First Baptist Church of Grass Valley is a proud member congregation of the Southern Baptist Convention. Founded in 1845, Southern Baptists are committed to fulfilling the Great Commission through evangelism in the U.S. and beyond, as well as striving to become more like Christ every day. To read more about the doctrine that defines First Baptist, take a look at the Baptist Faith and Message.
First Baptist Church of Grass Valley started as a handful of people gathered together on October 4, 1946.
Even in the optimistic, post-war climate of the U.S., the little church’s survival was anything but certain. Nineteen charter members huddled together in the upstairs hall at 159 Mill Street, dedicating to the Lord a hopeful new endeavor. Sacrifice was a key part of the church’s founding – without a building of their own, members opened their homes for midweek prayer meetings and choir practices.
As the first pastor of Grass Valley’s first Baptist church, James Seay was a pioneer who led by example. He accepted a weekly salary of just ten dollars from the church. It was clear he believed in First Baptist, or more importantly, the provision of the God who conceived it, because he footed the first month’s rent by selling his own car.
As was common for pastors of the era, Seay only served for a short time before leaders like Lee Hall and John Watson took the helm. But the people of First Baptist Grass Valley marched forward, eventually constructing a building on Walsh Street in the summer of 1950. Raised largely through the labor of church members, the facility was officially dedicated January 7, 1951.
Expanding the facility, however, was only a side effect of First Baptist’s growing ministry. Within a few years of its birth, the church had established a radio ministry, prison outreach, additional Sunday School programs in North Columbia School Houses and a bus outreach to transport students to Bible study programs.
More moves were soon to come. First Baptist occupied a building on Main Street in the latter half of the ‘50s, then eventually purchased the current Ridge Road property in 1973. It wasn’t until 1979 that the latest facility opened its doors – first with just a fellowship hall. Offices and an education building would soon follow.
In the mean time, new faces took the First Baptist reins. Music ministries at the church got a boost when a full time music minister came on board in 1987. The inaugural youth pastor, Karl Sarpalius joined the staff in 1974. To this day, worship through the fine arts and ministry to young people remain a sacred priority to the congregation.
Today First Baptist carries on a tradition of steadfast faith that began over 60 years ago in a chilly upper room. Members earnestly seek to make the Good News of the kingdom of God a reality in the Grass Valley area and around the world. Our mission in the 21st century – as it was decades ago – is to proclaim hope for the captives, sight for the blind and salvation for sinners.