Oldest Baptist Church in Florida celebrates 185 years of ‘imprint and impact’ in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — On Sunday, Bethel Baptist Church in downtown Jacksonville celebrated its 185th year anniversary as Florida’s oldest Baptist church.

“It speaks to our imprint and impact to be the oldest Baptist congregation,” said the church’s lead pastor, Bishop Rudolph McKissick Jr. at Sunday’s congregation. “And [to be] still one of the largest in the state is just a testimony to the resilience of the people of this church.”


McKissick told Action News Jax the church’s mission continues to evolve and that he’s always enjoyed hearing that history from some of its oldest members.

“From the historic sanctuary with marble and a huge pipe organ, to now this sanctuary where we worship, how do I say this … in a more energetic way than they used to,” McKissick said with a smile.

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While Bethel Baptist has continued to evolve, one thing that has remained the same is its roots in civil activism throughout the Jacksonville community.

“The black church has to be involved in sociopolitical activity,” explained McKissick. “Not just African American issues, any disenfranchisement this church should take the lead.”

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McKissick also explained how the church’s activism in civil rights goes back to its earliest days.

“After the Civil War a white judge in that time, awards the church, to the freed slaves, and yet we’re still standing.”

Now, the church is offering the community a chance to add their names to that legacy by buying a brick. Each brick will serve as a reminder of the people who continue to support its mission. Those interested in buying a brick can learn more on the church’s website by clicking here.

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