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Our History

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Founding of the Church

1881

Emmanuel’s history begins on September 6, 1881 when 12 charter members gathered in a small room above a store in Pineville, Louisiana, and organized the Alexandria and Pineville Baptist Church. During the early days, the church often met in members’ homes, school houses, and the town hall until the first wood frame church building was erected in 1884 on Second Street in Pineville. Church members generously donated the lot and building materials.

In 1892 the Alexandria and Pineville Baptist church voted to change the name to Emanuel Baptist Church and acquire property in the growing town of Alexandria on the other side of the Red River on which to construct a church building. In 1896 the church purchased property at the corner of Fourth and Jackson Streets in the heart of downtown Alexandria and soon began construction.

First Church Building in Alexandria
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By 1897, a small wood frame church building had been constructed at the corner of Fourth and Jackson in Alexandria and our congregation began to hold services at this site.

Charter and Growth

In 1905, Emmanuel Baptist Church was chartered (note the change of spelling) and the following decade saw the growth of pastoral staff, programming for women and children, and the ordination of the first Deacons. By 1913, the church had grown to 450 resident members and called for greater space for both worship and education. Again building plans were made for a new structure to accommodate this growth.

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Construction & Growth of the Church

In 1920, a three-story, brick church building was constructed on a lot adjacent to the corner of Fourth and Jackson. This building housed all of church life: worship services in a second floor sanctuary with a balcony and beautiful clerestory windows of amber glass, baptisms in the first floor fellowship hall, education classrooms, and most of all, fellowship.

 

The twenties, thirties, and forties saw the unprecedented growth of the mission and ministry of Emmanuel Baptist Church.

Emmanuel sponsored ongoing mission efforts during this time period that led to the establishment of many other Baptist churches in the area: Enterprise Baptist Church, Parkview Baptist Church, Homewood Baptist Church, and Twin Bridges Baptist Church all began as missions of Emmanuel.

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World War II

In the early 1940s, plans were drawn and funds were secured to build a new sanctuary, but WWII delayed those plans until the end of the decade. Emmanuel found a way to serve the thousands of men that were stationed in nearby military bases as part of the Louisiana Maneuvers training prior to and during the war. As the population of Alexandria swelled with soldiers, the church opened its doors to provide recreation and refreshments for hundreds of young men each weekend with many members opening their homes to feed servicemen Sunday dinner.

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Dedication of the Current Sanctuary

Emmanuel dedicated its current sanctuary building on September 10, 1950. The Gothic Revival styled structure stands on the corner of Fourth and Jackson Streets in the same spot as the 1897 wood frame building.

 

The new sanctuary set a standard for the integration of faith and the arts that has become a major contribution of Emmanuel to the Alexandria area. Its exterior cast-stone tracery, interior ogival arches, colorfully delicate rose window, and Jacoby Studio stained glass windows depicting the life and ministry of Jesus enhance our worship experience and aid us in celebrating the gifts of the arts.

 

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001, our sanctuary is one of only five Gothic Revival buildings listed in Rapides Parish, and the only one of this architectural style constructed in the 20th century. At mid-century, Emmanuel chose an architectural style traditionally associated with the Christian faith to exhibit a timeless connection to our faith heritage.

Renovations & Expansion

By 1959, Emmanuel renovated our 1920 building, converting the old sanctuary into two floors of classroom space and adding church offices. This building received exterior Gothic Revival detailing and modern amenities. The addition of air conditioning resulted in the original clerestory windows being covered by dropped ceilings. At this same time, the preschool building was constructed at the rear of the new sanctuary structure, choir rehearsal space was added, and the Mary Calderwood Bolton Chapel was built as a gift of the Bolton family.

Construction of the Family Life Center

In 1977, a new Activities building, our Family Life Center, was constructed on church property. It completes the Emmanuel Baptist Church campus as we experience it today. The Activities building provides a joyful space for our church family to have fun together. It hosts skating parties, birthday parties, church wide dinners, children and youth ministry musicals, RA derby car races, and Wednesday night recreation activities.

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Looking Forward

Conscious that space and buildings are both proclamations of grace and necessary platforms for worship and ministry, Emmanuel has been a careful steward of our buildings and grounds. We host community organizations for a monthly H2O Homeless outreach in our parking lot, providing prayer, food, clothing, and necessities to our city’s homeless population.

 

In 2015, we began a campaign to again renovate the 1920 education building, opening up the small closed-in spaces created during the 1959 renovation and connecting classrooms and gathering areas to exterior windows and additional light, intentionally creating a more visible connection to our neighborhood, which we have called home since 1896.

 

At Emmanuel, we are hope-filled and grace-focused stewards of both our buildings and our faith. As we draw on tradition while embracing change, our congregation is committed to serving each other and our neighbors from the corner of Fourth and Jackson, working together towards the positive transformation of our community.

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