“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
First Baptist Peddie Memorial Church was first organized on June 6, 1801, by a small group of believers seeking to open a place of worship in the town of Newark, with the name of “First Baptist Church of Newark.” On the first day of organization, several new believers were baptized in the beautiful Passaic River, and on the next day, June 7, 1801, the Lord’s Day, the entire membership of fourteen sat down at the communion table for the first time as a church. Services were held in the White School house, located on South Broad Street and the junction of Clinton Avenue and Spruce Street. In February of 1802, Elder Charles Lahatt was unanimously called to be the first pastor. The first meeting house, only 35 by 45 feet, was dedicated to God on August 1805.
By the grace and mercy of God, the church grew not only in numbers but also in its commitment to mission. The present building was dedicated to God in 1890 by the generous gift of Thomas B. Peddie, who served two terms as Mayor of Newark and was later elected to Congress, representing the sixth district of New Jersey. His vision was that the church building should be “open to every great meeting of a proper kind that people desire to hold, and should be dedicated to religion, to education and to the social purposes for the good of all the people.”
Peddie’s vision of the church “for the good of all the people” continued to be realized when eight Chinese Christians were baptized in 1923. The demographics in Newark changed drastically during the past century, and the church responded to this change by warmly welcoming people of all ethnicity and nationality. Today, we have become an international church with people representing over twenty nations from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America, and the West Indies. On our International Sunday in 2004, we celebrated God’s gift of diversity with the reading of Scripture in ten languages, the music and dance of Africa, and the feast of delicious food from many nations.
With the leadership of our twenty-eighth pastor Rev. James Kang, we desire to become a faithful church that announces in small yet hopeful ways the coming of God’s kingdom. It is our prayer that we grow in strength and maturity, not to take pride in our successes, but to glorify God and to care for His people, especially the weak, the poor, the lost, and the marginalized.
For a theological reflection on the recent history of Peddie Church, please see How Peddie Church Became an International, Multicultural Church.