The Origins of Our State Convention

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The origins of our state convention

First Baptist Church in Hartford, founded in 1790, is pictured at the top of this panel, along with Deacon John Bolles, the man most responsible for organizing a Baptist Church here. In 1831 First Baptist built a new church on Main Street, right center, which was located where the Brown Thompson building stands today. The small church building to its left represents the South Baptist Church, organized in 1834 with 55 members from the First, which stood at the Southeast corner of Main and Sheldon Streets. Pictured, lower left, is John Mason Peck, home missionary, who took the gospel West. Adoniram Judson, missionary to Burma is shown at lower center.
From time to time historical research comes up with surprises and the most recent one has to do with the origin of our state convention. This year, 2013, marks 190 years since its inception in 1823, and the people and places involved are noteworthy. From a church that no longer exists (First Baptist Church of Bloomfield) to the formation of another church (Blue Hills Baptist Church, Hartford), then moving to Windsor and renaming itself Sanctuary of Faith and Glory on Bloomfield Avenue, came the first proposal for a state convention.

Blue Hills Baptist Church of Hartford and the Sanctuary of Faith and Glory in Windsor have an interesting connection. This church traces its beginning to 1920 when the First Baptist Church of Bloomfield came together with a group living in the Blue Hills neighborhood in both Bloomfield and Hartford to form Blue Hills Baptist Church. The Bloomfield church dates back to 1786 when Bloomfield did not exist and was part of Windsor. (Bloomfield, originally called Wintonbury, was created from land taken from Windsor, Farmington, and Simsbury.)

As early as 1917 Hartford Baptists expressed an interest in establishing a church in the Blue Hills area. According to Deacon Arthur E. Tyrrill the Hartford Baptist Union purchased the two lots on which the original Blue Hills Baptist Church was constructed and offered to finance the first unit of the building. The Connecticut Baptist Convention (now ABCCONN) also backed the project financially. It was agreed that the church membership would furnish the interior equipment when the basic structure was completed. The cornerstone was laid in December, 1919, and the building was first used in 1920. The first baptism occurred November 28, 1920. Membership then was 78 and by 1953 increased to 247!

During these early years of the church’s history the Connecticut Baptist Convention (ABCCONN) assisted by contributing to the pastor’s salary. By January 1925 the church voted to relinquish such aid and become self-supporting. Later the building and grounds were deeded to the church by the Hartford Baptist Union with the customary provision that the property would revert to the Convention if it ceased to be used for church purposes (of course this meant a Baptist church in its local Association).

Today’s Sanctuary of Faith and Glory in Windsor can look back to 1822 when the resident pastor of Bloomfield’s First Baptist Church made a unique proposal: the formation of a state convention. In his “History of the Connecticut Baptist Convention” Philip Evans states on page 15:

At the annual meeting of the Hartford Association October 2, 1822, Rev. Augustus Bolles, pastor of the Wintonbury church (afterwards as First Windsor and still later as First Bloomfield), moved that a committee be appointed to consider the expediency of forming a convention of Baptist churches of the state. The committee was appointed and brought in a favorable report.... A year later (1823) delegates from 30 churches met in Hartford’s First Baptist Church (now Central Baptist Church) and adopted a constitution.

Thus the birth of a state Baptist organization!

All information here is taken directly from three sources: Arthur E. Tyrrill’s “Blue Hills Baptist Church” (1953), “Service of Dedication for the new chancel” (February 8, 1953), and Philip Evans’ “History of the Connecticut Baptist Convention, 1823-1907” (1909). Baptist Churches of Connecticut are asked to share their stories so that collectively we can continue to proclaim the whole Gospel in our state and beyond.

George Grisevich
Central Baptist Church, Hartford March 11, 2013