First Baptist Church, Welch, WV
On November 4, Buddy, Emily and I met Beverly Furrow at the the First Baptist Church in Welch. The church is located beside the courthouse. I had walked by this church many times, while in town, and had been wanting to see the inside for a long time. Anyone can look at the building and see that it is huge. I was unaware of how large this church actually is.
We went inside the activities building door and the first thing you see on the right is a marble staircase leading up. At the top of the stairs, there is a door to the left that leads to a small room, a hallway, and then to the sanctuary. We found ourselves standing to the right of the pulpit, looking back at three rows of pews and a balcony. The beautiful wooden pews have green pads, and the carpet is green, also. Underneath the balcony, is an overflow room that can be sectioned off. This overflow room has a fireplace, and today is used as a Sunday School room. Behind the center row of pews, on either side are doors. Each side leads to the front door and stairs that lead to the balcony. I was anxious to see the church from the balcony and asked Beverly if it was alright for us to go up there. She said it was and all three of us went up the steep staircase.
First Baptist Church, Welch, WV Sanctuary
Once in the balcony, Emily was very excited. She was also taking pictures with my iPhone. Looking down at the sanctuary, the choir seats are to the right and the baptistry is to the left. Behind the pulpit is a door that leads to the pastor’s study. While in the balcony, we noticed a room behind us. That room that is used as a Sunday School room. This room is as wide as the balcony itself, has doors on either side and stained glass windows that is in the front of the building.
We went back down the stairs, to the front door, and I noticed that the stairs led on down into another level, but did not check to see where. I later learned they lead back downstairs to the Sunday School rooms. We went back inside the sanctuary and took pictures of the piano, the baptistry, and the old organ that looked as if it had ivory keys.
From there, we ventured into the pastor’s study. Inside the study is a beautiful, built in bookcase with glass doors. The room itself is quite large and has another door that leads to the right. This room is the choir room. The choir robes were in there as well as closed in book cases for the music.
On the other side of the choir room is a door leads back to the small hallway where we entered the sanctuary. In the hallway is access to the baptistry. From there, our path led back into the small room that we had entered from the stairs. In that room, I noticed something that I was very surprised to see. There was an old turntable built into a wooden cabinet. I asked Beverly what that was for. She said that the church used to be on WELC and they would record the church services back there on that turntable.
We walked back into the hallway at the top of the stairs where we had started. From there, we walked into a large fellowship hall. On one wall is photos of the pastors of the church as well as some members. One of the members was Paul W. Jones. This is the same Paul W. Jones whose name is on the Little League field in Southwood.
The fellowship hall has a piano, many tables, and theater curtains in the front. To the side, behind a wall, is a kitchenette. In the wall of that kitchenette are two dumbwaiters that lead down into the kitchen. Beverly showed us how they worked.
We went back down the marble staircase and looked at the many classrooms and large kitchen. The church also has a library and stored in there are many old scrapbooks that the church has made throughout the years.
What I loved about this church is that it was like stepping back in time. The old wooden pews, cabinets, bookcases, and coat racks are almost in the same condition as the day they were first used. Furniture today is not built with the same quality as it used to be. I had read in a book at the library that on any given Sunday, this church would have over 600 in attendance. What a blessing this church has been to the city of Welch and the county. This church, along with the others, were the hubs of our community.
First Baptist Church Men, Welch, WV
It was and is the largest Baptist church building in McDowell County. “And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.” Acts 16:5. If only our churches were still increasing in number…. our cups would be running over.
Many thanks to Beverly Furrow for her time of showing us the church and providing the church’s history. I hope to visit again.
© Renee Bolden, 2012