First Baptist Church of Highland Park was founded as a mission in 1921 and designated as a church by the Ministers’ Conference of Washington, DC and vicinity in 1922. During the same time, a local land developer donated two lots to the Highland Park Community for a church under Rev. Mitchell, its founding pastor. Progress was impeded because of discord, leaders were changed, and by 1945, eight pastors had occupied the pulpit.
Rev. Isaiah Patterson requested help from the United Baptist Convention of Maryland. The convention’s field missionary, the Rev. James Christopher Wyatt, was sent. He came with enthusiasm and zeal, but his progress was stymied because of the loss of members. He sought to revive the congregation and 12 members returned. On May 25, 1945, with a congregation of 13 members, Rev. Wyatt was voted in as the pastor of the church. Under his leadership, First Baptist grew spiritually and physically.
With growth and progress came the desire to build, and on July 8, 1949, a proposal was presented for a new building. Hopes were diminished when a county official warned against building a permanent structure on the site. The congregation then instructed the pastor and deacons to find a suitable location for the church. In 1950, Deacon and Mrs. James Davis and Deacon and Mrs. Wiley Lucas located property on Sheriff Road, and excavation began in 1951. Through hard work, prayer, and faith, the first unit was completed without a mortgage. On December 12, 1954, the congregation marked the newly completed first (lower) unit.
Work on the sanctuary began in April 1962, and by September of that year, the roof was in place. On March 1, 1964, with a membership of 250, the congregation moved into the upper unit of the church. On April 1, 1967, First Baptist ordained a young minister, James J. McCord, who served as assistant to the pastor. On March 30, 1973, Dr. Wyatt retired as pastor after 29 years of faithful service. On April 1, 1973, Rev. McCord assumed the pastorate of First Baptist. Under his leadership, the congregation increased. On January 13, 1980, Rev. McCord and jubilant members and friends lifted their voices in praise and song, and marched into the new edifice. On Sunday, February 10, 1980, the church held its “Moving In and Dedication Service.” The congregation met for a Song and Praise Service on December 13th. On Sunday, April 24, 1988, the church celebrated its 66th Church Anniversary and “Mortgage Burning Service.” This prompted the building program when church officials saw the need for an education building.
On June 9, 1990, the church held a “Kick-Off” Prayer Breakfast, in which it began phase one of the new building program. On August 28, 1993, First Baptist dedicated the building with “A Day of Praise and Thanksgiving” Service. The congregation later voted to name the building The James J. McCord Education Building. On August 22, 1998, the church library opened with a collection of more than 1000 items.
On January 1, 2000, Dr. James J. McCord retired from the pastoral position after 27 years of faithful and dedicated service. The church then elected Dr. McCord as Interim Pastor and he served in that capacity until June 30, 2000. The Pulpit Committee screened and ranked 32 candidates before selecting and recommending the Rev. Dr. Henry P. Davis III, then pastor of the Second Canaan Baptist Church of Harlem, New York, to serve as the church’s pastor. On July 31, 2000, the First Baptist congregation elected Dr. Davis as the church’s 11th pastor, and he began serving in September 2000.
Pastor Davis immediately flagged the Wednesday Night Prayer Service as “Wonderful Wednesdays With Jesus,” which includes Bible study, prayer, praise, and preaching, with the support of the Music Ministry. Souls give their lives to Christ in the middle of the week. The mortgage of the James J. McCord Education Building was burned at the end of 2001. In January of 2003, First Baptist Church of Highland Park started a radio broadcast on 105.1 FM (http://www.wava.com/), able to be heard from Northern Virginia to Baltimore at 7:00 a.m. Later in the same year, we started broadcasting on Satellite Radio 170 XM each Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m.
In the Spring of 2004, First Baptist Church of Highland Park added its third worship service at 6:00 p.m. with the thought of reaching even more with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in September of 2005 changed the format of the Noon Prayer Meeting on Wednesdays to a 1-hour worship experience, “The Power Hour: High Noon at Highland Park.” This exciting worship opportunity reaches persons from all walks of life, from the retired to young adults.
First Baptist Church of Highland Park has always maintained a global perspective, in November of 2005 we began a live broadcast of worship services via the internet (www.fbhp.org and streamingfaith.com). Our church is “Bible Based, Christ Centered, & Spirit Led” and continues to move to higher levels, as empowered by the Holy Spirit. Each Sunday persons are invited to “Tap Into the Power” as First Baptist Church of Highland Park is extremely clear that “The Power Is In Jesus!”