The vision

There is something about a campfire at a high country hunting camp which seems to ignite dreams and hopes in the soul of a person. Rev. Joe P. Jacobs (pictured right) was watching the glowing embers of the fire at Maurice Williams’ elk hunting camp north of the town of Jackson, Wyoming and the seed of an idea sprouted into an enthusiasm which could not be quenched.


“Uncle Joe” was enjoying a well-deserved vacation from his responsibilities as Superintendent of the American Baptist Publication Society. Though his base of operations was in Kansas City, he was charged with the task of establishing Sunday Schools, setting up a network of itinerant evangelist-teachers, starting churches, and providing literature for all of these in an area that included all the territory west of the Mississippi to the far edge of the Rocky Mountains.


As he sat at Maurice Williams’ campfire that evening, he thought about this spectacular Jackson Hole country which had captured his imagination. Even as a first-time visitor to the area, Rev. Jacobs could foresee some changes which would surely come to the valley.


As the first decade of the twentieth century was coming to a close, railroads had shrunk the travel time across the vast plains. Cattle trails were being transformed into primitive roads which connected towns and railheads to the remote areas such as Jackson Hole.


Yellowstone National Park was drawing more tourists each year. Many of these visitors were spending more and more time in the region of the Teton Mountains. Big game hunters like Rev. Jacobs were becoming more numerous each autumn.


Several were staying on to try to scratch out a living on the homestead quarter sections they had claimed. There was no doubt in Rev. Jacobs mind that nothing could stem the growth which would surely come to this area.


The campfire dream which took hold of him that night was to establish a Baptist church in this valley. One that would minister to the residents of Jackson Hole, and one that would be open to the visitors which funneled through the area each summer and autumn.


As soon as the hunting trip was over, Rev. Jacobs took steps to translate that plan into a reality. By 1910, there were five ministers called colporteurs deployed throughout Wyoming. A colporteur was a traveling teacher-evangelist who went to settlements, crossroads, and ranches to share the Good News of Christ.


Each colporteur was equipped with a team of horses and a sturdy enclosed wagon. That wagon was home for the minister and his family. It carried a tent and other camping gear, their food, a small folding organ, Bibles, Sunday school materials, tracts and other religious literature. Bibles and some of the literature were sold at low cost. The other material was distributed free.


The practice was to travel wherever people could be reached by that team and wagon. The minister would hold a teaching/preaching service, and try to establish a regular Sunday school to be run by one of the local residents. Some of the Sunday schools were so successful that they were later organized as permanent churches.

A church is planted

The colporteur which Rev.Jacobs had assigned to the western Wyoming area was Rev. Thomas H. Baxter (pictured left), and he sent word to him about his plan to establish some Sunday schools and a congregation in the Jackson Hole area. The Baxters immediately prepared to travel from their base in Evanston to this remote place which had so enamored their supervisor.


The trip was no easy matter for this itinerant parson and his wife. They left Evanston on July 10, 1910 on a route which took them through Cokeville, La Barge, Daniel, Kendell Wells, Union Pass, the Gros Ventre River, the Lafferty Ranch, Kelly and, finally, to the town of Jackson. It was a journey of ten very tiring days.


They were unable to secure a house in Jackson, so the colporteur camp equipment became their home on a temporary basis. Mr. C. R. Van Vleck was very kind to allow them to use his property as a campsite.


The Baxters set out at once to establish several Sunday schools scattered throughout the Jackson Hole area. Not only was one scheduled for the town of Jackson, but they also met in the settlements of Zenith, Grovont, Cheney, and Kelly on a regular basis.


In September of 1910, Rev. Jacobs visited the Baxters to see how his pet project was coming along. He was evidently pleased with what he saw, because he gave every assurance that they could count on the Baptist’s national organizational support for this work to be sustained. Not only were the various Sunday schools meeting regularly, but the new pastor was holding preaching services in the Clubhouse in Jackson on Sunday evenings.


With the coming of winter, Rev. Baxter was sidelined several weeks by an attack of influenza. Mrs. Baxter not only nursed him back to health, but carried on all the pastoral duties while her husband regained his strength. This experience was the occasion for a national Baptist publication to send out a plea for some adventurous doctor to set up a practice in this wonderful, but needy, place. There is no evidence that anyone responded to that particular call for help.

Organized March 16, 1911

In March 1911, Rev. Jacobs returned to Jackson Hole, and he was accompanied by Rev. George L. White of the American Baptist Home Mission Society. Their mission was to hold a series of meetings with the express purpose of officially organizing a Baptist church in this community. Records state that the organizational meeting was held on Thursday, March 16, 1911 “in the little chapel rented from E.C. Steele.” It must have given Rev. Jacobs a great deal of pleasure to preside at that constituting session. His dream was taking definite shape.


Nine people took a step of faith to become members of “The Jackson’s Hole Baptist Church” that day. At that same meeting, a building committee was appointed. Besides three members from outside the church – Mr. L. B. Hoagland and Mr. Frank E. Van Vleck – were added to the group to plan a building for this fledgling fellowship.


The two Baptist executives left the community around the end of March, but Rev. Jacobs continued a nationwide lobby on behalf of the church and the area. In the April 13, 1911 issue of a widely distributed Baptist publication called The Central Baptist, he wrote a most unusual article. In it, he gave a glowing description of the area that would shame the best efforts of an ordinary public relations manager.


He assured the reader that a dependable stagecoach made regular runs from the railhead at St. Anthony, Idaho to Jackson. The fare was a mere $6.50 per person and 25 pounds of baggage. Lodging along the way could be had for $0.50 a night, and a decent meal was available for $0.35.


