on June 11, 2023, the second Sunday of the month, at 4 p.m. The service will be held at the church at 188 Kent Avenue, as well as streaming on-line at Deacon William Hill Sr. will lead the celebratory service, assisted by others from the Suffield community. The guest preacher is Pastor Divorce from Springfield’s Friendship Baptist Church. The church will fill with music from Suffield’s First Congregational Church under the direction of Amy Pott, Director of Worship Arts; the Interfaith Choir conducted by Nathaniel Dorsey; and The Friendship Baptist Church Choir. This year’s theme for the anniversary celebration is Community, as written in 1 John 4:20.

In 1903, the Third Baptist Church was born from a desire by Suffield’s Black community to form their own religious practice. Pastor David H. Drew from Springfield, Mass with Chairman Deacon W. A. Morgan and Trustees E.A. Dunston and A. Jubrey formed the church’s mission statement, and in 1905 fully organized the church with the assistance of Pastor Robert C. Hull from Suffield’s Second Baptist Church. State Attorney Hugh M. Alcorn, Sr. incorporated it. Prior to the building of the church, Pastor Hull welcomed the group to worship in his church on Sunday afternoons. The town also provided a room for the group at the Connecticut Literary Institute, now the Suffield Academy. Money to build the church came from numerous fundraisers, suppers and donations from families and churches. The plot of land the church stands on was bought from Roderick Campbell. The church was dedicated on March 31, 1906. At least twelve families were its first members including the Chamberlain, Dunston, Gayle, Jubrey, Harris, Hayes, Johnson, Lockett, Morgan, Edmonds, Jones and Brewster families.

Pastor Drew was the first minister of the church, serving from 1903 until 1918. He was the father of Howard Drew, who was once considered the world’s fastest man, a record holder for the 100-year dash. He competed in the 1912 Olympics and ultimately became a judge in Hartford, Conn. The longest serving minister was the late Rev. Willian N. Allen who served for 35 years, from 1972 to 2007.

The members of the church actively promote social justice for all. They support the historic Witness Stone project and events by ABAR Suffield (Anti-Bias, Anti-Racist). The Juneteenth event is sponsored by the church along with ABAR Suffield and the Interfaith Council.

The Third Baptist Church is currently without a pastor but is going through the process of selecting the next senior pastor. Regular church services continue every Sunday at 11 a.m. in- person and with on-line streaming. The current ministry is provided by Moderator Pastor Jeff Powell of New Antioch Church in Hartford, Conn. Combined Bible study services are led by Pastor Derek Holloway of First Calvary Church in Hartford, Conn. Church members are confident that better days are just around the bend.

The rich history of the church dates back 120 years during which it has undergone many transformations. Many ministers and deacons have served in it. Various auxiliaries, boards, committees, clubs, societies and choirs have formed over the years. Additions and remodeling have changed the original layout of the building. However, no matter the changes, the original vision of the church remains. It continues to supply spiritual sustenance to its community and its members are planning for the future. Come celebrate the Third Baptist Church’s momentous 120-year anniversary!

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