Historically Black First Baptist Church Capitol Hill in Nashville, Tennessee, Celebrate 150 Years

Pastor Kelly Miller Smith Jr. greets a member of the congregation during the morning worship and community service at the First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, in Nashville. The church is celebrating its 150th anniversary.  Mark Zaleski / For The Tennessean
Pastor Kelly Miller Smith Jr. greets a member of the congregation during the morning worship and community service at the First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, in Nashville. The church is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Mark Zaleski / For The Tennessean

Marlee Wade has only been alive for a decade, but she said she feels like she’s as old as her church congregation. 

And that’s old.

“I feel like I’m 150 years old because I’ve been coming here since I was a little kid,” 10-year-old Marlee said as she sat in a pew at the First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill. “And that’s a long time.”

The church, the city’s first black congregation, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, and part of the year-long party culminated Sunday with a homecoming celebration at its building on Rosa L. Parks Boulevard. The year’s theme is “Generation to Generation: Remembering, Rejoicing, Refocusing and Rededicating,” which has been celebrated with events and activities throughout 2015.

For the advent celebration the church held two services — 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. — and a good old-fashioned lunch (complete with fried chicken, green beans, mac-n-cheese and other homemade mouth-watering delights) in between.

“It’s a great day because this gives us the opportunity to bring everyone back together including those who may have moved or grown up in the church,” said Kelly Miller Smith Jr., the church’s pastor since 2010.

During the first service, Smith directed churchgoers’ eyes to a new wooden cross hanging behind him at the pulpit on the sanctuary wall, pointed to two sets of colorful stained-glass windows recently reinstalled in the chapel, and preached about the church claiming its place and not giving up.

“We want to last not only the next 150 years but until the day the Lord shall come,” Smith told a congregation of about 300 that filled the church’s pews.

The historically black church was born out of First Baptist Nashville. In 1834, the white congregation allowed black members, including slaves, to hold monthly prayer meetings, according to church history. It became First Colored Baptist Mission in 1847, and former slave Nelson Merry was appointed as the mission’s first black moderator in 1853.

During the Civil War, many fugitive slaves and free men and women who fled to Nashville began attending the mission, which was granted its independence in 1865 and became First Colored Baptist Church in 1866.

Click here to read more

Source: The Tennessean | Natalie Neysa Alund, nalund@tennessean.com