After describing the wonderful productivity of the ranch land and the fact that this was a hunter’s paradise, Rev. Jacobs proposed that this would be the perfect place to establish a large colony of energetic Baptists who wanted to make a new start in life. He offered himself as an information center and travel agent for all who wanted to move to this valley.


A little later he purchased two lots at Kelly in order to help stimulate this plan for a Baptist settlement. Time would eventually show that few in his audience shared this particular dream.


There is one person who might have been influenced by Rev. Jacobs’ promotion. About that time, Mr. Milt Kneedy, a devout Baptist, moved to the Kelly area. Mr. Kneedy was the father of Ida Chambers. A few years later, he and his wife drowned in the Kelly flood.


If Rev. Jacob’s plan had succeeded, we might well have had a “Baptist Row” to parallel “Mormon Row” in that part of the valley.


Meanwhile, Rev. Baxter continued his faithful ministry to the people of Jackson Hole. Services of baptism during the winter months were always an adventure. During that first week the church was organized, a young woman, Mary McGuire, expressed a desire to be baptized. The service was held at the ice-fringed Snake River on a Sunday afternoon in late March 1911.


The snow was reported to be four feet deep on the level and the river rocks were slippery. Several cowboys attended the gathering since this was the first service of its kind ever held in this area.


The Baptist executive, Rev. George White, was on hand to witness the baptism and became concerned that the Rev. Baxter might have a little problem with the slick river bottom. So, he approached the tallest cowboy in the audience and asked him to assist. The cowpoke pulled off his big hat and said, “Well, that’s a bit out of my line, Mister, but I’ll help if I can.”


He put a blanket over his arm and helped Mary down the slippery bank and out to midstream. There he was in his high cowboy boots with spurs, chaps, and six-shooters on his hips, leading the young woman out to Rev. Baxter who baptized her. He then wrapped the blanket around her and gently helped her back to the snow-drifted bank. It is reported that the other cowboys lined the riverside, standing quietly with bowed heads during the entire service.


Even funerals had unexpected moments for Rev. Baxter. He was conducting a funeral to be held on the front porch of Roy Van Vleck’s house, and the burial was to be in Kelly. People had come all the way from Idaho to attend the service. A young man from that contingent learned that the good parson appreciated a spirited horse, and that he owned one particular beast of such spirit that it had never been successfully ridden. Well, this fellow considered himself to be a skilled bucking horse rider, and he suddenly had an urge to get on that bronc of Rev. Baxter’s.


Even though the casket was in place and the funeral was set to proceed, this young man insisted that he be given the chance to ride that horse. He just could not be convinced to wait. So, the funeral was delayed while they all went to watch the ride. After the young man was inevitably bucked off, everyone returned to the front porch, and the funeral continued.

The first building

The church’s building committee selected an architectural plan which they used for Baptist churches in Manderson, Wyoming and Mason, Nevada. Mr. Wiley W. Smith had donated a lot for a building site. This lot (measuring 66 feet by 100 feet) was located just west of the present site of the Jackson State Bank (now the downtown Wells Fargo).


Raising money for this structure was a real concern for the small congregation. The Baptist Home Mission society provided a “gift loan” of $750. Around $1,200 was raised locally, and of that, nearly 50% was contributed by non-Baptists. Some funds were still needed to completely enclose the building.


Rev. Jacobs came to the rescue again and printed an appeal in the February 1913 issue of Missions, a publication which went to every congregation in the denomination. Though the building was only covered with a sub-siding, at least enough money was raised to install all the windows.


After the winter of 1912-13, Rev. Baxter asked to be relieved of his responsibilities as pastor of the church, but he did continue to minister to the Sunday school groups meeting at Kelly and Zenith. He purchased a ranch on Ditch Creek near Kelly which he later traded to Dick Winger in exchange for the valley’s only newspaper, the Jackson Hole Courier. Besides publishing the newspaper for a while, he also assumed the position of postmaster from November 16, 1918 until July 8, 1921.


In May, 1913, Rev. C. Wardlaw was called to the pastorate of this congregation. He received a salary of $1,000. ($700 paid by the Baptist Home Mission Society and $300 by the local congregation). Miss Jessie Wardlaw, the pastor’s daughter, came to Jackson with her parents, and her presence influenced a very active youth program at the church.


A service of dedication for the new church building (pictured right) was set for November 9, 1913. Several officials from the Baptist denomination were present for this occasion. The day was marked by three full sermons and a picnic dinner. A photograph taken on that day shows that nearly 75 persons attended.



Fittingly, Rev. Jacobs was one of the featured participants at this service. His dream, which began in the flicker of the evening fire at an elk hunting camp, was now solidly grounded in both flesh and building.


An article in the January 1915 issue of Missions magazine reported that the average attendance in the Baptist Sunday school in Jackson at that time was around 40-50. This article also indicated that several of the children from the other churches in the community attended the Sunday school at the Baptist church.


Rev. Wardlaw resigned in 1914 and there followed a succession of missionary pastors who stayed but briefly who were:Rev. S. J. Miners served 1914-15, Rev. Tom Wallace, 1916, Rev. John Pearson, 1917-18, Rev. E. R. Evans, 1919-20, Rev. T. R. Baxter, 1921, and Rev. N. C. Coggin, 1922-23.


During that period the church fell into a time of inactivity and failed to maintain the vigor of the promising start of its outreach in this community. Nevertheless, there was always a small remnant who remained faithful to the opportunities and purposes of the Baptist witness in the Jackson Hole area.


