The history of First Baptist Church of Marion dates back to January of 1843 when six persons met in a one-room log cabin to organize the church. Meetings of the church were held in three other buildings until the current spacious brick building on the east side of Marion was occupied in 1958. Forty one pastors have served the church up to now.
From the beginning of its history the First Baptist Church has been affiliated with the Iowa Baptist Convention (hosting its annual meeting in 1852), the old Dubuque Association, and was a charter member of the Linn Baptist Association in 1856. It has also been affiliated with the American Baptist Home and Foreign Mission societies, and the Northern Baptist Convention. These affiliations have continued through the years, though the names have changed. The name of the present national denominational organization is the American Baptist Churches USA.
One of the early members whose spirit represented the Baptists was Rachel Ives Booth, later known as Gramma Booth. A daughter of a charter member, she was baptized in 1856. It was said that in times of discouragement, her words of conviction and encouragement would strengthen the whole church. She taught a Bible class for many years and greatly encouraged missionary support. The present educational wing of the church building is dedicated in her name, with heirs giving substantially as a memorial for her.
One of the best remembered characteristics of the old Baptist church that was erected in 1852 at 6th Avenue and 11th Street in Marion was that it was “the church by the tracks”. Each Sunday morning, one of the trains would come through during the worship services, blowing its whistle loudly especially at Tenth Street. When a train came by, the services would break often with a song. After the train had passed, the service would take up where they had left off. Many sermons were delivered in two or more parts. It was reluctantly admitted that once in a while the train was a welcome relief from a dull sermon.
The years of World War II were not easy ones, but with the war’s end a new phase in the life of the church began. In 1945 Rev. Charles Moore was called as pastor. He served for 15 years. During that time the church built a new parsonage and the current church building.
The following pastors have served faithfully since World War II.
Rev. Charles Moore 1945-1959
Rev. William McKee 1960-1963
Rev. Edward Rustio (Interim) 1963-1964
Rev. Lawrence Sprankle 1964-1971
Rev. Lyle Lee 1972-1984
Rev. Leon Nelson (Interim) 1984-1985
Dr. William Hendricks 1985-1988
Rev. Harold Schlink (Interim) 1988-1989
Rev. Robert Nelson 1989-1995
Dr. Forrest Cornelius 1995-2000
Rev. John Huffaker (Interim) 2000-2001
Rev. Randy Bobzien 2001-2017 (retired May 7)
The 140th Anniversary Celebration was held on Oct 16, 1983, during the term of Rev. Lyle Lee. The 150th Anniversary Celebration was held on June 6, 1993, during the term of Rev. Robert Nelson.