First Baptist Church: Offering something for everyone

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 21, 2001


PHOTO 1: Above, the First Baptist Church of LaPlace, established in 1957, now has about 400 active families attending. With programs for children, youth, young adults and seniors, the church always has something going on for everybody. (Staff Photos by Amy Szpara) LAPLACE – The Rev. Danny Taylor has been pastor at the First Baptist Church of LaPlace for a year now, and the congregation has grown both spiritually and in numbers. Though he said being the pastor at the largest Baptist church in town can be a handful at times, he loves his job because it is not only his life’s work but his calling. The First Baptist Church, established in 1957, has a total of 1,200 members with around 400 active families which attend on a regular basis. “It’s a growing church, much like the River Parishes,” said Taylor. “We’ve reached 79 people (new members) this year. “There are three things that draw people to this church: the relationships we have with each other and the friendships and fellowship here, the emphasis on the scripture and Bible study, and our worship services.” Taking the position after the Rev. Major Speights retired after 28 years of service to the church’s family, Taylor and his family moved from DeFuniak Springs, Fla., to make LaPlace their home. “I was Southern Baptist nine months before I was born. This is what I am,” Taylor explained. The Southern Baptist Convention, made up of 40,000 churches that cooperate to make decisions and work to send approximately 15,000 missionaries all over the world, is one factor that sets Southern Baptists apart from other Baptists. According to Taylor, there are 16 million Southern Baptists in the United States and the religion is the largest protestant denomination in the country. PHOTO 3: Members of the church’s Young at Heart group enjoy potluck dishes at their monthly meeting. The pastor said Southern Baptists are conservative both morally and theologically and believe the Bible is the “inspired, inherent word of God without any error in every area of life it speaks about.” The church provides several services at which its congregation may worship, and programs are offered for every age group. The children, young adults and senior citizens all have weekly functions sponsored by the church. Currently about 46 members of the youth program and 10 of the adults are in Florida on a mission trip. On average between 60 and 100 youths are involved in the program and Tim Patton is the youth director for the church. The group is doing mission work, including backyard Bible clubs and working at homeless shelters in Florida. “We very seldom just have an all-fun trip. We always include ministry, but we do have fun too,” said Taylor. Forty of the children, grades first through sixth, recently returned from a summer camp, and the children have already had Vacation Bible School this summer. “We stay busy around here,” said Taylor, adding that for the tots there is the Wee Care Center, which is like an extended version of Mother’s Day Out. About 120 children are involved, and the program ministers to preschoolers and is open to anyone, not just church-goers. Open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the program allows mothers to have a break here and there. It models the school year, and is closed during the summer months. Another part of the First Baptist Church is its Hispanic mission church, Ebenezer Spanish Mission, which offers services on Sunday mornings and nights in Spanish. There are about 30 members and the Rev. Carlos Lopez is its pastor. First Baptist offers Sunday school, morning services, discipleship training and evening worship on Sundays. Some other activities at First Baptist Church include Wednesday night prayer services, the youth praise band and mission studies on Wednesday nights. There are also other programs for children, choirs for all ages and a youth drama group called Midnight Cry. Midnight Cry includes a girls vocal ensemble, drama, signing and interpretive movement. Paul Reaves, minister of music, works along with Patton on Midnight Cry and also directs the choir. “Interpretive movement is not dance at all. It’s something that can make a song really come alive,” he said. Another active group in the church is called Young at Heart, a group that caters to the senior citizens of First Baptist. If you ask the group’s members, they will say any age is welcome, anyone who feels young at heart. Some of the group’s members have been at the First Baptist Church since it opened its doors. The original church is the little white building that houses Wee Care, and it was moved from old U.S. Highway 51 when the new church was built on Ormond. Jimmy and Lucky Levet remember the old church well. “We had two little children in Sunday school back then,” said Lucky Levet. “I remember my first Bible school. I didn’t know why the Lord sent us here. We had lived in Baton Rouge, and there was nothing here but cane fields. But we watched everything in town grow, and we watched the church grow.” Young at Heart began in 1987, and the group is on the go. The members attend the theater, go on trips and meet the third Tuesday of every month. It is open to people of all religions. Group member, Rosa Torres, said about Taylor, “We really do like him. He preaches from the Bible, from God’s word. And he has a good sense of humor.” Along with his wife, Krissy, and two daughters, Robyn, 14, and Melissa, 3, Taylor has made his church community part of his family. Not just a community of St. John the Baptist Parish residents, but also people from surrounding parishes are members of the church’s family. “We enjoy being here,” said Taylor. “We enjoy the people, and the food. This community has gone out of its way to make us feel at home. They’re a great group of people.” Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series of profiles of River Parishes’ houses of worship. If you would like to have your house of worship profiled by a member of the news staff, contact Community Editor Donna Keating at 985-652-9545 or send an e-mail to