First Baptist Church

First Baptist Church holds Christmas play

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A local church opened its doors to the community recently and tried to spread some Christmas cheer.

About a dozen people that take part in a fellowship group at Amherstburg First Baptist Church presented the play “Stories of the Saviour” with the idea coming out of the regular Friday night fellowship group the church has.

“We said ‘why not do something for Christmas?’” explained Abiola Afolabi, the director of outreach at First Baptist Church and wife of Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi prior to the start of the play. Preparations took approximately six weeks.

Anywhere from six to 15 people attend Friday evening “fun, food, fellowship and faith” meetings and people enjoy it, said Afolabi. She said they have come a long way in trying to renovate the church.

“We just like to have fun, have fellowship and grow our faith,” she said.

First Baptist Church, which was recently designated by the federal government as a place of “national historic significance,” is located at 232 George St.

First Baptist Church receives national designation

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A local church has received federal designation as a place of “National Historic Significance” on the weekend.

First Baptist Church, located at 232 George St., received the designation as part of a commemoration ceremony Saturday morning at the 148-year-old church. Representatives from the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and Parks Canada were on hand for the designation and plaque unveiling, held in front of a crowd of about 100 people.

Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi, Rev. Ron Watson, Rev. Albert Lambkin and Dr. Barbara Hugh Smith stand with the plaque designating First Baptist Church as a place of “national historic significance.”

Eric Nielsen, Parks Canada’s manager of external relations for southwestern Ontario, said while it is Canada 150, it is also the 100th anniversary of Canada’s first national historic site. The recommendations, such as the successful one for First Baptist Church, are left for the federal government to decide, he added.

“It’s not just special to you,” Nielsen said of the ceremony. “It’s special to all Canadians.”

First Baptist Church is described by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada as being “a principal Underground Railroad-related Black church in Upper Canada. Strategically located near the United States border, it offered sanctuary to African Americans fleeing slavery.”

The church was constructed in 1848-49 and “was a spiritual home for thousands of Black Baptists and it helped foster the development of a distinctive Black Baptist church tradition in Ontario. As the Mother Church of the Amherstburg Regular Missionary Baptist Association, it played a crucial role in the development of Black communities and identity in Ontario.”

The church was built under the leadership of Pastor Anthony Binga Sr., who travelled around the area raising funds for its construction. Baptists had formerly met in local homes before deciding to build their own place of worship.

Julie Dompierre represented the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and said they were proud to welcome First Baptist Church as a place of “National Historic Significance.” She noted the town’s place as a spot where slaves seeking freedom came to and built a new life.

Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi accepts another plaque from the Town of Amherstburg, which was represented by Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale.

“Amherstburg First Baptist Church is one of the most historically significant churches in Canada,” said Dompierre, who repeated the line for the crowd.

Dompierre said the “simple, compact auditory church” was one where Pastor Binga preached inclusiveness and the desire to build a better life and country.

“The legacy of this church is one of hope,” she added.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale said he is very familiar with the church and also presented a plaque to the church from the town.

“I strongly believe in this church,” said DiPasquale. “It’s pretty old. There are significant parts that had to be re-done. It may need help down the road.”

Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi said the church “has been through many ups and downs” including a flood in 2011 that caused the town to shut it down.

“Because of the flood, we lost members of our church but we have some left,” said Afolabi.

While there have been challenges, the church’s members have seen it through and the church re-opened. However, Afolabi said there is still work to be done including further interior renovations which, in part, include a new water heater and washrooms which need “a total makeover.”

“We are undaunted,” said Afolabi. “We see our church as victorious in the midst of strife.”

Rev. Ron Watson represented the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec and praised Pastor Afolabi and his wife Abiola for their work. He read an address from executive minister Rev. Tim McCoy which stated “Canada’s DNA was born in little churches like this and in little town’s like this.” Rev. Albert Lambkin, moderator of the Amherstburg Regular Missionary Baptist Association, said “this Mother Church has been through some pain and agony” but is on the way back.

Lambkin added many pastors have been through the building and also praised the Afolabis for their efforts in helping to start restoration work.

