A Brief History of the First Baptist Church of Perryville
James “J. C.” Collins was a resident of Perry Point who felt that more should be done in the Perryville area to teach the Bible and to introduce people to Jesus Christ. His strong leadership resulted, in 1955, in the First Baptist Church of Havre de Grace appointing James Collins, Claude McGlothlin, and Frances Gilman as teachers to establish a Sunday School in Perryville. The first classes were held on November 13th of the same year with 44 in attendance. An offering of $28.00 was reported by Margaret Young as being received.
The old firehouse was the first of several meeting places. In the fall of 1956 the group was found meeting in the church building on Aiken Avenue, which had been purchased from the Episcopal Church. It was in this church that Rev. William Clymer, pastor of the Havre de Grace Baptist Church, conducted the first worship services. In two years the congregation returned to Aiken Avenue. A mobile home had been placed on the property for additional teaching space. The church remained a mission until 1974, when it was constituted as an independent church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. The earliest efforts of this group had frequently been encouraged by Rev. Harry Bailey, pastor of the Methodist Church in Perryville.
The first called pastor was James M. Phillips from Charlestown. He was followed by Eldon Sheridan. Rev. Francis Schimming served as pastor from 1959 to 1963. Rev. Glen Morgan served next as pastor until 1970.
At this time, a significant meeting was held by a Susquehanna Baptist Association Committee to make a decision about the continuance of the mission. Through the encouragement of Jerry Graham, Director of Missions, the mission was granted another opportunity to succeed.
Rev. James Burcham, a new graduate from Carson Newman, was called as pastor on February 6, 1972 and served until August, 1979 when he moved to First Baptist Church, Havre de Grace to continue his ministry. Sean Lee, Ronald Wyatt, Jr., and Richard Ragan, Jr. were ordained to preach during Rev. Burcham’s ministry.
Early in Rev. Burcham’s ministry, two portable educational buildings were purchased from the Catholic Church and installed at the rear of the sanctuary, greatly expanding the teaching area. The old mobile home was taken in payment for the cost of moving the educational buildings by Flow Movers. The men of the church did major renovations to the sanctuary’s structure and also reoriented it to face Aiken Avenue. The property across the street was purchased on March 15, 1972 for $6,785. In 1976, Sherwood Young was called as Minister of Music. For more than a year the church flourished with two morning services. Another property, (Boyd) was purchased January 9, 1980 for $40,000. This was used as housing for Pastor Seymour, Pastor Lynn Martin, and briefly, for interim Pastor John Gauger. It also served as additional teaching space. Further construction property search had begun in 1979 and one of the properties considered was that of “Rodeo” Earl Smith on Route 40.
Deacons during this time were Joseph Ayers, Leon Basham, Melvin Buck, James Collins, William Darby, Claude McGlothlin, Emery Sinclair, and Gary Sumpter. Upon the resignation of James Burcham, the Reverends Walter Burcham and Frank Schimming served as interims.
July 27, 1980, Rev. Donald Seymour was called to serve as pastor. In January, 1983, $27,000 was borrowed to purchase the land on Route 40 that has become our present church site. That note was paid in full by July 10, 1985. Rev. Seymour resigned February 6, 1986.
Until Rev. Lynn Martin was called on May 28, 1986, Rev. Aubrey Stewart served as interim pastor. Rev. Martin resigned his ministry in Perryville to teach at Liberty Baptist University in July of 1987. Rev. John Gauger and Rev. Robert Ulrich each ministered to the church for several months.
Upon his graduation from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Rev. Michael Priest was called May 8, 1988 and served until July 25, 1990. During his ministry, all properties on Aiken Avenue were sold and services were held in the Perryville High School as construction of a new facility was begun on Route 40. Many capable Christians with leadership ability became members while the church still met on Aiken Avenue and made much of this progress possible. George Jack, Ed Thompson, and Ron Grace were ordained to serve as deacons.
After the departure of Michael Priest, Director of Missions Daniel Sheffield and Rev. Walter Burcham filled the pulpit several times until Rev. Aubrey Stewart was again called as interim pastor. He served until October 15, 1990.
