Records show that there were Baptists living on Cape Island before 1695. After its formation in 1712 they attended the First Baptist Church in Cape May Court House, twelve miles to the north. Early in the year 1844, Rev Isaac Moore, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Cape May Court House, came to Cape Island to assist the Rev. Moses Williamson in union revival services, which were held in the Methodist Church building. The Lord blessed these meets and many people were converted. This revival aroused the zeal of the Baptists in the lower part of the county and on the 2nd of April 1844, the first meeting took place of those who would become the Cape Island Baptist Church. The record states:
"Cape Island, April 2, 1844. A number of the members of the Baptist Church, living in Lower Township of the Cape May County, set together agreeable to due notice, at the house of Brother Alexander A Shaw in order to consult as to the propriety of forming themselves into a regular Baptist Church at this place. After reading a portion of scripture, singing and prayers, Brother Church was appointed moderator and Brother Alexander a Shaw, clerk. On motion it was resolved that the brethren and sisters wishing to constitute into a church give their respective names." Twenty-five persons registered their names for a new church.
On April 9, a meeting was held to begin the new church. The record states that they met to form "an independent Baptist Church of Christ to be called The First Baptist Church of Cape Island." A short time later, the name was changed to The Cape Island Baptist Church, to avoid confusion with the parent church in Cape May Court House. The population of the town was listed at 541 at that time. The first Pastor was the Rev. Napoleon Tindall who served as acting pastor during the organizing months. Before the end of the year, the Rev. Isaac Church, Sr., became Pastor. He was born in Philadelphia, but lived much of his early life in Lancaster, Ohio before coming to live near Steamboat Landing at Cape May Point, He united with the Court House Church in 1840, and helped form this church in 1844. He was blind but this affliction did not prevent him being an active worker for his Master.
A location was selected for the church home in what was a fashionable section of Cape May, on the easterly corner of Lafayette and Franklin Streets. The deed was dated August 15, 1844, and was from William Corgie, a Delaware River Pilot, who owned all of the land from Lafayette Street to Columbia Avenue, from Franklin Street to Madison Avenue. The Trustees of the Church named in the deed were: John Price, Jeremiah Hand, Phillip Hand, William Bennett, Aaron Schellenger, Jr. and Richard Ludlam.
The church building was begun in 1845, and was dedicated on July 17, 1847. In the meantime, religious services were held in the schoolhouse on the west side of Franklin Street near Lafayette Street, and the business meetings were held at the Commercial Hotel, which was owned by Mr. Shaw.
On July 11, 1847, the church called the Rev. Isaac M. Church, Jr. who served as Pastor until 1851. Rev. Church became the first Mayor of Cape May in 1851. Among other important members of the church at that time were: Richard S. Ludlam, longtime proprietor of the Mansion House where Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln came as guests; James Clark, the second Mayor of Cape Island; John K. Church, the third Mayor of the city and a brother of the Rev. Isaac Church; William Bennett, a Delaware River Pilot; Joseph Leach, was the Editor of the Ocean Wave, and later Postmaster and Recorder for the City of Cape May and also a popular lay preacher who preached many times in the church.
In 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War, the church building was used as the place for volunteers to come to sign up in the Union Army. The first church parsonage was on Lafayette Street, just to the east of the church, where the pastors resided until 1873. In October 1872, a lot to the south corner of Lafayette and Schellenger Streets was purchased, and the second parsonage was erected. This was occupied by the pastors of the church until 1889 when it was sold.
There was no baptismal pool in the first church building, and until the second building was built, all baptisms were conducted in the Cape Island Creek at Schellengers' Landing. A private home was used for robing and the congregation marched to the creek singing appropriate hymns. The home most often used as a meeting place was that of Deacon Aaron Schellenger.
A new church building was begun in 1879, on the old site, costing $18,000. It was completed in the spring of 1880, and opened for worship, although only partly furnished. It was decided not to dedicate the building until it was free from debt. Finally, in 1892, under the Pastor A.B. McCurdy, the debt was paid, and a Dedication Program was held. Rev. Aaron W. Hand, whose sister, Dr. Anna M. Hand, also active as a church member and the first woman physician of Cape May, preached the sermon. The cornerstone of the building was set in place by James Crandol, President of the Board of Trustees and Aaron Schellenger, the oldest Deacon. In the cornerstone was place: a Holy Bible, a List of Officers of Cape May City, A Baptist Church Manual, A History of the Trials of Baptists of Virginia, The Daily Star of August 13, 1892, The Star of the Cape of 1892, and the Daily Wave of August 13, 1892.. They were all carefully wrapped in an American Flag. This building still stands at this time. A spiritual revival occurred in America in 1898 following the sinking of the Battleship Main, as the US prepared for war with Spain. One hundred and six persons were received into church membership by baptism that year, making a total membership of 305. The church had no parsonage from 1889 until 1920, when it purchased the house at 737 Washington Street for $6,240.