The records from this period are sketchy at best, but it should be noted that in 1915, the minutes of a meeting tell of action by the congregation to finish the exterior of the building by installing wooden siding and painting the church. This project took some time because notes taken at a meeting two years later show that $60 was still needed in order to purchase paint for the exterior of the Baptist church.

1920-1929

In 1923, the congregation called Rev. C. C. Harwood to be the pastor. During his ministry, the church enjoyed a brief period of revived spirit and activity. The impetus during this time of renewal happened by a series of evangelistic services conducted by none other than Rev.  Jacobs.


In late 1925, Rev. Harwood developed some health problems and he felt that it was necessary to resign and leave the valley. A cryptic note written in 1926 reported that the “church books had been sealed and eventually destroyed, due to difficulties concerning them, and new church books secured.” This explains why the information on this period of the church’s history is a little hard to come by.


After Rev. Harwood’s departure, the church remained without a pastor for some time. The Sunday worship services were canceled, but the Sunday school classes continued to meet on a regular basis. One of the members, Albert Pratt, was very active in the leadership of the Sunday school at that time. He organized a Baptist Sunday school at Wilson in 1925.


1930-1939

Mr. Loyd Teagarden mentions that the seats being used by the Baptist church in 1930 were purchased from the Carl Back Theatre by the ladies of the Sunday school. Mrs. Ellen Hanshew, who was church clerk, also noted that the seats were purchased by the “Silver Circle” (the name of that group of good ladies). The cost was $300, less a $25 discount for the storage of them in the Baptist church. The final payment was made in July 1932.


In January 1932, the congregation decided to resume regular worship services. Two laymen, Frank Poole and Loyd Teagarden, did most of the preaching. Occasionally, a missionary-preacher from the denomination came to the valley to give assistance for brief periods. Rev. Edward L. Crane was one who visited several times between 1933 and 1935.


Frank Poole, who worked for Roy Van Vleck at the Jackson mercantile when he wasn’t preaching at the Baptist church, sensed God’s urging to become even more active in pastoral work. In July 1935, we as officially licensed to preach in a service conducted by Rev. John George from the Rock Springs Baptist Church.


In October 1935, the church extended a call to Mr. Poole to become pastor of the church. One of his first pastoral services was to baptize Mrs. Mabel Benson, who later to become one of the loyal supporters and encouragers of this congregation.


Under his leadership, the congregation showed signs of new life. He worked closely with denominational leaders to secure the services of another pastor to minister to this little group of Baptists. Later, Rev. Poole received more theological training and served other churches in the western part of the country.


In November 1937, the church invited Rev. W. A. Pipkin from Wheatland, Wyoming, to become the pastor. Unfortunately, his stay here was not a long one. March 31, 1938, in helping to set up tables for a church supper, he lifted a plank, suffered a stroke, and died four days later. His death left a void in leadership, and few worship services were held during the next several months.


Rev. Leslie Barbee, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, came to Wyoming in the early 1920s to be featured singer accompanying Rev. Oliver Reed, a Baptist evangelist who visited the churches in this state. Soon Rev. Barbee was called to become pastor of the Baptist church at Thermopolis, Wyoming.


Of course, this type of ministry had put him in close contact with our friend, Rev. Jacobs. Rev. Jacobs took Leslie on his first trip to the Yellowstone-Jackson Hole area as early as 1925. He enjoyed this place so much that he returned for an extended hunting and fishing trip with Rev. Oliver Reed in 1938.


In the middle of1939, the church in Jackson asked him to come and be their pastor. This began a long and productive ministry in this community.


For a while Rev. Barbee and his wife (pictured left) and daughter, Hazel, lived in the church building. The bedrooms were in the loft over the sanctuary, and the kitchen was in the rear of the church itself. There was some discussion about building a parsonage at the rear of the church, but a decision was made to build it elsewhere. Mrs. Ida Redmond sold a parcel of land on East Broadway at a very attractive price, enabling the church to begin construction on their parsonage in late 1939.


Logs for the structure were donated by one of the new members, Clifford Higbee. The only problem was the congregation had no way of getting them from Spalding Bay to Jackson. Merlin Hayes came to the rescue. He took one of his large trucks and a trailer to Jackson Lake, loaded them, and hauled them to town without charge. The log house was soon completed and Rev. Barbee gave full attention to the congregation. In order to help make ends meet, he took a teaching position at the Wilson school.

1940-1949

The church building was now more than a quarter-century old, and needed some attention. A new roof was one of the first priorities. When that was taken care of, a baptistery was installed and Mrs. John (Gwen) Woodward was the first to be baptized inside the church. The service took place on April 20, 1941.


During  Vacation Bible School that summer, two young women from the Buffalo, Wyoming area came to assist. One of them, Blanche English, painted a scene of a stream as a fitting backdrop for the baptistery.


Other work on the building was done as money and manpower became available. Men from the church, including Clyde Bell, Jack Dover, Tom Lamb and Larry Ward, did a great deal of work on this project. They finished and trimmed the interior of the sanctuary, and also, dug with pick, shovel and slip scraper for the small basement (about one third the area of the main floor).


Rev. Barbee salvaged the wood from an old organ which was on its way to a campfire at the Baptist’s Camp Wyoba, near Casper. He hauled it to Jackson and John Woodward used the material to construct a very serviceable communion table. The only cost was $2.50 for the varnish.

1950-1959

In 1953, Bruce Porter approached the church to ask if a property exchange could be arranged. He wanted to secure the lot on which the church was located in order to square up some property he owned in that block.


In trade, he offered to deed over two lots in the Karns Addition, dig the same size basement as was then under the church, put in cinder block walls and foundation, pour a concrete floor, move the church, replace the furnace and utilities, and donate $750 to the church (the cash represented the amount of money the Baptist Home Mission Society had made as a gift loan in 1912).


