How does the community describe Cumberland First Baptist Church?
CFBC feels like home. We love and support each other unconditionally, with hugs, prayers, and total acceptance.
I honestly didn't know the meaning of the term "church family" until attending CFBC. The first time I attended a service, I knew there was no place else I could ever choose to explore my faith. A very welcoming atmosphere for all.
Cumberland First Baptist is the church I needed in my life. I found this place at a time when I was at a crossroads in my faith and struggling to have a church home that represented all that is good about following Christ. Welcoming, affirming, and cherishing ALL is the essence of this remarkable place, as anyone who joins us will be able to see.
After giving up on “church,” I didn’t expect to find a community that fit for me and my family. Divine serendipity, it seems, led me to find two – Broadneck Baptist in Maryland and Cumberland First Baptist in Indiana - that have the balance of deep and broad compassion, meaningful intellectual examination, and honest wrestling with real questions and issues.
Cumberland FBC is a place where everyone can Join the Journey.
I had never experienced so much love in one congregation in my 50+ years! FBC Cumberland teaches unconditional love for all peoples! God blesses me every time I enter the doors!
Cumberland FBC is dually aligned with the American Baptist Churches, USA and the Alliance of Baptists. The first is a strong historical commitment, the second a principled affiliation that underscores our progressive theology and broad spirit of welcome toward all, including LGBTQ persons. Our discernment in these matters is guided to a great degree by the core Baptist freedom tenets of individual and congregational autonomy and separation of church and state. While Baptists of many stripes are often associated with narrow views and practices, historic Baptist faith is non-creedal and expansive in its insistence on freedom of thought, championing each congregation's right to determine its own practice of faith as a matter of prayer, discernment and conscience. Our extravagant welcome of diversity derives from that history.
The town of Cumberland was established in 1830 by the construction of Cumberland Hall to accommodate travelers along the Cumberland Road, later called the National Road, and now known as U.S. Highway 40. When Cumberland was established in 1830, the population of Indianapolis was 1200 and Marion County was 7192. The country was like a wilderness. Stagecoaches passed through this village at regular intervals. Mail on the stages was sent to Terre Haute twice a week. It took six days and twenty hours to reach Washington D.C. from Indianapolis. Businessmen and many others used the stagecoach, as it was their only mode of traveling. So to accommodate these travelers that they might have food and lodging, roadhouses were located along this great national highway. Many persons who bought farms or built homes in the area worked on the Cumberland Road for .60 cents a day
The need for a church in the community soon became evident. There was no meetinghouse in which to gather, and no pastor to give them encouragement. The Baptist brethren living along Buck Creek in Hancock County decided to meet at the home of James Parker, on a farm known as the "Atherton Farm", located about one mile northeast of Cumberland. This meeting was held on October 20, 1832. A group of six people attended this session: James Parker, Ambrose Shirley, John Kitley, Lyman Carpenter and Sarah Pogue. They agree to organize as a church, "constituted on the faith of the apostles". In these early days of the church, worship services were held in the homes of the members, being called 'cottage meetings'.
For many years, the worship service was held once a month on Saturday at noon with praise and prayer, then the sermon, then the business meeting with the congregation, the pastor and moderator. For the first fifty years pastors were called on a yearly basis, preaching once a month, later twice a month. Since 1924, the Church has had full-time pastors. During the 174 years, there have been forty-two pastors. Our current pastoral staff consists of the Rev. T. Wyatt Watkins, who became our pastor on June 1, 2001, serving as Minister of Worship and Outreach, and Kevin D. Rose, who has served this church since March 1989, currently as Minister of Discipleship and Mission.
The church has had three buildings, all located at 116 South Muessing Street. The first 'meeting house', built in 1840 was a very modest frame structure, and served the church for 43 years until 1883. The second building was dedicated in December 1883 and served the church for 30 years until the current structure was dedicated on June 1, 1913. The corner stone of the present building was laid on the northeast corner of the church building on Sunday afternoon, September 1, 1912. This present building, in the design of the Akron plan and costing approximately $15,000.00, was made of poured concrete, with walls 16 to 18 inches thick. Beautiful art glass windows, made by German artisans from the area, are believed to have cost $600.00. These windows continue to be a treasure and a source of encouragement to all who see them. Cumberland First Baptist Church is the oldest church in Cumberland and has been included in the Historic Record. In 2007 we celebrated 175 years of ministry in this community.
Over the years, as the church continued to grow, future expansion of the building was considered, resulting in a new educational wing in 1965 and the construction of a new Narthex area, a future new classroom, and the installation of a new elevator, dedicated on June 3, 1990.
In 2001, as Cumberland First Baptist was calling T. Wyatt Watkins, it was restructuring its life on many levels. Embracing a welcoming and affirming stance of broader inclusion regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, Cumberland also gradually adopted a new ministry team model of organization which departed from the old institutional pattern. This has served the congregation well, as new gifts have been called up among the leadership and a consensus approach to decision-making has brought a new level of empowerment into the mix. It has been accompanied by a congregation-wide openness to and pursuit of new, post-modern ways of examining and living out our faith. These are exciting and invigorating days to be followers of Jesus at Cumberland First Baptist Church!