A scant five years after Waco was founded on the banks of the Brazos River, Bosqueville Baptist Church was organized on Rock Creek Road in November 1854.
The historic church, which was added as a Texas landmark in 1978 and continues to use a sanctuary built in 1917, will celebrate its 165th anniversary with a special service on Nov. 3.
The Rev. Ryan Busby, who has been the church’s pastor since 2014, said the 10:45 a.m. service will heavily reflect its past.
“One, we are having former pastors and music ministers joining us to participate and lead in various parts of the service, and we’ve been able to get Dr. Alan LeFever, the director of the Texas Baptist Historical Collection, to come and preach,” he said. “Two, we are diving into God’s faithfulness thematically through celebrating the past, present and the future of Bosqueville Baptist. This will allow us to have fun seeing the history together as worship.”
The church’s history is evident throughout its sanctuary. Historical relics have been maintained in good condition over the years.
For example, the saddle Bible carried by the church’s first pastor, the Rev. S.G. O’Bryan, is displayed under a glass window cut into the communion table in the sanctuary. Busby said the Bible was donated to the church by the family’s estate.
The present building was completed in 1917 at a cost of $4,000 with donated labor and no indebtedness. With much growth over the years, Sunday school rooms, the fellowship hall, the kitchen, and restrooms, as well as a parsonage were added in the 1950s.
Other gifts to the church over the years carry significant importance. The picture in the baptistry shows the exact location of baptisms in the Bosque River, where it is said as many as seven generations of one family were baptized before construction of the church baptistry in 1950.
The piano, organ, furniture, carpeting and stained-glass windows are other gifts to the church. A family life center was added during the 125th anniversary in 1979.
Joyce Rowell is the church’s longest member, having joined at age 5. She and her husband, Dan, grew up in the church and were both baptized there as preteens.
She recalls “Vacation Bible School that were two weeks each summer and revival meetings sometimes two weeks in length, also. The church was the center of our family life.”
Of course, the Rowells remember when the building had no air conditioning, though it eventually made way for ceiling fans and finally, central air conditioning.
“God has been faithful, and BBC has been faithful to God,” Joyce Rowell said. “This church has been the ‘training ground’ for many first-time pastors, music ministers and youth ministers since its proximity to Baylor and the seminary. God has always put the right people at this church to sustain it.
“When we needed a piano player, God provided. Same with other needs. God does not need us, but He continues to let people serve Him and the people of Bosqueville community.”
One of Bosqueville Baptist’s newest members, Patti Beaty, plays piano at the church and is helping organize the 165th celebration.
“I knew the first time I stepped into the beautiful building at Bosqueville Baptist Church that this would be our new church home,” Beaty said. “The classic architecture of 1917, the wooden pews and antique pulpit, the baptistry with an actual scene from the Bosque River … are all a step back into a more peaceful era in time. The sound of traditional music and the spirit of this congregation was so heart-warming.”
Beaty said there was nothing left to doubt about joining when she heard Busby’s message on that first visit.
“I love playing the piano for traditional religious music,” she said. “It is one of my ministries in being able to speak to the hearts of people.”
She decided to become a part of the 165th anniversary committee because she says she finds it truly amazing “for a country church to have worshiped uninterrupted for 165 years.”
Married to her husband, Charles, of 50 years, the lifelong Baptist said her passion has always been worshiping in a traditional Baptist service. Bosqueville Baptist Church offered that for her.
“I grew up in the country, so, naturally, I am much more comfortable in a country atmosphere,” she said.
The Bosqueville Baptist Church congregation originally met in a log house where the cemetery is now located. It was at that time that the Rev. S.G. O’Bryan, who was the pastor at the First Baptist Church in Waco, along with eight charter members organized Bosqueville Baptist Church.
The congregation named it Bosque Baptist Church of Christ, and in 1866 changed the name to Bosqueville Baptist Church.
A few years after being established, the congregation continued to meet in the house until Bosqueville College was founded. Church services moved to the college building for the next 30 years.
With the help of the local Masonic lodge, a church house and Masonic hall were built in 1886 on land donated to the church by Dr. Warren Wortham. The meeting house was completed in 1887. Three months later the little church had a lamp explode during an evening service and the building burned to the ground.
History points out the congregation was able to save the church seats, two window blinds, the door shutters and the pulpit. The salvaged pulpit, in fact, is still used in the current sanctuary.
In 1895 the congregation finished a wood-frame frontier-style building and worshiped there for 22 years until the current wood-frame, classic frontier-style sanctuary was finished in 1917.
The sanctuary was built on the same land donated to the church by Wortham in 1886.
Busby graduated from seminary in December 2013. He was connected to Bosqueville Baptist Church in the spring of 2014 through the Texas Baptist Ministry when he began his search for a church home.
“I felt a strong mutual connection immediately,” Busby said. “The church itself has lived through three different centuries and its changes reflect those massive changes. It has gone from a single-room sanctuary in the current structure to a multi-building complex. Our church membership, while maintaining some of our loyal locals is also reflecting the influx of our diverse new community.”
Busby says too that theologically, the church has gone from being a strictly Southern Baptist church to partner with Texas Baptists, the Waco Regional Baptist Association and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
“Our leadership now is one that embraces and celebrates women in leadership, and we try our best to be a church that welcomes questions as we are all pressing into the love and mystery of God,” he said.
Busby lives in the parsonage behind the church, which maintained its parsonage since the 1960s and updated it in the 1990s.
“They maintained the parsonage for a few reasons,” Busby explained. “One, they have historically been a church that has called first-time ministers. So, the parsonage has been a way to increase the total package offered the minster and bless them with housing as many were either still in seminary or had recently graduated.
“It is hard to save up a down payment on a home while going through a full-time, three-year graduate program. The physical maintenance of the property has been an ongoing partnership between the congregation and the ministers.”
Busby says he is excited about the upcoming 165th anniversary celebration because he loves hearing stories from the past about the church.
He also has a 4- and 2-year-old and says he gathers memories daily from the congregation and how much they love to include children in the service. He also recalls when one of the former music ministers introduced a jazzy New Orleans-esque arrangement of the hymn “Amazing Grace” during a service.
He says 10 seconds of skepticism and confusion erupted into acceptance of the song.
“This move from skepticism to joyful unity has been a running theme as we have continually celebrated the diversity of musical gifts, styles, and preferences within the whole congregation,” Busby said.
Bosqueville Baptist Church 165th Anniversary Celebration
When: 10:45 a.m. Nov. 3.
Where: Bosqueville Baptist Church, 7465 Rock Creek Road.
Service: Dr. Alan LaFever is the featured speaker. LaFever is a professor at Truett Seminary, as well as director of the Texas Baptist Historical Collection. The morning service will include several former pastors and music ministers.
After the service: Lunch will be served in Bosqueville Baptist Church Family Life Center, followed by a time of sharing and reflections of the past by members of the congregation.