On May 4, 1953, the trustees signed the agreement of exchange, however, some details had to be worked out. At first, the Baptist Home Mission Society was reluctant to agree to the exchange, but finally saw the wisdom in the move.


Then there was the matter of the location of the lots. Mr. Porter was under the impression that the lots were on the corner of Cache and Kelly Streets, but they were actually on the next corner west, at Glenwood and Kelly, Effort was made to buy the Cache and Kelly lots, but that attempt was unsuccessful, so Mr. Porter added another $1,000 to his end of the trade. These negotiations took nearly two years to complete.


Neal Nelson, who had been contracted to do the cement work, suggested that a full, rather that a one third, basement be built. The trustees agreed that would be a good idea.


In order for the the team to move the building, it was necessary to remove the steeple. The church’s carpenter, Jack Kranenberg, insisted that a church needed a steeple, so one was added at the new site. The new steeple had a tapered, pyramid shape in contrast to the modified square-topped bell tower of the original building.


By the spring of 1956, the job was done. A new oil-fueled furnace was in place. The floor joists were doubled in order to span a greater distance (the church had rested on rock piers at the old site). In the sanctuary space, sturdy metal tie rods were installed in order to strengthen the side walls during the move.


This had been a draining experience for Rev. Barbee. He faithfully served this congregation for nearly 17 years. He presided over many changes which came to this little church. He need rest. So the conclusion of this major project, he expressed a desire to retire.


In June, 1956, Rev. Clifford W. Jervis, state missionary for the American Baptists, was called to be the pastor. The new minister, his wife and three children (Mark, 10; Susan, 7; Larry, 4) moved into the East Broadway parsonage in August. Mark later followed his father’s footsteps into pastoral ministry.


Under his ministry, the congregation grew and strengthened to the point that the church made a resolve to work toward the goal of weaning away from its mission status and aiming toward becoming a self-supporting fellowship.


Great improvements were made to the basement area of the church at this time. This improved facility provided more classrooms which was important for the growth of the Sunday school. 


In the latter part of 1957, Rev. Jervis resigned in order to return to seminary and resume his theological studies.


Again, the church found itself without a pastor for several months. In 1958, Rev. Paul Raycroft came to assume the leadership of the Baptists of Jackson Hole. Almost immediately, work began on the construction of a new parsonage located just south of the church on Glenwood Street.


Although the church contracted the work, volunteers from the congregation helped with some phases of the 1,200 square foot house. The sale of the old parsonage, a loan from the Wyoming Baptist Convention, and a loan from the local bank made it possible to finish the job. The church held the dedication service on May 10, 1959.

1960-1969

During Rev. Raycroft’s tenure, the church made several improvements to the building, including a new siding of asbestos shingles. Rev. Raycroft resigned from his post at the Jackson Church, effective October 31, 1961.


On February 8, 1962 the church called Rev. Loyal Hiatt, a pastor from Shenandoah, Iowa, to assume the leadership of the congregation. Shortly afterward, he and his wife and daughter, Lowee, moved into the new parsonage.


One of the steps taken during his stay showed great foresight. The church purchased an adjoining property which made this a more usable church site(that purchase included the site where a new church building would be erected in 1979).


Improvements to the sanctuary featured the purchase of used pews from a church in Casper. People from the church hauled the pews a few at a time in pickup trucks as they had time to make the trip to Casper.


Rev. Hiatt left the Jackson pastorate in May 1963. Rev. Floyd Austin then followed who, with his wife, son and daughter, arrived in August 1963.


This was an active time for this little church. The pews needed new solid ends. A local contractor built and installed them. However, this wasn’t the only improvement to the sanctuary room. The pulpit-choir area was remodeled and new paneling greatly improved the decor. New hymnals enhanced the spirited singing from the congregation.


The community celebrated their closer ties with some of the other churches by special Lenten services. Church attendance increased by 17% and this time was also marked by a harmonious spirit among the members.


The Austins left in early 1967, and a few months later Rev. Roy Plummer arrived to the call to fill this vacancy. Roy,his wife, Gladys,their son, John, their daughter, Janet, and her husband all arrived together. For a while Janet and her husband rented the small house which stood just east of the church building. John married Susan Chapman, one of the church members, and he later followed his father in pastoral ministry. This was the beginning of a population growth in Teton County, and it was a time of rapid growth in church membership. Roy’s open pastoral outreach endeared him to this community.


In 1968, the Wyoming Council of Churches designated the First Baptist Church of Jackson as the suggested fellowship of worship for those who came from the cooperating denominations which did not have a church in this community. Those entering into this agreement included the United Methodist Church, United Presbyterian Church, and the United Church of Christ.


Since that time, members coming from non-Baptist traditions greatly outnumbered those coming from a Baptist background. It is a fulfilling experience illustrating the lordship of Jesus Christ is to have a higher priority than denominational loyalties.


Along with the dramatic increase in the attendance at worship service and Bible studies, the church became stable to the point that it no longer depended on the financial assistance from the American Baptist Home Mission program to supplement the pastor’s salary. 


1970-1979

Rev. Plummer resigned in the early months of 1971, and Rev. Everett Andrew, from California, took his place,. “Eb” and his wife, Barbara, and two children were in Jackson for a little more than a year. Under his leadership, the church maintained its steady course of growth and development.


Two important actions were taken at this time. First, the church revised the constitution to meet the needs of the congregation. This set the stage for a much more effective organization to serve the mission of this church.


Secondly, a committee on building and development formed. This was the foundation for important steps in long range planning and a building program which took place a few years later.


