The history of Franklin Baptist Church dates from 1871 when the Methodist and Baptist, who had jointly established a Union Sunday school shortly after the Civil War, elected to separate when contrary issues developed over the ordinance of Baptism. A council of the Portsmouth Baptist Association was convened to organize Franklin Baptist Church. Charter members were 16 in number, including seven men and nine women. The new congregation began meeting in the Masonic Hall located on South Main Street. The first church building was erected on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Main Street in 1872. As Franklin grew from a crossroads community on the Blackwater River into a thriving town, so did Franklin Baptist Church. The membership of the church increased to approximately 250 members by the turn of the century. To accommodate the increase in membership, the church erected a new church building on the corner of Second Avenue and High Street in 1903. In 1916, a Sunday school addition was constructed to house Sunday school attendance approaching 500, and church membership in excess of 550. During the 1940s, the church added another Sunday school building and a fellowship hall along Second Avenue. In the 1950s and 60s, the church continued to grow with membership increasing to more than 1,000 members. A new sanctuary was constructed and dedicated in 1962. The old sanctuary was remodeled and became the chapel. With the exception of the 1948 Sunday school addition being replaced in 1991 by the building that is now known as the Atrium, this complex of buildings has continued to serve as the physical plant for Franklin Baptist.
Franklin Baptist Church, however, is more than just buildings. From its inception, the church has been mission oriented, contributing generously monetarily, as well as participating in mission projects in the local community, state and worldwide. Direct mission ministries have included local partnering with Habitat for Humanity and the Franklin Cooperative Ministry; statewide mission ministries such as Bland County mission relief; and, nationally in programs such as disaster relief mission ministries. Franklin Baptist has had an affiliation with the Blackwater Baptist Association since the inception of the BBA. It has had from its beginning an affiliation with the Baptist General Association of Virginia. Formally, the church was affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. The church disassociated itself from the SBC in 2001, subsequent to the SBC’s revision of the Baptist Faith and Message, containing statements of beliefs which did not align with the historical beliefs of Franklin Baptist. In 2002, the church formalized its partnership with The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Virginia. Ministers of the church, as well as its lay leaders, have served in leadership positions in all of the organizations with which we have been, or are currently affiliated.
The church has been blessed with strong pastoral leadership; likewise, it has been blessed with strong lay leadership. Recognized as being a progressive and moderate church, Franklin Baptist has benefited from the active involvement of women for over a century, serving in professional staff positions as well as lay leadership positions. In 1982, the church ordained its first women deacons. Church history is replete with members, both male and female, who have been ordained and have served our church, or have gone forth to serve in other churches and mission fields.
Franklin Baptist Church has had a vibrant and proud history. Its heritage provides a solid foundation upon which to build, grow and move forward.