Dr. Barbara Hugh Smith, the great grand-niece of Pastor Anthony Binga Sr., said she was thankful that the plaque dedication ceremony finally came to fruition. She recalled first being notified of the possibility in 2005. She said she was thankful Binga didn’t rest and said she was similarly thankful the Afolabis didn’t rest either.

“I’m proud of him for what he did for the community,” Hugh Smith said of Binga.

The ceremony also saw numerous other ministers and priests from local churches attend. A reception followed at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157.

First Baptist Church helping the community to be healthier, happier this summer

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

A Windsor student has been hired in Amherstburg to coordinate the summer Healthy Lifestyle program through First Baptist Church this year.

Staecey-Merveille Ngabire, 18, was hired for nine weeks this summer. She is in charge of coordinating First Baptist Church’s Healthy Lifestyle program, which kicks off Friday at 6 p.m. The program had a bit of a jump start over the weekend, with a group of people from their church and community coming together to garden and pull weeds outside of the church.

Members and community volunteers from First Baptist Church gathered together to weed the gardens and clean up the outside of the church Saturday, which kick-starts their healthy lifestyle program, running every Friday at 6 p.m. until September.

Members and community volunteers from First Baptist Church gathered together to weed the gardens and clean up the outside of the church Saturday, which kick-starts their healthy lifestyle program, running every Friday at 6 p.m. until September.

“Since we have had a lot of rain recently,” explained Ngabire. “I asked the pastor if we could garden so when it rains again, the flowers and the grass would look much more beautiful for the tourism section of my program that I’m coordinating.”
Ngabire explained she decided to make an eight steps in eight weeks program, where everyone involved will learn how to be more healthy and she made sure the program would allow for those involved to keep up with their personal healthy lifestyles after the program is over.

“The first step we are going to do is going to be right mindset and right attitude, because you can’t start anything without having a good positive outlook on how it’s going to go,” said Ngabire. “Then we are going to talk about detoxing your body, we’re going to do exercises, and we’re also going to relate it to how God can help you in everything you do.”

Members and community volunteers from First Baptist Church gathered together to weed the gardens and clean up the outside of the church Saturday, which kick-starts their healthy lifestyle program, running every Friday at 6 p.m. until September.

Members and community volunteers from First Baptist Church gathered together to weed the gardens and clean up the outside of the church Saturday, which kick-starts their healthy lifestyle program, running every Friday at 6 p.m. until September.

Ngabire explained her pastor at her church in Windsor told her about the opportunity. Usually she would have the opportunity to teach Sunday school to a smaller group, or help out with youth group, but she wanted to do more.

“I took the opportunity and said I would take on this challenge,” said Ngabire. “When I talked to my pastor from Windsor, he said that the First Baptist Church from Amherstburg is a great place to start and they would benefit from the talents that I have, so I thought I should share that with Amherstburg.”

For more information on the Healthy Lifestyle program starting Friday at First Baptist Church, contact Ngabire directly at 226-280-7789.

First Baptist Church teams with other parishes on Black History Month event

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The crowd that filled St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Friday night got a chance to learn about black history and help another church at the same time.

First Baptist Church held the event in conjunction with St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, St. John the Baptist Church and Amherstburg Community Church with the evening starting with a tour of First Baptist Church before it headed to St. Andrew’s where the presentations and meal occurred.

“It’s amazing the reception we got from the community,” said Abiola Afolabi, director of outreach with First Baptist Church. “This is a great community.”

Irene Moore Davis was the guest speaker at a special Black History Month event Friday night.

Irene Moore Davis was the guest speaker at a special Black History Month event Friday night.

Afolabi, who was born in Nigeria, said she is very interested in black history and wanted to do something for Black History Month. She said it is not only about those of African-Canadian heritage, but those of other cultures who helped during the days of the Underground Railroad.

“It is your history, it is my history, it is everyone’s history that is part of this land,” she told the crowd.

Not only did she thank the churches that teamed together, she also thanked everyone who had a hand in presenting the event. She particularly thanked all of those who attended Friday night.

“It would not be what it is without you guys,” she told the crowd of nearly 100 people.

