Celebrating one hundred and eighty eight of ministry in Westerly.
The roots of Westerly's Central Baptist Church (CBC) go back to the Hills church in the late 18th Century. This loosely bound collection of believers met regularly until the 1830's when they decided that they wanted to form an official church congregation here in Westerly. That led to the call of a Council of Baptist churches and the founding of the First Baptist Church in 1835. First Baptist Church was located on Broad Street in downtown Westerly and grew in numbers and influence in the town in the following years.
In 1870 a group of believers in the First Baptist Church decided to leave and form a second Baptist Church in town. This resulted in the birth of the Calvary Baptist Church which erected a sanctuary on Elm Street. Both churches coexisted and had productive ministries in town for many years.
As World War II came to a close, leaders in both congregations began to explore the possibility of reuniting and forging a stronger Baptist witness in the community. After much discussion and prayer, they voted to merge at a meeting held on June 11, 1946. Both churches went into the merger in strength, not in weakness. Each was at a high point in its life. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the members came to the formation of a united ministry with the conviction that greater good could be accomplished as one church. This was how the Central Baptist Church was born.
The first annual meeting of Central Baptist Church was held at the Pawcatuck Seventh Day Baptist Church on June 24, 1946 with one hundred thirty members present. Rev. Glenn Asquith, pastor of First Baptist from 1944-46, was retained as the interim pastor as the church began a search for a new pastor. Rev. Asquith offered prayer and read the 100th Psalm to open the meeting. Officers, Deacons and Trustees were elected. It was decided to meet for worship at Broad Street (First Baptist) on Sunday mornings and on Sunday and Wednesday evenings at Elm Street (Calvary Baptist). In July a building committee was appointed. The generosity of the congregation was exposed as they raised over $72,000 to more than match the $50,000 goals at the meeting.
In September Dr. Alfred Murray was called to serve as the first pastor of the united congregation. The charter of the new church was dated January 17, 1947 listing over 1,058 members on the rolls. The new church building was then constructed at 16 Elm St. and dedicated on May 17, 1953. An addition, which included an educational wing with several classrooms, a chapel, parlor, library and offices for the pastor and secretary was completed and dedicated on November 30, 1958. In 2000 an extension was added to the back of the building that allowed for a beautiful entrance off the parking lot, an elevator and increased accessibility to all areas of the building. In 2023 we dedicated our Memorial Prayer Garden as a place of serenity and hope.
Central Baptist has been served by eight pastors since its founding.
Rev Dr Alfred Murray 1946-1950
Rev Dr John Elliot 1950-1956
Rev Frederick Gardner 1956-1971
Rev Dr Lloyd Fredericks. 1972-1986
Rev Wesley Smith. 1988-1995
Rev Peter Wood. 1996 - 2007
Rev Ronald Short 2007-2009
Rev Dr Clayton (Cal) Lord 2011 - Present
We recently celebrated our 75th anniversary and hope abounds as we look forward to the future.