Mansfield First Baptist Church Burns in 1987In 1974 the church hired its first woman minister, Rev. Elizabeth Congdon-Martin. During Beth’s pastorate, the Sunday School attendance increased by 100% and the doors of the church were opened to the Mansfield Jewish community. During this time, members of the church were invited to attend a Sader Supper that the Jewish community put on at our church. It was a wonderful experience.

A beloved church member named Ruby Berry died in 1978. She had been a skilled story teller and often did “chalk talks” for the church people. The church decided to dedicate the vestry in memory of Ruby and the large room on the first floor was  named the Ruby Berry room.  Around that same time a pastor’s study was added on the lower floor and it was dedicated in memory of John and Emily Ingram, two other beloved church members.

When Beth and Doug Congdon-Martin had their second child, Beth decided to become  a stay-at-home mom so we lost our loved pastor. A pastoral search led us to our second female pastor, Rev. Margaret Hess, whom we called Meg.  Meg was young and energetic and the church experienced much growth under her leadership. Also while Meg was pastor, a most tragic event occurred. On Friday, April 10, 1987, the Friday before Palm Sunday, an electrical fire completely destroyed the church. It was a very devastating event for the church people. It was like losing a beloved family member. People of Mansfield and people around the country showed us support. We received donations from all over the country. The Orthodox Congregational Church gave us space for worship and Sunday School, Wheaton College also gave us space in their chapel. Businesses in Mansfield contributed money. A musical was produced and directed by a Mansfield resident for the benefit of the church. The musical raised $5000 toward the building of a new church building.

With the generous donations of money, time, talent, and materials we were able to have a beautiful new building without a mortgage. We certainly owed much to the generous community. On September 10, 1988 a 150th anniversary celebration was held for First Baptist Church of Mansfield and on the same day the new church building was dedicated. At the dedication ceremony the sanctuary was packed with church members, clergy from all around the area, former pastors, and many town folk. It was a joyous ceremony.

Soon after the dedication service and the 150th celebration Rev. Meg Hess decided to resign. We then had a three year period of interim pastors and pastoral search. The interim pastors were  Rev. Franz Orth and Rev. Victor Scalise. In July of 1991 we  hired Rev. Steve Gretz. Under the leadership of Rev. Gretz, the church experienced great growth in membership and an increased awareness of missions. The missions giving increased, the SHARE program was introduced by George Ings, The Food & Friends Kitchen was started by Tom Dill, Senior Luncheons were begun by Julia Harris, the doors of the church were opened to the New Beginnings Christian Fellowship who had lost their building, and Hillside Adult Day Care opened a facility in our Fellowship Hall. We earned the unofficial title of “The Mansfield Community Service Church” because our building was open to the community more than 80 hours a week. 

Rev. Steve GretzRev. Gretz left in 1996 to become pastor of a larger Baptist church in Avon, MA.He was a much loved pastor and the programs started under his leadership flourished for many years.

First Baptist Mansfield entered the new millennium with a continued sprit to serve the community. Our doors are still open to community groups for meetings, gatherings, rehearsals, and concerts. The Food & Friends Kitchen continues to serve hot meals to between 40 and 60 people every Tuesday. Rev. Rollin Karnehm, our pastor since 2010,  encourages us to grow spiritually through daily scripture reading and prayer. He leads Bible studies and offers once a month inspirational movies free to the entire community.

The history of the church has seen several from its membership respond to God's call. There were two missionaries in the 1920's: Kate M. French (India) and Doris M. Lunn (Alabama). Five members responded to the call to ordained ministry: Rev. Charles R. Freeman (1895), Rev. William B. Udall (1055), Rev. Ernest B. Chace, Jr. (1969), Rev. Peter Brown (1976), and Rev. Diane Badger (2009).

Rev. Rollin Karnhem

Rev. Rollin Karnehm

In 2013 we celebrated the  175th anniversary of our church, trusting God to lead us forward into the future as we strive to do His work and show His love in the  local community, the  country, and the entire world.