First Baptist Church of North Stonington recently celebrated its 275th year as a church. Established in 1743 at a site just south of our current church building, it was known as First Baptist Church of Stonington as North Stonington wouldn't be founded until 1807. According to early church records, there were three doors in to the original church - one for the deacon, one for the women and one for the men. The pews were further divided, with men sitting on one side of the church and women on the other. The men and women were further divided according to their marital status.
The congregation outgrew the original building and a new church was built at the top of Pendleton Hill in 1803. The original church was sold and converted to a barn, sometime later the building was torn down and the boards were used in nearby Pawcatuck to build another building. In 1934, the congregation erected a granite marker on the site of the first church building.
So much has changed over the course of 275 years except for Jesus Christ. Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever." The mode of transportation has changed from horse and buggy to cars and trucks. The style of dress has changed from large hooped skirts and top hats to suits and dress to jeans and t-shirts. The Bibles we use look different, from the KJV to a hundred different translations, with footnotes, references, concordances, and life applications. Women were forbidden to preach or to hold any leadership role regardless of ability, but now the church recognizes the valuable role women play alongside the valuable role men play in the advancement of the Kingdom, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Forms of communication have changed from stagecoach, to telegraph, to telephone, to emailing, texting, and of course social media. We've changed from outhouses, well pumps, candles, and woodstoves to indoor plumbing, running water, electricity, and centralized heat. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
The family structure has changed. 275 years ago the divorce rate was almost nonexistent now approximately 50% of marriages end in divorce. Families then consisted of several generations living in one place, supporting each other, now families are fragmented and broken with children often caught in the crosshairs. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
The church was once the moral compass of society. It made the rules. It guided societal norms. It was often the center of its town and was the driving force of its community. Now society tries to guide the church and the world sets its own moral compass, makes its own rules, and guides societal norms. Once upon a time the Sabbath was kept as a holy day. It was a day families rested and reflected. Businesses were closed and social obligations were made on one of the other six days. As a whole, we've lost the holiness and hush of the Sabbath. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Change is inevitable whether we want it or not. Sometimes we're looking for it, other times we're caught in its mad flow and carried by its waters to places we never wanted to go, but here we are. We, First Baptist Church of North Stonington, stand here as a testament to the immutability of Jesus Christ, the one who never changes. The one whose sacrifice is always enough. The one whose love always covers. The one whose forgiveness is always sufficient. The one whose power has the ability to produce radical transformation. It is in this never changing name that we invite you to become a part of the church today and a piece of its history tomorrow.