October 15, 1990, Dr. John Gauger began serving as pastor. The congregation moved into their present building on Route 40, holding their first worship service on October 21, 1990. The building was built by members and friends working every weekend plus their vacation time. With much work still to be done, many continued to work faithfully toward completion of the facility. Permanent occupancy having been granted, April 28, 1991 was appointed as Dedication Day for the building.
The combination of a new building, a new pastor, sufficient space, hard work, years of prayer, and God’s generous blessing, bore immediate fruit. Worship attendance doubled overnight. Within several months, Sunday School attendance tripled. By Dedication Day, there was already a need to complete construction of the lower level.
Recognizing the importance of volunteers in construction, the church began sending annual construction teams to help other churches. Teams have retrofitted, roofed, or built entire worship centers or other ministry buildings. Teams have gone to many states and two other countries.
In 1992, the pastor ministered behind the Iron Curtain in Latvia. Ministry by members followed in Moldova.
In 1993, after one year of research and deliberation, the church began their first weekly ministry to children outside of Sunday School. The Pioneer Clubs became an immediate success. Children’s ministry has been changed and improved several times over the years and has been a consistent factor in children coming to trust in Jesus Christ. After study and training, Awana Club’s were begun in 2017.
On November 12, 1995, the fellowship hall was sufficiently completed to be used for the fortieth anniversary of Baptist work in Perryville. The church unanimously appointed Claude McGlothlin Deacon Emeritus.
Additional deacons were recognized: Robert Dodsworth (1996), Bill Bonney (1998), and Jason Biddle (2005).
In 1998 the church began sending our own teams to minister internationally. By invitation our members minister through preaching, teaching, evangelistic visitation, construction, Vacation Bible Schools, and the training of pastors and church members. Partnerships have included churches in Ontario, Quebec, and many in Mexico, all related to our partner, the First Baptist Church of Teziutlan, from whom we learned many important lessons in ministry. We have also partnered locally with several inner city churches in Baltimore. Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, we joined with other sister churches in sending teams of volunteer construction workers to the Gulf Coast to help rebuild homes of the elderly and those hard-pressed financially. Constructions teams have been sent to areas devastated by disasters most of the years since then.
In 2004 the church called Mike Christ as their first associate pastor. His family was approved for international ministry in 2007. In 2004 the church also determined to minister to an unreached people group in West Africa. The pastor went to Africa in 2005 and led our first team in 2006. When we began, there were no churches or known believers among a 500,000 person people group. We send teams from our church two times a year. Over time, God has graciously led a few people in several different villages to trust Christ for salvation. We are praying for the time when these people will have their own church family with whom to worship God.
God granted that the last surviving original teacher, Claude McGlothlin, was with us to celebrate 50 years of continuous ministry in Perryville. In 2007 the church family celebrated the home going of Brother Claude. As he had for many years, we marveled together at all God had done over the previous half century as they labored together in love with the Lord. We also saw our first associate become the first career missionary sent from our church.
In 2008, we called Chris Moyer as associate pastor. His wife, Laura, is the daughter of the pastor of one of our closest sister churches. That year the church also officially recognized the elders who lead our church with the pastors. Later, Ken McMullen was ordained to elder ministry.
In 2017, after more than nine years of ministry with us, Pastor Chris and his family responded to the call to full-time missions ministry in Europe. That same year the church, in partnership with other local churches, hired a member, Rachel Jones, as a campus missionary to minister at Towson University and Cecil College. The announced retirement of Pastor John led to an intense search for our next pastor. After close to a year, the church called Brian Dempsey as our next pastor.
The church is thankful for the stability and growth the Lord has provided since 1955. They enjoy many blessings cooperating in ministry with sister churches and are encouraged to see God use mutual partnerships to rescue and build up sister churches as well as to be part of seeing churches planted overseas. The church continually trains the next generation of church leaders by annually sending youth on missions trips locally and internationally.
The congregation enthusiastically looks forward to further growth and blessing from God as they seek to serve their community for Jesus Christ.