Former Pastor, Community Remember Wakefield Church
Oct 25, 2018 11:41PM
● By Katie Lovett
WAKEFIELD – In the days since a beloved historic landmark burned to the ground in Wakefield center, the community – and the greater region – has rallied around the members of the First Baptist Church with offers of support, prayers and love.
Within hours of the devastating 7-alarm fire that leveled the 150-year-old building, a fundraising page had been established to help the congregation rebuild.
The GoFundMe page was created by longtime parishioner Emily Brown, whose father was the church pastor for 27 years before retiring a few months ago.
On the page, Brown, an active layperson at First Baptist to this day, wrote, “[a]s the former pastor’s daughter and having grown up running through the halls, discovering secret hiding spots in the church, it breaks my heart that what I’ve considered a second home has burned down in the blink of an eye.”
As of late Thursday night, the campaign had received $10,030 of its $50,000 goal, with more than 200 donations.
“As the church building was torn down last night we are left with the rubble containing countless memories that span several generations. But the church family is keeping positive that this will not be the end of The First Baptist Church of Wakefield. The congregation will continue on through the upcoming uncertainty and keep God’s Word alive,” Brown added in an update.
On Thursday night, members of the congregation were joined by members of the community at a prayer service, organized by the Wakefield Clergy Association as a way to bring solace and comfort to the heartbroken church.
The Rev. Matthew P. Cadwell, the rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church and head of the clergy association, said all of the town’s churches have offered support in any way they can, from prayers and words of encouragement to offers of office space and worship space.
Cadwell noted the deep roots First Baptist has in the community, which extends well beyond a landmark building or a mainstay in downtown.
Tall Spire Nursery School has educated generations of the town’s children in their earliest years, he said, and the church was the site for various groups to meet, from Alcoholics Anonymous to the Shepherd’s Table, a meals program for those in need. The church also hosted the Beebe Library’s annual book sale.
The Middlesex Concert Band held practices there. In a post on their website this week, the group said they are seeking donations to help replace percussion instruments, sheet music, and other equipment that were stored in a church closet and lost in the fire. The school district has given the band a temporary practice space.
Cadwell said the town’s other houses of worship are ready to welcome the groups that used FBC as a meeting space.
Peter Brown, the retired former pastor, said in a phone interview from his home in Rhode Island on that many of his former colleagues from Wakefield and the surrounding communities, have reached out to him after hearing the news.
“People have come out of the woodwork; there’s a lot of support from all over,” Brown said. “I know that has meant a lot to the current pastor and the entire church community. That’s part of wha† makes Wakefield such a great community.”
“A lot of people have connections to the building that aren’t members of the church,” he added.
The First Baptist Church was officially organized as a church in 1804. The building destroyed on Tuesday night was actually the church’s third building. The other two were also lost to fires.
The church was designed by noted Boston architect Sheperd Woodcock. A Christian education wing was later added in 1952 and in 1967, the church purchased the downstairs chapel from Boston University, who was relocating its campus to Chestnut Hill. The college agreed to sell the chapel to the church for $1 if they transported the building to Wakefield.
Brown called the chapel “beautifully ornate” and said the space was used for smaller weddings and funerals. For the last several years, the church also held services there in the winter months to help reduce heating costs for the entire building.
“It was a magnificent building,” Brown said. “It’s a terrible loss.”