In 1971, Don Landis, his wife Bev, and their daughter Holly came to Jackson in order to start a Christian camp. They had a hard time finding property and stayed in motels. Feeling a bit discouraged, but praying and seeking God’s will, Don found First Baptist Church in the phone book. They attended church and immediately felt welcomed, loved and adopted by the families here. First Baptist invited them to stay in a little white house just east of the church while they worked on their camp and coordinated their volunteers.


When Rev. Andrew and his family returned to California in the summer of 1972, Don and his family moved into the parsonage in exchange for filling the pulpit for six weeks. The church then called Rev. Daniel P. Abrams to become its pastor in the autumn of that year. Don also helped with the youth group and junior church. Dan, Claire, and their two sons, David and Jonathan, came from Pennsylvania shortly after Thanksgiving Day.


The church kept pace with the continued expansion of population in the area. A deeply committed core of laypersons contributed greatly to this church’s ministry of loving and caring. As the church grew, it became evident that new building facilities would be necessary to meet the needs of the fellowship. The first project was the expansion of the parsonage to include a garage and a new kitchen/dining area in 1977. The space also doubled as a Sunday school room for the adult class for a while.


In 1979, a new sanctuary was constructed. The cedar structure also included office space in an upper wing, and a finished basement which provided seven classrooms and assembly room.


Not long after the dedication of the new sanctuary, Kay Northup felt that there was something missing. With the help of her husband George, who built the frame, Kay designed and created the beautiful stained glass cross with five fish symbols which hangs over the pulpit to this day. No doubt countless souls who have entered the sanctuary have been encouraged and blessed by this representation of Christ’s love for all. It has become a symbol of First Baptist Church’s fellowship of faith.

1980-1989

In 1985, the original church building was moved off its foundations and donated to the No Name Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist Fellowship. They later took back the original name of this church: “The Jackson Hole Baptist Church.” After resting in a vacant lot on the west side of town for a couple years, they moved the church to East Broadway, (just east of Redmond Street) where it is completely refurbished and continues a useful service in the name of Christ.


As soon as they removed the building, they replaced it with a new fellowship hall, kitchen, and classrooms which connected to the existing cedar structure.


In September, 1987, Rev. Roy Plummer returned to the Jackson congregation to become the associate pastor with responsibilities in the areas of visitation and Bible study, as well as administrative assistance. The presence of Roy and Gladys proved to be a great blessing to the church. 


Essentially concurrently with the Plummer’s departure in August 1988, Rev. Abrams approached the leadership of the church with a request for a one-year sabbatical leave. Simultaneously, he submitted a financial proposal that would allow the church to both approve the request and accomplish filling the pulpit during his absence within the cost of his overall compensation package. 


The church, unwilling to have Rev. Abrams absent over the Christmas season, approved an eleven-month sabbatical from January through November of 1989, and called Rev. Don Fuller to serve as its interim pastor. Rev. Fuller and his wife Ethel arrived in November 1988, and served the church throughout Abrams’ absence. Upon Rev. Abrams’ return, the church approved Rev. Fuller to continue as the associate pastor.

1990-1999

In June 1990, Rev. Fuller accepted a call to serve as the pastor of Berkeley Baptist Church in Denver, departing in July, and the church was left to evaluate its need for an associate pastor. In its deliberations, church leaders identified the very clear need for pastoral support in the areas of youth, young adults, visitation, and counseling.


In August 1990, Rev. Steve Anthes, with his wife Janet, son Michael, and daughter Brittany, arrived in Jackson from Sioux Falls, Iowa, to assume the associate pastor position. He held that position until August 1992, and departed to accept the position of pastor of the Community Baptist Church in Big Bend, Wisconsin.


During the fall, while the church was once again considering its assistant pastor position, Rev. Abrams announced his intent to retire in May of 1993, after 35 years in the ministry, and the church put aside the associate issue to commence the search process for a new pastor.


Following Rev. Abrams’ retirement and pending the calling of a new permanent pastor, the pulpit was filled in many ways. The preponderant portion of the period was filled on an interim basis under the AMC’s MAL (Ministers at Large) program by Rev. Milton Gould, who served as the church’s pastor form July 1993 to April 1994. Rev. Gould and his wife Bobbie, were instrumental in the church’s transitioning. Other substantive support was provided by Rev. Dwayne Axworthy from Casper, Wyoming, and Rev. Jack Stephenson from the American Baptist Church’s office in Denver.


On June 6, 1994, Rev. Norman Walter became pastor of the church and served only until December 8, 1994, when the pastoral relationship ended by vote of the congregation.


In March 1995, Rev. Steve Anthes returned with his family (now grown to five with the addition of their third child, son Joel) to assume the position of senior pastor on the mutually agreed upon interim basis with the option to make the arrangement permanent. On January 21, 1996, Rev. Anthes was confirmed by unanimous secret ballot as the permanent senior pastor of the church.


In the summer of 1995, under the leading of Rev. Anthes, the church began to pursue the idea of the establishment of a mission in Victor, Idaho, on the western side of the Teton Range. Services began on July 27, 1997, after extreme difficulties in finding a reasonable site. The fellowship saw many growths and changes, but ultimately dissolved for a number of reasons.


In March 1996, the church purchased the empty lot on the corner of Cache Street and Kelly Avenue to provide critically needed parking space, the same lot that the church had been unable to acquire in 1953 when it moved.


At the December 19, 1996 meeting of the diaconate, Pastor Anthes presented a proposal for reorganization of the lay leadership of the church, which had at its core (1) the establishment of an elder board with the responsibility for management of the spiritual affairs of the church and (2) clarification of the diaconate’s responsibility for the temporal affairs of the church. After much study, discussion, review, and even more prayer, on September 14, 1997, a revised constitution and bylaws implementing such organization was approved by the membership of the church.


