Twelve people gathered to form the First Baptist Church of El Reno on October 12, 1890, eighteen months after the Land Run of 1889. Why they waited so long, we don’t know! Rev. L. J. Dyke, Missionary of the American Baptist Home Mission Society for Oklahoma and Indian Territory, led the young church.
Members soon began to plan for their first meeting place. A temporary meeting place was constructed at 207 South Rock Island and dedicated February 1, 1891 at the cost of $800.00.
In 1896 FBCER had a membership of 30 people. Property at 319 South Rock Island for a new church building was obtained in 1898 and on November 3, 1901 a new brick building was officially opened.
In the 1920s, FBCER constructed a new church building at 401 S. Bickford Ave. That church building was modern and up-to-date according to written publications of the time. What was the year? 1926 What was the cost? $48,743.11 In 2009 dollars, that amounts to $7,168,591.43 measured as a relative percentage of the GDP. WOW!
In 1934 membership, finances, missions, and spiritual growth were evident. FBCER soon helped organize First Baptist Church of Calumet. Then she purchased property in eastern El Reno for a mission Sunday School which later became Trinity Baptist Church. The church also purchased the lot south of the 401 S. Bickford building and constructed educational space and a youth center.
In 1940, a small 2-story frame building at Falls Creek Baptist Assembly was purchased for $425.00. Later, the building was enlarged to include dormitory space upstairs for girls and downstairs for boys and a dining area and kitchen facilities.
In 1954 FBCER continued focusing on kingdom expansion and purchased a house on the south side of El Reno for a mission Sunday School. This ministry became Southern Heights Baptist Church. FBCER also retired its indebtedness in the 1950’s which allowed the purchase of additional property for the mission and the purchase of a home for the mission’s pastor.
As the church continued to grow more education space was needed. A 3-story 20,000 square foot education building was constructed in 1959 on the corner of Watts and Bickford Streets. The church obtained a lease on new property at Falls Creek Assembly after the old cabin was given to the Assembly to permit construction of a parking lot.
In 1966 C. Chalon Meadows was called to be pastor. During his tenure, four houses on South Rock Island were purchased and moved to provide additional parking space. In addition, a new 2-story cabin for 80 campers was constructed at Falls Creek in support of an expanding youth ministry.
John Chennault became pastor in 1983. He led the church to expand facilities by building a multi-purpose Fellowship Hall/Education Building in 1984. This expansion added 6500 sq. ft. of space.
A Bright Future
In August 2008 the church called Charlie Blount as pastor. FBCER has already seen significant growth under his ministry and leadership, especially in the area of young adults. In a move similar to the vision for the construction of the 1926 church plant at the Bickford Ave site, First Baptist Church voted positively in January 2010 to begin a process for relocating the church facilities.
Ground was broken for our new location on September 8, 2013. After a year of construction and meeting in El Reno High School, FBCER moved into it’s new building on September 7, 2014.
That first step in 1890 toward formation of First Baptist Church has now resulted in over 100 years of ministry to the spiritual needs of the people of El Reno and surrounding communities. Since those early days, thousands of people have built upon the work established by the pioneers. Buildings, leadership, and membership have changed over the last 120 years; but that first commitment to ministry and growth which resulted in the formation of the church have continued to shape her programs and continue to characterize her people today. The true numbers of those who have become Christ-followers through her ministry will be known only in light of eternity.