Some of the historical highlights of First Baptist Church

First Baptist Sanctuary Pews 1970
First Baptist Sanctuary Pews 1970

As written by Arthur Helton

In searching through the material we have on the history of our church, I found many things I did not know and was not able to find some things that would be good to have in our history.

First Southern Baptist Church of Lancaster was interested in starting a work in California City. They bought a lot, evidently, next to a lot owned by the State Executive Secretary Dr. S. G. Posey, who had planned to retire in California City. They were never able to get a work started, so the church sold their lot.

Later a rumor was started that Edwards Air Force Base was going to take over North Edwards and probably the houses would be moved to California City. So Oral Spence, the pastor at North Edwards came to California City to investigate the possibility that if the rumor was true the North Edwards Church might move to California City. By the time he found out that it was only a rumor, he had met some people who were interested in having a Baptist work in California City. As he followed up on this idea, he found that there were some who felt that since there was already a Community Church in California City, there was no need to start a Baptist work.

But eventually he found enough people who wanted a Baptist work that the North Edwards Church agreed to start a mission here. So on December 8, 1963, the mission was started. Rev. Charles Allen was called as Pastor of the Mission; he was in the Air Force at Edwards. The mission met in many different locations. Pastor Spence kept trying to find the best location for the work. The present location was offered to the group in 1964 and Pastor Spence led the North Edwards Church to apply for a building loan from the Home Mission Board in the fall of 1964, a loan for $20,000. After much work and planning, the building was actually started in 1966 and completed in 1967 about Easter, the Mission entered the 30 X 100 foot building. Billy Washburn became pastor some time after Charles Allen was transferred by the Air Force.

One interesting note I found was the fact that the Mission had a baptistery and held a baptismal service, a few weeks later the sponsoring church still did not have a baptistery and came to the California City Mission where the Pastor Oral Spence baptized a group of people.

On July 21, 1969, the Mission organized into a church and due to the fact that Bill Washburn had resigned earlier, to accept a call to the East Barstow Southern Baptist Church, they called John Prentice as pastor. For some strange reason, although the historical records show that the building was in use by the Mission from the spring of 1967, they did not hold the dedication service for that building until September 7, 1969. Membership was 27 at the time of the dedication of the building, which we now usually refer to as the old part of our church building was built at a cost of $32,000. Pews were bought in August 1970. Baptistery drapes were given in honor of Mrs. Ruth Collins, in 1972.

Because of health problems, John Prentice resigned as pastor effective November 18, 1973. Soon thereafter the church called Crile Dean as pastor. He served until around May 1978, when he resigned to become pastor at Biggs, California. Later he moved to a position as the Southern California representative for the California Baptist Foundation. One note I found was that at one time the church had 123 in Sunday School and was averaging 90 per Sunday. I am strongly suspicious that his was during that period in the mid 1970’s when this church was reaching a large number of Air Force personnel, then boom, Uncle Sam transferred about 75-80% of the Sunday School teachers and officers in a few weeks.

I became interim pastor in August around the 13th or the 15th. We got the back bills caught up and got pledges and worked out a budget, then extended a call to Richards Williams to become our Pastor. He came as pastor the first Sunday in February 1979 and served until December 1983. During this time we built the present section, sometimes called the new section of our building. In 1980 we received pledges for $42,000 over a 3 year period. In 1981, we built the building, with the help of 34 men from Mississippi and a lot of work from our local men and women. It cost over $125,000. I wish we had kept an accurate record of all of the costs. Many times some person paid for some item and we didn’t get a record of the cost.

January 15, 1984 I left the work as Interim Pastor at Big Pine and came as Interim Pastor at Cal City. In the April business meeting, the church called me as Pastor and because the big financial problems were beginning to be improved, the church increased my salary from $25.00 a week to $100.00 a week. April 15, 1989 Curtis Obrien came as Co-Pastor. So tomorrow is his 2nd year as Pastor and my 7th year. So far as I have been able to find out, Curlee Barber is the only Charter Member of the Church, who now lives in California City.