In March, 1997, the church called Chris Marchand to serve as a summer seasonal intern pastor with primary responsibilities in youth ministries. Chris and his wife, Heather, remained with the church through August 27th, when they moved on to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. During his very brief tenure, Christ had an amazing impact among our youth.


In November, 1998, the church membership unanimously approved the beginning of an AWANA youth program, which has become an incredible blessing to our youth as well as to the many adult leaders. The goal of AWANA is to reach boys and girls with the Gospel of Christ and train them to serve Him. AWANA met Sunday afternoons and is an incredible outreach ministry to the children of our community. Clubbers play AWANA games, memorize bible verses, spend AWANA shares they earn at the AWANA store, and tithe a portion of what they have earned as an offering for our AWANA missionary family.


In March of 1999, Rev. Anthes notified the church of his intent to terminate his pastoral relationship with the church to respond to a call in alternative ministries in the Midwest. Pastor Steve, Janet and their family departed June 27, 1999. 


With the announcement of the Anthes’s departure, the church turned once again to the ABC’s MAL program for pastoral support. Rev. Emmett Dozier and his wife, Elaine, came to fill the parsonage…and came to fill our hearts and lift our souls with their faith, peace, sincerity and simplicity. Emmett came to us with a significant throat condition that adversely impacted his preaching and other group speaking. This not withstanding, the little over a year that he and Elaine spent with us was a period of unusual growth in terms of His grace in our midst, in the personal maturation of many in the fellowship, and quite unexpectedly in terms of both attendance and membership.


2000-2004

As the summer of 2000 began to wane, the Doziers became more interested in departing. He had more than completed the anticipated interim assignment, and perhaps the prospect of another winter in the high country of Wyoming at their somewhat advanced age was a bit daunting.


In early August of 2000, the Lord called Rev. C.R. Macchi to serve. Accompanying him to Jackson from First Baptist Church of Augusta, Kansas were his wife, Marti (who soon found and grew employment at St. John’s hospital into a substantive and successful weight-loss program), and their three children, Zachary, Bethany, and Seth. C.R. came to us in a time of flux, of change, wherein the church was wrestling with whom and what are we going to be in God’s will. Into this situation C.R. brought many gifts among which where organization and administration, a heart and mind open to growth and change, a personal willingness/drive to reach outside to seek renewal guidance and direction, and most of all a heart for people, especially those in need.


During C.R.’s time at the church several significant things happened. We substantively rewrote the constitution, while there was the thought of a small group bible studies in the church, the concept of “small group ministry” was initiated during this time, we enhanced liaison with ABC, C.R. organized leadership retreats with and without outside participation from the ABC Denver regional office as well as others, an in-depth reconsideration of our core values was begun, and the church had its first encounter with Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life.”


C.R. also brought with him an incredible joy in God’s creation regardless of the season. Whether it be on foot dashing up Snow King Mountain in town, hiking and running the backcountry trails, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, he knew and imparted to others a child’s sense of wonder. Ultimately it was C.R.’s love for people that lead him from return east to seek his doctorate in counseling and to pursue serving in this field.


The Macchis departed in June of 2003, and in early July the pulpit was again filled on an interim basis, and again we were incredibly blessed. Don Young and his wife, Marlen, came to us, in a sense, on sabbatical following a period of service in which Don served as President of Toccoa Falls College in Toccoa, Georgia, and in another sense as an opportunity for them to return to local pastorate ministry. Don brought with him an exceptional background both in pastorate ministry and in evangelical ministries on local, national, and international levels. He also brought and modeled to the church an incredible energy and focus of that energy to the will of God.


The short period of his tenure saw the crystallization of the church’s statement of core beliefs, exceptional pulpit ministry, a rework of the constitution and by-laws, the hiring of a youth director, and most importantly the brining into clear and challenging focus of the roles and responsibilities of those making up the body that is the church. The primary vehicle in this was a formal church-wide Forty Days of Purpose Campaign that used “The Purpose Driven Life” (PDL) as its foundation and reached out to essentially the entire church.


The campaign addressed to all age groups: at the child levels it was incorporated into Sunday school lessons, at the youth through adult levels it included reading of the PDL, Rick Warren video teaching, leader and participant workbooks, small group study both in Sunday school and in home groups, and weekly preaching ministry in concert with the lessons.


As the campaign was coming together, church leadership became aware than Don would be leaving us in the spring. He accepted a call to the position of Senior Pastor of a new church start in Foley, Alabama. Don and Marlen departed in May 2004, and while they were with us for such a very short time, they left an indelible forever imprint upon this church and all that we can be for our God. 


Barbee Stanfield joined the staff in August 2003 as a Director of Youth and Family Ministries. Concern for the safety and comfort of the children was always a priority with her, and therefore beepers were purchased for the nursery in order to reach parents. In the fall 2004, under Barbee’s supervision, growth was experience in the Peak Middle School Ministry and the Ignite Senior High Ministry. Once a month, the girls’ Ignite and boys’ Ignite ministries met for Unite!


Dr. Richard Steeg and his wife, Irene, had been living in Jackson for many years. Irene was a native of the Valley. Following conversations with leadership of the church, they believed God was directing them to submit a resume and consider whether or not the Lord would open the door for them to minister in the pastorate at First Baptist Church. After thoughtful and prayerful consideration by both the search committee and Dr. Steeg, it was recommended that the senior pastor position be offered to him. Dr. Steeg received a positive vote and began a senior pastor in June 2004. 


