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First Baptist, Hughson mainstay, turns 100
One hundred years and 21 pastors later, First Baptist Church is still serving God. This Sunday members and the community will be gathering to look back on a century of devotion to the Almighty and the Christian community in Hughson.

Past and present members and friends have a standing invitation from Pastor Dale Pederson to attend the 10 a.m. worship service and festivities until noon on Sept. 27. Coming back for the celebration will be former Pastor Don Slaven who retired to Sunland after pastoring the church for 27 years.

The church, which is at Sixth and Pine streets, has approximately 150 members and Sunday attendance of between 75 to 100. Pastor Pederson joined the church on Easter Sunday this year.

When Hughson was in its infancy in the 1900s, a small group of members of the Northern Baptist group began meeting in the old Empire School building located on he corner of Whitmore Avenue and Tully Road.

On Feb. 13, 1909, under the leadership of the Rev. Jay Pruden, a state Sunday school missionary, a group of 15 members adopted the name First Baptist Church of Hughson.

Between 1909 and 1914 the church met in the Seventh-day Adventist Church building in Hughson. The first pastor at the church was Homer Newberry. Its first member by baptism was Mattie McCurry, also a school teacher in town.

In time members recognized the need for their own building and invested in property at the corner of Pine and Sixth streets where the church has stood for 95 of the 100 years. Construction began in 1913 and was completed a year later at a grand total of $4,003.32 - that included land cost and furnishings.

The church has been modified over the years but the same building is in use and functional today.

"We have to work to keep it up," said Claude Conner, who is chairman of the Centennial Committee, has been attending the church since 1969.

The church has been of immense importance to Conner and the other church families.

"It's meant a lot to me and my family over the years," said Connor of the church. "There's a lot of people who have been really good friends and family. When we've had problems they've stood by us. It's been a great deal to me."

Delpha Cocke, 85, has been attending since 1965 and got involved in church because she "wasn't going to send my kids to Sunday school without going myself. They liked the summer church school."

She attends with her new husband, Oscar Cocke, and said she's appreciated the church being there for her.

The old-timers are being outnumbered at First Baptist, she said.

"It's getting to where there's a lot of young people here. We have a youth minister (Ann Weaver). It's growing that way. There's hardly any of us old people left any more."

The church's longest continuous member, Richard Hatley, has been coming since the 1940s but is slowing down. Ruby Harlow had held that distinction until she passed away recently at age 91.