The evening’s guest speaker was Irene Moore Davis, who educated the crowd on the area’s black history. Among Davis’ many titles are her presidency of the Essex County Black History Society and she told the stories of courage of those who travelled the Underground Railroad and those who helped them along the way. She noted that there were laws in northern U.S. states in that era prohibiting people from helping slaves to escape.

“There were pretty serious legal consequences for people caught doing that,” said Davis.

There were eight readings from community members woven into Davis’ presentation to illustrate what was going on during the Underground Railroad period. Davis noted that slave catchers would cross into Canada to try and capture slaves and bring them back though many escaped slaves still chose to live near the Detroit River in places like Amherstburg.

It is said that 30,000 escaped slaves crossed into Canada, though Davis called that “a conservative estimate” as many didn’t want to let anyone know they were in Canada for fear of being caught.

With Canada celebrating its 150th birthday this year, Davis said there is no better time to reflect on lessons people can learn from the past.

“It is important to know the Canada we now have did not take place by accident,” she said, adding the decisions and actions taken years ago by people overcoming obstacles helped shape the country.

First Baptist Church director of outreach Abiola Afolabi, Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi, trustee Eric Buchholzer and Deacon Terry Simms are photographed after the Black History Month presentation and meal at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church Feb. 24. They also hosted an open house at First Baptist Church.

First Baptist Church director of outreach Abiola Afolabi, Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi, trustee Eric Buchholzer and Deacon Terry Simms are photographed after the Black History Month presentation and meal at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Feb. 24. They also hosted an open house at First Baptist Church.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo also brought greetings and said the stories of African-Canadians have shaped Amherstburg as well.

“We are so rich in history and part of our history is our belief in human rights and that we are all treated equally,” said DiCarlo.

First Baptist Church also held a free will offering to try and fundraise for their church. The George St. church is over 180 years old and sustained water damage about eight years ago. There have been some repairs but church members continue to appeal for funds as they want to further upgrade their church.

Local church organizing Black History Month event

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A local church is organizing a Black History Month event and is involving three other local churches in the process.

First Baptist Church is organizing the event with the support of St. John the Baptist Church, Amherstburg Community Church and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. It is scheduled for Feb. 24 with an open house at First Baptist Church followed by presentations at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.

“We’ve had this idea for years,” said Abiola Afolabi, director of outreach for First Baptist Church. “It’s not only Black history, it’s Canadian history.”

Afolabi said the story of the Underground Railroad not only involves African Canadian people, but white people as well as they not only helped African Canadian come to Canada but helped them integrate into society as well.

“The presentations will focus on that,” said Afolabi.

Afolabi added that Irene Moore Davis will be conducting the presentations with the topic being “Working Together to Make a Difference: African Canadians and Allies throughout History.”

“We hope it’s going to be stimulating,” said Afolabi.

Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi and his wife Abiola show a flyer for a Black History Month event that First Baptist Church is hosting in conjunction with other local churches Feb. 24. Abiola is the director of outreach for First Baptist Church.

Pastor Olaniyi Afolabi and his wife Abiola show a flyer for a Black History Month event that First Baptist Church is hosting in conjunction with other local churches Feb. 24. Abiola is the director of outreach for First Baptist Church.

The use of multiple churches in the Black History Month event is “a display of unity,” Afolabi explained.

“What better community to do it in?” she asked. “It’s the most peaceful community in Canada.”

Afolabi, whose husband Olaniyi is the pastor at First Baptist Church, said people should love, enjoy and embrace being together, even if they are of different cultures and races.

“We have to get to the point where we are happy being different,” said Afolabi.

The open house runs from 4-5 p.m. at First Baptist Church, located at 232 George St. The presentations run from 5:30-7 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, located at 129 Simcoe St. (at Bathurst St.). A Nigerian dinner will follow, catered by Eden’s Garden.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for children under 10. Afolabi said they are available at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, St. John the Baptist Church, the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission and First Baptist Church, with the latter being open Thursday evenings and before and after Sunday services.

For more information, please call 519-736-4646 or 519-988-6725.