After Rev. Harold Branton served as Interim between 1976 and 1977, Rev. Les Funk arrived in 1977 to lead the congregation. More renovations were done to the church, including converting the choir room into a lounge, carpeting the basement floor, and remodeling the kitchen including adding a dishwasher. The building also received attention, with the addition of insulation, and other outside maintenance. Long a leaky problem, the baptistry was fibreglassed. Stained-glass light fixtures were also build by Rev. Funk and Dr. Arthur Bartsch and installed in the sanctuary. By 1978 Membership was at 58 with an average attendance in the morning service of 52. By 1980 the Sunday morning attendance was up to 60. During 1981, there were two baptism and another in 1982. A manse at 502 Third Street was purchased in1980. It was subsequently sold in 1986.
In 1982, Rev. Ward T. Cowie began a term of ministry with the congregation. He was inducted on October 24, 1982, by Rev. John Dozois (B.C. Area Moderator). Also in October, the congregation celebrated its 85th Anniversary. Rev Tom Oshiro (B.C. Area Minister) was the guest speaker and Rev. Gerald Ward spoke to the Sunday School “Open Session”. The theme of the weekend was “The Lord will Provide”.
Rev. Cowie was ordained on September 25, 1983, by Rev. Tom Oshiro. In 1984, Sunday attendance was up to 77 and there were three baptisms. By 1985 there was an average of 80 people squeezed into the sanctuary, such that an interior wall had to be removed to make more seating in the sanctuary in 1987. The front platform area was also completely renovated to create a wide stage area.
The 90th anniversary was celebrated onOctober 10, 1987 with Rev. Bill Cram (B.C. Area Minister) as guest preacher. His sermon was entitled “Stepping into Tomorrow”. The Sunday service followed the 15th annual Kootenay Baptist Women’s Retreat, which was held the day before. The weekend also featured a turkey dinner held at Shoreacres, with over 130 people in attendance.
In 1989 there were eight baptisms, and a further four in 1990. Six new members arrived in 1990 and a further eleven in 1991 (three through baptism). Other highlights of these years were: Kid’s Fest and the annual church retreat in September.
Rev. Cowie resigned in 1991 and Rev. Tom Wilkinson served as Interim minister until Rev. Richard Matiachuk took on pastoral and preaching responsibilities in January 1992.
At the Annual meeting in January, 1992, a “Long Range Planning Committee” was established to study the best way to serve the needs of the growing church family. Over the course of a few months, several properties and options were considered. There were two Baptisms in 1992.
To accommodate the growing church the congregation moved its Sunday Worship Service and Sunday School to the lower floor and (new) gymnasium of Hume School inNovember, 1992. They remained there untilJune, 1993, returning to the Fourth Street Building for the summer months. InSeptember, 1993, two morning Services of Worship were established to accommodate the numbers in attendance and allow for two styles of worship to develop. Also in September, the congregation decided to offer Sunday School during the early service only and for children up to grade 6. During that year six people professed their faith through Baptism. Cornerstone pre-school was established as a ministry of First Baptist Church to the community. The pre-school grew out of a Friday morning ‘mom and tots’ play group program.
In 1994, Children’s Ministries expanded and “Cottonwood Corner Out-of School-Care” was started, to offer after-school care in the Hume School area. The small house at 504 Third Street was used for the Sunday School, Cottonwood Corner and the Youth Group. Jeff Zak joined the pastoral staff as the Youth Worker (part-time). His mandate was to further develop and establish a viable youth ministry at First Baptist Church. Over the next two years the teens formed a solid group with the name “Omega Defense”. Jeff continued this ministry position until December,1996.
In 1995 two church members wanted to undertake a project to raise funds towards the purchase of a new church building. They were active bicyclists and had participated in an annual ride that started in 1992 and was known as R.A.G.E. (Ride Around a Glacier, Eh!). The folks who had originally started the R.A.G.E. ride had decided not to continue. The church folks got involved and renamed it P.A.G.E. (Pedal Around a Glacier, Eh!) as “rage” was not something that a Christian organization would want in its title. So, it started as P.A.G.E. 1, and the book is still being written. P.A.G.E. is a 220 km. cycling journey from Nelson, along the shore of Kootenay Lake to the village of Kaslo, then across a mountain pass on Highway 31A to New Denver, where they stop for the night. Day 2 sees them heading south along Highway 6, through the Slocan Valley and back into Nelson, following the Kootenay River. Yes, they also manage to raise a few hundred dollars each year toward building projects.
After much prayer and discussion the congregation decided to take on a two-year lease of 611 Fifth Street (the former Fairview United Church building) in October, 1995. The goal was to purchase the building at the end of the lease, subject to the United Church’s decision to sell. On Thanksgiving Sunday – the first service in the new building – 150 people celebrated the new stage in the life of First Baptist Church. The following year, five teens and four adults proclaimed their faith in Jesus through Baptism.
Celebration and Challenges
In January, 1997, Ben and Helene Walker assumed responsibility for the Youth Ministry (teens). Then in
April discussions started with Nelson United regarding the purchase of 611 Fifth Street, and the building at 503 Fourth Street went up for sale. Victoria Day long weekend (May 16 – 18) found First Baptist Church celebrating its 100th Anniversary on the theme “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. There were 163 people in the congregation that Sunday, when Don Anderson, BC Area Minister, preached on “Time to get a move on” from Joshua Chapters 3 and 4. The celebrations included a banquet at the newly opened Prestige Inn on the waterfront when Don Anderson spoke on “Doing Church in Carnival Time”. There was also a picnic at Lakeside Park during which the church sponsored rides on Streetcar #23, which runs along the waterfront from the park to the Prestige Inn.
In the summer of 1997, a delegation of six members of the youth group went on a mission trip to Dolbeau, in northern Quebec. And there were five Baptisms.
The title on the building at 611 Fifth Street was registered on December 1, 1997, and the sale of the building on Fourth Street was finalized in February 1998.
The second century of First Baptist Church started with attendance at Sunday Worship Services averaging 85 people, but by the beginning of 2000, average attendance for Sunday Worship had dropped to 49.
Richard Matiachuk resigned as pastor in October 1998, and Rev. John Butcher took over as interim pastor until a new pastor could be called. In addition to the ad hoc Pastoral Search Committee, a committee to develop revised Bylaws was established. The revised Bylaws were subsequently adopted by the membership and were registered with the Provincial Registrar of Societies on July 23, 2000.They were implemented on January 01, 2001, so the church started the new millennium with a new organizational structure and new Bylaws.