For 100 years First Baptist Church of Pompano Beach has stood as a gathering place where people come and meet with God. Holding their first organizational meeting on May 4, 1915 under the leadership of Pastor D.P. Mahoney in a community church building used by Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians, First Baptist Church of Pompano Beach invites the community to celebrate their 100th anniversary with a family carnival on May 2 and a special service on May 3.
Remodel blends old and new
In preparation of the celebration, First Baptist Church of Pompano Beach recently completed a full remodeling project of the worship center, built in 1955, bringing in a beautiful balance of traditional and modern elements. Preserving the architectural design of the wood work throughout, the design team refreshed the paint, laid new carpeting, constructed a larger stage, updated the sound and video system, mounted two projection screens and built a new sound booth. They replaced the old seating with comfortable theater-style seating while maintaining the traditional look of a pew by adding decorative wood at the end of each aisle. And while the lighting was updated throughout, the grand chandelier remains an elegant reminder of the past.
During the first service in the remodeled worship center, Pastor Ron Harvey invited people to come to the alter to dedicate the church to the Lord while dedicating themselves to worship.
“While the church is not the building but the people, I want this to be a place where we meet God and experience His presence,” Harvey said.
Celebration aimed at families
On the weekend of May 2nd and 3rd, they will celebrate their 100th anniversary with a family carnival on Saturday and a special service on Sunday with guest preacher, Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, followed by a covered dish lunch. The carnival, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, will feature food, rides, a bounce house and face painting for the kids and a historical walk through presentation in the church with a trolley tour of Pompano Beach. “We’re calling it the Hero’s Walk of Faith,” said Ramona Orlandi, director of women’s ministries at the church.
Pastor Harvey pointed out, “The calling has not lessened now that we have fulfilled 100 years… This will be an important time of commemoration, celebration and consecration, a time to connect with who we are as a church and where we are going – to rekindle the fires of passion for ministry to this community.”
Remembering the past
Starting out as rural farming community, Pompano Beach has seen a lot of change.
Noel Hardy, whose family has had six generations worship at First Baptist Church of Pompano Beach, said my great grandfather Isaac Ira Hardy brought the first full family to Pompano, which at the time had only two surveyors living here. They came down what is now the Intracoastal Waterway by raft and set up a homestead. They farmed vegetables to eat and trade with the Seminoles, and their cash crop was pineapples. Noel’s great grandmother, Kitty, was one of the charter members of the church.
While his family has held several weddings at the church and seen building added upon building, one significant change Noel remembers is the construction of the gymnasium in 1964. “I still have my shovel from the groundbreaking ceremony” he said. It also had a four-lane bowling alley, and Noel remembers, “On a Friday night the gymnasium would be open for youth and they’d be wrapped around the corner waiting to get in. We had skate parties and all night parties with a biblical teaching and skits. They also had a stage in the gym for small productions.
Pastor Don Worden who has been at the church for 36 years and whose wife grew up in the church, said, “There are very few people in this area who have not been touched by our church. I meet people all the time who tell me they used to bowl in the alley or they attended our preschool.”
Pompano Beach Mayor Lamar Fisher said his family has also attended the church for generations. “The area that is now the City of Coral Springs was once my great uncle’s farm,” said Fisher. “He was the largest green bean and pepper farmer in the U.S. . . . My mommy and daddy were the second couple to be married in the current worship center and my daughter was the last to be married there before the renovation.”
“With a deep history and roots, Pompano began as a true ag farming community and has developed into an urban city. Through all of that, this church has been a safe haven to enjoy clean fun and fellowship and to be a witness to others,” said Fisher. “What I’m most proud of is that despite some who wanted to move west, this church stayed and became the community church it is now.”
Revitalization may bring growth
The church is located in Old Pompano nearby the railroad tracks that were once the heart of the city, shipping produce all over the country. Now, Fisher said the city’s revitalization plan is expected to bring new growth to the area. “We are creating an arts and entertainment district that will be more pedestrian friendly and the church will be right in the center of it.”
Described as a combination between the arts districts in Delray Beach and Wynwood, Shanna Benson, senior marketing manager for the CRA, said they hope to draw a cross-generational crowd with a melding together of different kinds of art.”
The city broke ground in October on construction of a 4,000 square foot library, cultural and performing arts center just north of the church, a contemporary arts building has opened at 44 N.E. 1st St. with 13 artist work spaces and three independent galleries, in the next two months a cultural arts center is slated to open at 353 Hammondville Road featuring an outdoor courtyard for music and movies, and two pioneers of the Delray Arts District recently signed a lease to open a restaurant at 51 N.E. 1st St. “Butch Johnson and Wayne Alcaide, who signed the lease, saw the vision for the development of Delray and they see that same vision for Pompano as well,” said Benson.
“It’s all working together as a team to revitalize our city and the church is a key component,” said Fisher.
Diverse programming focuses on Bible
Pastor Harvey notes that as the community has changed dramatically, the church has become diverse culturally reaching people from different walks of life and bringing them into leadership. “We want to bring greater diversity without diminishing the teachings of the scriptures,” said Harvey.
“We come from diverse backgrounds, but we are family in Christ,” he added. Harvey said the key to their model of ministry is adult Bible study classes on Sunday mornings that allow people to get to know each other and pray in a small group setting.
A church member since 1989, Orlandi said, “When we came here, we knew this was where we needed to be to grow as a family. It was the first church that really taught me about studying the word for myself and everybody really embraced us.”
Significantly, she said, “My husband and son were both saved and baptized here after I began attending with our children.”
First Baptist Church of Pompano Beach offers a variety of programs including Vacation Bible School, Upward Basketball and Soccer, Summer Day Camp, After-School Care, Preschool and other programs.
“I hope they never lose sight of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and become only a social place,” said Hardy, “that they never lose that first love.”