With the pastoral leadership of Dr. Steeg, the diaconate and the elder board worked closely to promote communication and effectiveness of both entities. Dr. Steeg believed the entire congregation needed to be involved in every aspect of the church and he wanted to help church programs grow and improve. The church was blessed by his extensive doctrinal training and exceptional gift of teaching.


The board of elders approved the formation of the Women's Ministry Team in the fall of 2004. Bible studies were coordinated as well as fellowship activities.


Because the church was growing, talk of expansion began in November 2004 with the formation of a property/facilities evaluation committee. Elders began considering solutions such as two services and an addition to the building. One decision to accommodate the growing number of attendees was the implementation of two services on June 12, 2005. The 9:00 a.m. “Morning Praise” service was relaxed, contemporary worship and teaching. The 10:30 a.m. “Traditions” service was more customary with timeless hymns and preaching from the Word.

2005-2009

In 2005, the board of elders considered some critical issues such as the possibility of expanding the church, researching who actually owned the property under the fellowship hall, the local congregation or the American Baptist Churches (ABC), and examining our affiliation with ABC. After much consideration and prayer, the elders decided to discontinue monetary contributions to the ABC and begin a separation from that organization. In 2006, a team of willing and diligent servants continued to research the ownership status of our church property at the request of the elders. Their work was thorough and timely as we considered our future relationship with the ABC and facility expansion.


Barbee Stanfield spearheaded the renovation of the downstairs classrooms to accommodate our changing needs. An anonymous donor gave $9,000 for the project and the congregation approved additional $10,000. The middle wall in the old nursery was removed and this became the toddler room. The nursery was moved to the west side.


Under her leadership, the L.I.F.E. Groups (Living in Faith Everyday) also began. This small group ministry provided a way for the congregation to get to know each other and to grow together in knowledge of the Lord. A faithful group of leaders hosted and led groups in their homes or at the Senior Center on a regular basis.


A workshop rotation Sunday school model was begun, and on September 25, 2005, Hiz Kids Kingdom come into being. It presented and enthusiastically received as a positive way to motivate and teach our young children Bible truths. Around this same time, space was reallocated for a coffee house downstairs, and it was called Common Grounds Coffee House. This became a meeting area for middle school and senior high students. Barbee also began a new ministry for senior high students on Sunday mornings called Student Impact. It provided an opportunity for students to develop their leadership skills and grow in their faith while making a positive impact on others.


Another position was added in the fall of 2005 to help transition through a growth period of our church. Ed Ahlum was hired as a part-time Director of Leadership Development, and his duties were to lead training and discipleship sessions for developing leadership roles within the church, coordinate and oversee the L.I.F.E. Groups ministry, develop a men's ministry, plan and implement leadership retreats, and fill the pulpit occasionally. Ed helped the church transition through this period of growth for six months.


During this time, Dr. Steeg and the church leadership determined we had a need for an associate pastor. A search committee met and called Scott Iken to fill that position. Pastor Iken was ratified by the congregation on November 20, 2005. Scott was previously the young adult pastor of South Suburban Christian Church in Littleton, Colorado. His wife Pam, daughter, Addi, and sons, Seth and Reis, joined him in his ministry when he arrived, and after a couple of years daughter Sadie was born.


Associate Pastor Scott Iken began a new worship service, Monday Nights @ FBC, which included an upbeat worship band and teaching in a coffeehouse atmosphere, primarily for young adults. This service brought in people who previously were not connected to a church. He also started a couples' study for growth in understanding of God's design for marriage. The band sought opportunities to reach out to the community, and played at venues in the community and even in other states to reach out with the love of Christ.


During this time there were many youth activities and projects including a retreat at Turpin Meadow Ranch, trips to Dare 2 Share and Acquire the Fire, Hill Climb parking and other fundraisers for a mission trip to the Gulf coast. 


The L.I.F.E. Group ministry continued to develop in 2006. Small group leadership members attended a seminar in Casper. Work continued on researching, development, and training for this vital ministry. The ministry grew to 10 active groups throughout the valley, including Moran, Victor, Idaho, and Alpine, as well as at the Senior Center. The leadership of the church strongly encouraged persons attending church to consider being part of a neighborhood small group. The goal of the small group ministry is spiritual growth which is facilitated through fellowship, worship, discipleship, evangelism and service.


The reality is that times have changed in recent years, necessitating implementation of a child protection policy for the nursery and toddler room. This made is a requirement that anyone working with children in any capacity at First Baptist Church have a mandatory application and background check on file. Attendance at child protection safety classes became a requirement for any volunteer.


Throughout the life of the church, fellowship events brought members and friends of the church together to cultivate caring and relationships within our church body. Events that have become tradition every year include the Easter Breakfast, Bar J Crisis Pregnancy Center fundraiser, the annual church picnic, Buzzard Breath Chili Cookoff, and Christmas hayride, caroling, and dinner. The first Harvest Carnival began in 2006 as an alternative to Halloween, and as an outreach to the community. Everyone was invited to dress in costume and join in fun for the whole family. The response from the church and community was wonderful.


The Front Line Ministry began in 2006 to greet and minister to those attending our church. These faithful servants embodied our mission statement "With all we are...loving God and loving people through Christ." In addition to greeting people at the Sunday services, Front Line ministers hand out bulletins, escort visitors to the nursery or classrooms, answer questions, collect offerings, and serve communion.


