FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF COCOA

Established June 12, 1910

By Kay Wylie Nix

Baptists have worshipped on the corner of Brevard Avenue and Oak Street for almost 100 years. First Baptist Church was organized on Sunday, June 12, 1910 on the second floor of the Cocoa Town Hall, which was on the corner of King Street and Fin’ Avenue. The fifteen charter members of the church were J. N. Chalker, DellaChalker, T. Hodges, Carrie Hodges, J. R. Garren, Susie Garren, A. Z. Dixon, Mamie Dixon, Adela Rembert. Alida Platt, Rubie Platt, C. B. Owens, Della Owens, N.J. Cooper, and G. L. Combs. Under the leadership of the first pastor, Rev. F. M. Ross, the church continued meet in the “Opera House”, as the upstairs auditorium of the Town Hall was called, until a church building was erected in 1911 at the corner of Brevard A venue and Oak Street.

The first recorded revival meeting of the Cocoa Church was on Monday, January 271913. Rev. Raleigh Wright of Tullahoma, Tenn. began a meeting which was to last a week. The revival was successful. The recorded count of new members was nine.

The building was enlarged in 1914 to include an auditorium to seat 200 people, a choir loft and baptistery. In 1919 the building was again enlarged by adding a Sunday school room, enlarging the choir loft, and building an exposed baptistery. In 1920 the membership reached 100.

The noise from the Florida East Coast Railway just west of the traffic circle and the traffic congestion on U.S. #1 (which is now Florida Avenue) made worship services unbearable. By 1925 the congregation decided to purchase new property on the corner of Delannoy and Maryland Avenues. They were able to sell the church property, but continued to lease from the owner until they could raise money to construct their new building. To save money, they built a frame building on property they owned east of the sanctuary property. This building was called “The Tabernacle” and served the First Baptist congregation for several years. Finally, in 1930, the church was able to repurchase the original property for $5,000. Membership at this time had reached 275.

Sixteen pastors have served First Baptist since 1910. They include Rev. F.M. Ross, Rev. Robert Jones, Rev. J. R. Parsons, Rev. Springfield, Rev, Ira Sanders, Rev. J.C. Kazee, Rev. H. S. Howard, Rev. O. L. Riggs, Rev. Charles White, Dr. John Sycamore. Rev. Claude Bridges, Rev. Ray Garrett, Dr. James Sawyer, Rev. James Dunnam. Dr. Frank Thomas, Rev. Henry Green, Dr. William Marr. Dr. Charles Horton is the present pastor. .

During the ministry of Dr. James Sawyer, who served First Baptist for 27 years, church grew in numbers, purchased adjoining properties, erected buildings, helped to establish five missions, which are now vital churches in Central Brevard County – King Street, Cocoa Beach, Frontenac, Rockledge, and gave financial sup MerrittIsland in its early days.

The Carmichael Educational Building was completed and occupied in 1949. At this time in the history of Central Brevard, the missile program at Cape Canaveral was bringing thousands of new residents and all area churches showed growth in their memberships. A three-story educational building was erected east of the sanctuary in 1958. This building was later named for Pastor Emeritus Dr. James A. Sawyer. A new sanctuary was constructed on the site of the original church and was occupied in 1962.

A Christian Activities Center was built on the south side of Oak Street and dedicated in 1998. This building is used for fellowship dinners, recreational activities, and many social and educational events of the church and community. Additional property was purchased for parking at the close of 2008.

Because of the vision of those fifteen charter members, and the faithful leadership of pastors and lay people down through these decades, we know that God has great things in store for First Baptist

Church of Cocoa. We are proud to be His lighthouse on the comer of Brevard Avenue and Oak Street. Come and celebrate our great heritage with us on Sunday, June 13,2010.

Article provided courtesy of the Central Brevard Mosquito Beaters,  Memory Book, available at the Florida Historical Library, 435 Brevard Av., Cocoa Village.

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