The First Baptist Church of Oak Park formally begun with a service in the home of its members on April 25, 1873. Rapid growth during the early years led to a move to a rental hall until the congregation occupied its first church building in 1883. The present church was dedicated on April 22, 1923, with the addition of the education and community building later in the decade. Membership reached its peak of up to 1400 members immediately following World War II.
The 1960’s and 1970’s brought about changing demographics among urban communities, resulting in a changing religious population in Oak Park. On January 1, 1972, a merger between First Baptist and AustinSecond Baptist Church of Chicago became a reality, following a long and careful study and planning by both churches. Austin-Second Baptist Church was itself a merged congregation formed in 1960 from the First Baptist Church of Austin, established in 1871, and the Second Baptist Church, founded in 1864. Strong legacies of faith, from three congregations serving separate areas of Chicago coming together, strengthened their witness in the new environment.
The heritage we value is exemplified by the parenting of several other churches; the many men and women nurtured, trained and some ordained into Christian ministry in our church who had or are still serving Christ’s church in this country and abroad; our Preschool and Kindergarten, founded in 1929 at First Baptist; Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, established in 1913 in the Second Baptist Church; the former Baptist Retirement Home in Maywood, IL with its first building memorializing Aunt Lizzie Aiken, the city missionary of Second Baptist Church; and the continuing use of the former home of Austin, by the Original Providence Baptist Church, a sister church of the Chicago Baptist Association.
The faithful service by many, whose names and contributions are not mentioned, continue the tradition of bearing witness to the Gospel throughout the years–amidst challenges, changes and opportunities.