History of First Baptist

In response to the SBC program “A Million More in 54,” the First Baptist Church of Homestead, Florida, heard the call to help establish Baptist work between Key West and Miami since there was none. October 4th, 1953 the Sunday School program was organized, Rev. John Whitt, Pastor of FBC Homestead, began holding services at the Coast Guard Building in Islamorada. In April of 1954, Dr. S.L. Lacy was asked to become the pastor, and the group became the Keys Baptist Mission. Morning and Evening Services were begun, and a parsonage was rented near the Hurricane Monument.

In August of 1955, the mission property and parsonage were purchased through the assistance of the FBC of Homestead and the Miami Baptist Association.

In 1958 the Matecumbe United Methodist Church built a new sanctuary and gave the old building to the mission; it was moved to its existing location in April of that year. The first services were held in the new sanctuary May 11, 1958, with 75 people present and the name was changed to Islamorada Baptist Mission.

August 16th Rev. Lynn Powers became the pastor, and the name was changed to be Islamorada Baptist Chapel.

In September of 1960 Hurricane Donna destroyed the parsonage and damaged the study, destroying many of the churches records. In 1961 Rev Powers resigned, and Rev. Laverne Mosher was called as pastor in April of 1962. The church library was established thanks to Mrs. Betty Collins in 1963, and in February of 1965, Mr. Clarence Karppe was chosen as the churches first Royal Ambassadors counselor.

In 1968 with the founding of the Florida Key’s Baptist Association, the chapel became a member leaving the Miami Baptist Association.

In 1969, a two-story education building was begun. The building was dedicated January 11, 1970. On this day the church was also constituted, and the name was changed to The First Baptist Church of Islamorada. The total membership at this time was 113.

After ten years of service Rev. Mosher resigned as pastor, and the church called Rev. Robert West on May 1, 1972. During Rev. West’s ministry members and friends began to remodel the sanctuary, installing new carpet and the first baptistry in the island’s history. Part of the sanctuary was removed as result of decay, the church yard was bulldozed, and trees were planted. Some additional work was also completed on the education building, and a church bus was purchased.

June 1st, 1973 Rev. Mosher resigned, and on December 1st Rev. Ernest Reisinger was called as pastor. Morning services were broadcast on WXOS as a ministry of the church, and central air conditioning was placed in the sanctuary.

In April of 1975, Larry Spargamino was called as the assistant to the pastor.

On August 4th, 1976 the church became incorporated as the First Baptist Church of Islamorada, Inc. that same month Rev. Mosher resigned. The church called Dr. Aaron Smith as the interim pastor on November 28 of that year and later called him as permanent pastor, on March 30, 1977. His resignation was received on August 21, 1977, after the death of his wife.

A new pastor was called April 1, 1978, Rev. Samuel Schlegel. The church loan was paid off in July leaving the church debt free.

Based on the church records on October 4, 1978, the church had a membership of 125, with 52 resident members and 57 non-resident members.

Rev. Schlegel served until August of 1981. Rev. Charles Russell Jr. was called in August of 1981 and served until August of 1991. Rev. Daniel Harvey was called in February of 1993 and served until March of 1998. Rev. Darrel Millsap was called in May of 1999 and served until 2011?

Under Pastor Darrel, the Food Ministry of First Baptist Church was established. Feeding thousands of hungry people each year both in the food pantry but also through the Family Meal each Tuesday.

Pastor Darrel resigned due to declining health in 2011, and the church began a partnership with Layton Community Baptist Church, in Layton Florida. The two churches benefited in the sharing staffing responsibilities to try and revitalize the church and the community.

Pastor Robby Davis of LCBC was called to serve as the teaching pastor in fall of 2011 preaching each week at both churches. Pastor Jonathan Elwing was called in December 2012 to serve as the worship pastor for both churches.

In January 2014, First Baptist launched a Hispanic Ministry calling Pastor Alexis Estevez in a bi-vocational role leading that ministry.

In May of 2015 Pastor Robby stepped down as teaching pastor, and Pastor Jonathan assumed the role as the Senior Pastor.

In February 2016 Pastor Craig Campbell was ordained into Gospel Ministry and brought in to serve as an Associate Pastor alongside Pastor Jonathan and Pastor Alex.

October 4th, 2017 will mark the 64th year of ministry in the Upper Keys by First Baptist Islamorada.