The First Baptist Church of Robinson is celebrating its 150th anniversary this weekend, but its youth movement has longtime members talking about the future and how the congregation on Stegall Drive can continue to serve God, and the community, for generations to come.
Even the church’s new pastor has yet to reach his 30th birthday. That would be the Rev. Brooks Kimmey, 29, a native of Temple who played baseball for Baylor University and thought he would pursue a career in medicine until a higher power intervened and directed his steps toward the ministry.
“I went to Dallas Theological Seminary, took part in a residency program in Franklin, Tennessee, and now I’m back in Central Texas with my first pastorate,” he said. “My wife, Katy, and I prayed about our desire to be in a one-high-school town near a community a little bit bigger, and Robinson fit a lot of the things we were hoping would work out for us. We came and visited, felt the situation was just right, and now we hope we can do a lot of good here at First Baptist Robinson.”
Kimmey will shepherd a church founded by nine charter members on Sept. 11, 1866, in what was then Robinsonville. At that time, it was called Bethel Baptist Church, becoming Robinson Baptist Church in 1876 and the First Baptist Church of Robinson in 1956.
“Since that time, the church has had 44 full-time pastors and several pastors who have served in an interim capacity,” according to a church history prepared by the staff using minutes from meetings over the years. “In early times, the tenure of the first pastors was extremely short.”
A church building was destroyed by a tornado in 1888; full-time “preaching” began in 1934; and construction that intensified in the 1950s created the First Robinson of today.
Of interest in those minutes were references to actions that may have caused the congregation to look with disfavor upon some members, and even banish them from the church. Those included dancing, or knowingly allowing dancing on one’s property; using foul language; or “consorting” with people of other denominations.
Occasionally, members were brought before the church body to request forgiveness for such offenses, and sometimes were allowed to keep their names on the membership roll.
First Robinson has evolved, though members say it remains traditional in its worship services and its approach to spreading the gospel.
“We have a lot of older people who have been here a long time; some have been here, left and come back,” said Rebecca Wiese, 72, who has attended First Robinson since the 1970s. “Our goal is to increase the number from the younger generation, and we’ve placed an emphasis on that the past couple of years.”
She said efforts have produced phenomenal results, with 80 to 100 children and 30 to 40 teenagers enjoying a meal and reading Scripture on Wednesday evenings.
“It’s called Fun, Food and Bible study time, and everyone enjoys it, including the adults who volunteer their time to help serve,” said Wiese. “We have a bus ministry that picks up the kids who need a ride. We used to travel all the way to the Texas State Technical College area, but we don’t go quite that far anymore because there are so many right around the church who need transportation. The program is growing in number, so I know this area is growing with young families.”
Wiese said about 30 percent of the young people who attend the Wednesday program return to worship service on Sundays.
“That’s not as many as we would like, but we just have to have patience,” she said. “Patience is our virtue.”
She said the church also hopes parents who see their children enjoying themselves at First Robinson may consider visiting to check out what’s happening there.
The First Robinson sanctuary seats about 300 people, and the church staff estimates Sunday morning services usually attract 125 worshippers. There was a time, they said, that overflow crowds gathered to pray, praise and sing hymns during each of two Sunday morning services First Robinson hosted.
Michael Moore, 55, served as pastor of First Robinson from June 1995 to December 2014, when he left to form a “cowboy” church in the West Texas town of Levelland. He said he certainly will return to Robinson this weekend to take part in the anniversary celebration. Like Kimmey, he said, First Robinson represented his first pastorate.
“I felt that was where God had me until I moved on,” said Moore, who now has grown children who were ages 3 and 5 when he moved into the pulpit at First Robinson. “Just as we left, we were beginning to turn the corner on making the church younger than it had been; we were getting those crowds of at least 100 or more youth and children on Wednesday nights. When I first arrived, my family and three others were the youngest in the church, and we had many senior adults in their 70s and 80s.”
He said the congregation overlooked his youth, or embraced it, and accepted him with the grace and love for which First Robinson has become known.
Moore, who has returned to First Robinson on six occasions this year to preside at funerals, said his vision for the church was always to “reach people without a relationship with the Lord,” adding the biggest challenge of any pastor is “staying focused on the target without getting distracted by the world.”
Mary Felkner, 77, has attended First Robinson for 12 years, and she loves her new pastor and “the friendly and loving people who love God.”
She acknowledges the need for an infusion of youth, energy and fresh approaches to make the church attractive to a broader age group.
“We’re mostly older people,” she said. “I’d say 75 percent of us have white hair, and that’s the reason we’ve got a young pastor.”
Wiese said the church believes in spreading the love of God beyond its walls. Members visit the sick, often bearing gifts of homemade bread and desserts, and join First Lutheran Church, 1008 Jefferson Ave., in helping to feed the homeless at least once a month. Donations are accepted for foreign mission work.
“I just want us to be faithful,” said Kimmey, the new pastor. “There are certain things that a pastor, or anyone wanting to invest in the church, can control. And there are things you can’t control. God is going to judge us on how faithful we are. He wants us to be obedient to the word and faithful where he plants us.”
Kimmey said he will urge members to use the gifts and talent God gave them to create new disciples and spread the Gospel — and he will urge them to work hard in Christ.
“Don’t lean on a shovel and pray for a hole,” he said, adding, “Do these things and God is going to be pleased with us.”
A concert by Holly Tucker capped a day of anniversary services Saturday. On Sunday, a light breakfast is scheduled at 9 a.m., followed by a church group photo at 10 a.m., worship service at 10:30 a.m. and lunch at 11:30 a.m.