God showered blessings on His church by growing the congregation as individuals in our love for Him, and as a church body in numbers. A building team formed in the beginning of 2007 in response to what God has been doing in our congregation. The elders and the building team researched and prayed about teaming up with Building God's Way, a company out of Ogden, Utah. BGW developed a preliminary set of plans from the ideas and needs reported by the elders. BGW did a financial analysis for First Baptist based on information supplied by the church treasurer. A building fund drive began to enable remodel or expansion of the church due to our increasing membership and attendance. The small house the church owned just east of the sanctuary was demolished in anticipation of expansion. It had served as a parsonage, rental, youth gathering place called "The Pad," and storage space.


To help the church transition to supporting career missionaries who we know personally and pray for regularly, First Baptist created a missions ministry team in 2007. The team developed an official missions policy: "We believe that lost people matter to God, and therefore matter to us. We believe that we were made for a mission and thus want to impact the world with the love and message of Jesus Christ." They created an application for missionary support as well. They continue to review funding requests, determine career missions worthy of support and at what level, and communicate to the congregation updates on the missionaries. They diligently pray that we make our resources, both of time and money, available to God's leading.


In August 2007, Jeff Gaertner joined the staff as the Pastor of Student Ministries. He and his wife, Heidi, daughter, Landry, and son, Dawson, moved here from Enterprise, Oregon where Jeff was the youth pastor at First Baptist church there. He began his youth ministry in Jackson by getting to know students, preparing a ministry staff team, and planning a course with the scope of our vision and mission.


Pastor Gaertner established a tweeners ministry (4th and 5th graders) in 2008 called Hiz Kids 252. He developed a volunteer dream team staff to help him with the student ministry. He implemented sponsorship of two impoverished Ugandan children through Compassion International. Among many service projects, the youth helped build three homes through Habitat for Humanity in 2008. Six student scholarships were given in 2008 and 2009 with Old Bill's Fun Run discretionary funds.


The high expectations for the progression of the building campaign weren't realized in 2008 because the economy dealt a severe blow to our country and our community. This financial downturn left many wondering about the security of homes and jobs in the future. We were forced to reconsider the impact and scope of our vision. The church had successfully raised one-half of the $80,000 specific to Phase I of the renovation. Pastor Steeg said "It is a poignant reminder of the Lord's words that our confidence is not in the things of this world but the eternal blessings of our standing in Christ. The timing of these economic struggles necessarily forces an evaluation of our desire to engage in a building program."


The AWANA program flourished. The church decided in 2008 to hold AWANA in conjunction with the worship service on monday nights. 


In October 2008, the Lord led Barbee and Tom Stanfield to a new ministry in Denver, Colorado called Open Door Ministries. The Stanfield's generously offered to sell their home to First Baptist Church at a reasonable cost so we might secure a parsonage for the pastoral staff.


The year 2009 brought about an event that would affect our church family in unimaginable ways and required us to trust in the Lord's grace and providence. On March 31, Pastor Jeff Gaertner was killed in an automobile accident while on a retreat in Oregon with youth from our community and from his previous church home in Oregon. We had to come to terms with why this happened to someone who was in the prime of his life, with a young family, and serving the Lord so effectively and faithfully. In addition, most of the youth in his truck were injured, a couple of them seriously.


Pastor Steeg guided and steered the church family through this rough time with his wise council, strong faith, and biblical truth. He reassured us, Jeff's family, and the injured students that God was in charge, and that he had a plan for us. Though filled with grief, we continued on with the tasks at hand. The church family reached out to Heidi, Landry, Dawson, the students who were involved in the accident, and the youth who were so affected by the loss of Jeff. Dedicated volunteers continued the ministry for which Jeff was so passionate. In June, Heidi and the kids felt God's calling to return home to Oregon and family.


The year 2009 saw expenditures from the building fund for new carpeting in the sanctuary, stairs, hall and offices; chairs for the sanctuary, carpet and vinyl for the Fellowship Hall and kitchen, and tile and slate for the entryways. The pews were removed and chairs purchased to allow for more multi-purpose use of the sanctuary as needs increased with the church's growth.


As part of their ongoing ministries, First Baptist Church provided music and a message for worship with the residents of the Living Center at St. John's Hospital on the fourth Sunday of each month. L.I.F.E. groups and other volunteers provided an evening meal on the third Thursday of each month at the Good Samaritan Mission. A week every June has historically been designated for Vacation Bible School, and in recent years, dedicated leaders and volunteers have made it an outreach priority. The number of children attending from the community and reached for Christ has been phenomenal. 


The Missions Team responded to needs in our community by committing to providing food for the Jackson Food Cupboard. They were in charge of getting food contributions from our congregation to help with this community need. They also responded to special needs of missionaries through their discretionary mission fund, and continued to bring the missionaries we support to speak at First Baptist.


Both Pastor Steeg and Irene sensed a calling from God to take care of family health concerns and their elderly parents. Dr. Steeg decided to retire from active ministry in August. A wide range of thoughts and emotions were evident at the reception which was held in their honor. It was sad to see the Steegs leave after experiencing their vital and encouraging ministries, leadership, and friendship, but there was hope for the Lord’s leading in their lives as well as for the future of our church body.


Scott Iken took on the responsibilities of the senior pastor, preaching on Sunday mornings, and continuing with his ministry of music at the early Sunday service and Monday Nights. The elders agreed to fill the pulpit twice a month.


Concern was ongoing for the youth who were involved in the Gaertner accident. A fourth of July fundraiser “Frankfurters for Family” benefited a student who was injured in the accident. The church moderator, Bill Raimer, represented First Baptist Church at a mediation hearing in Enterprise, Oregon on July 11, 2009. In September, the mediation proved successful and settled all insurance matters regarding the Gaertner accident without the need of a lengthy and costly court hearing. Ongoing prayers went out to all the families involved the God would continue to heal the wounds, both physically and spiritually.