From congregating in the home of Sister Decie Johnson, to moving into its first building on Maple Avenue, to settling in the current location on S. Lexington Avenue, First Baptist Church will celebrate its 150th anniversary Sunday.

The festivities begin at 12 noon at the historic church, located at 337 S. Lexington Avenue.

The theme of the event will be “God’s Grace and Mercy Brought Us Through.”

The scripture text for the event comes from II Peter 3:18, “Grow in grace and knowledge in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory, both now and forever.”

The community is invited to celebrate as a drive-by communion will be conducted, followed by a parade around the city’s accompanying blocks.

Covington’s First Baptist Church, which was formed in May 1870 in the home of Johnson, has long been a staple of the Covington community and has the distinction of being one of the oldest African American churches in the United States.

Approximately 20 years later in 1890, the Gothic Revival frame building was built on the 300 block of Maple Avenue.

Shortly after this move, the Rev. Barnett from Charlottesville played a role in organizing the church and the election of church officers. During this time, baptismal services were conducted by Rev. Smith of South Carolina.

The current building, which was constructed in 1911 by James R. Hunter and Sons, serves as the present incarnation of First Baptist Church, located on S. Lexington Avenue.

Another significant event in the history of First Baptist Church took place Jan. 21, 2002, under the pastorate of the Rev. Willie L. Cannon Jr.

On this date, First Baptist Church received confirmation that it was placed on the National Register of Historical Sites and Landmarks, representing the state of Virginia and the city of Covington.

The Historical Society Committee during that designation was Cora Poteat, Kathryn Simpson, the late Deaconess Ruth Middleton and Cannon.

On July 14, 2019, Cannon officially submitted his resignation as pastor of First Baptist Church, which led to the Rev. Rosetta Stewart taking over five days later in a role that she has held ever since.

During that time, Stewart has overseen worship services and drive-by communion services.

Also taking place during the anniversary event is the honoring and recognition of elder church members, who range from 91 to 99 years of age. They include Gilbert Smith, Grace Reynolds, Alice Liggins, Geraldine Smith, Helen Harris and Deaconess Leatha Stewart.

The following ministers have served as pastors of First Baptist Church during the 150 year existence of the church:

— The Rev. William W. Wiley, The Rev. J.L. Beal, The Rev. Daniel Caraway, The Rev. L.L. Barksdale, The Rev. W. Johnson, The Rev. W.J. Hackett, The Rev. E.P. Jackson, The Rev. George E. Reid, The Rev. C.W. Ingram, The Rev. J. Thomas Reid, The Rev. W.T. Collins, The Rev. J. Thomas Lassiter, The Rev. Marshall F. Robinson (1950-1973), The Rev. Dr. Andrew M. Mosley II (1974-1984), The Rev. Glenn R. Davis (1984-1988), The Rev. Stanley Butler Sr. (1991-1992), The Rev. Dr. Willie L. Cannon Jr. (1993-2019), The Rev. Rosetta Stewart (2019-Present).


Historic First Baptist Church on Lexington Avenue in Covington will celebrate its 150th anniversary Sunday. The theme of the service is “God’s Grace and Mercy Brought Us Through.” The house of worship is one of the oldest African American churches in the U.S. (Gavin Dressler Photo)