On March 2, 1915, during the ministry of Pastor William McCurdy, a decision was made to relocate the church and a plot of land was purchased on the east side of Columbia Avenue at Guerney Street at a cost of $10,000. This land had been a part of the grounds of the former Stockton Hotel which was built in 1868. When it was built, it was the largest hotel in the United States with 475 guest rooms. However it was not a success financially and closed in 1910. It was subsequently demolished. The first church building built on this site was the Sunday School Temple. Because Victorian architecture was not popular at that time, the Spanish Mission style was selected. The building was in use by August 7, 1916 and was formally dedicated on September 3, 1916. The first service was led by Pastor McCurdy and the address was given by Mayor William L. Stevens. In 1936, under the leadership of Pastor Joseph Piece, Architect George E. Savage was engaged and plans were adopted for the new sanctuary. On January 13, 1937 the congregation authorized the construction at an estimated cost of $22,500. The ground breaking was held on January 27, with Deacon S. Irwin Stevens lifting the first shovel full of dirt not far from the spot where his father had broken ground for the Sunday School Temple twenty-one years earlier. Furnishing were purchased at a cost of $2,385 and a new Hammond Organ at a cost of $1,695.
On April 26,1938, Rev. Robert D. Carrin was called to the Pastorate of the church and served until 1942, when our nation entered the Second World War and he entered the Army as a Chaplain. The Parsonage on Washington Street was sold in 1946 for $8,000 and the Cresse home on Sewell Avenue was purchased as the new Parsonage for $9,000. Several new services that served the community began when the Rev. John Pemberton, Jr. became Pastor in 1946. Sunday evening services were conducted in Convention Hall during the summer. On Palm Sunday and Christmas special musical services were started followed by a High Tea. Easter Sunrise Service was initiated followed by breakfast.
On August 22, 1948, the Church Bell was presented by Robert Jaegle in memory of Edmund Leaming. In 1950 the men's "Fishermen's Club" was started and all men of the community were invited to join for a time of fellowship. In 1951, the Women's Society presented the church with a beautiful creche for the Altar. That creche is still in use today. On December 8, 1952, four lots on Stockton Place at the rear of the church building were purchased from Dr. Harold Hughes and his wife to be used as a church parking lot.
On March 6, 1962, Cape May experienced the most damaging storm it had ever seen, with seven successive high tides causing major flooding throughout the city. The church and parsonage sustained considerable damage and church members gave many hours of their time to the clean-up process. On October 4, 1964, the room next to the Pastor's study was dedicated as the "Stevens Memorial Historical Museum and Library" in loving memory of S. Irwin Stevens and William H. Stevens by their family and friends. It was around this time of ethical issues on the part of the current pastor that the church suffered a major split, causing the loss of several members. In 1968 the men of the church worked together to repaint the interior of the sanctuary and halls. On February 1, 1970, the Rev. Forrest Spriggs began his ministry as Pastor. He was a faithful friend and Pastor at Cape Island Baptist for 32 years. He came from the Oxford Circle Baptist Church in Philadelphia. Through his love and guidance over the years, the congregation was able to heal from the hurts of the past and rebuild. While preparing in 1993 for the observance of our 150th Anniversary, additional work was done on the church buildings. In 1994 a new larger Allen Electronic Organ was purchased. Many special activities were held as part of the 150th Anniversary celebration. On May 6, 1995, the Fellowship hall was rededicated as the Forrest Spriggs Hall to honor his 25 years of faithful service as Pastor. His retirement became final on Easter Sunday 2002. A retirement party was given for him at a local restaurant with approximately 150 people attending including many from the Oxford Circle Baptist Church where he served as Pastor prior to coming to Cape May. Reverend Spriggs was honored by the Cape May City officials for his service to the residents of Cape May and a Forrest E. Spriggs Day was declared in the City of Cape May for March 17, 2002. Reverend Spriggs passed away in December of 2005. Although he will be sadly missed by all of us, we know that he is present with our loving Savoir. On April 2nd 2002, Rev. John Carman took the pulpit as interim Pastor. Rev. Carman drove many miles often several times a week from Salem, NJ to bring his message at Sunday service, Prayer Meeting and any other special events that were taking place. The church was blessed by his ministry and sparkling sense of humor for nearly two years.
In August 2003, the church was blessed when Reverend James Berger accepted an offer to Pastor to the congregation. Rev. Berger, his wife, Sarah and two daughters joined the congregation with youth, enthusiasm and a loving and giving spirit. The Lord called Pastor Berger home in March of 2013. He is greatly missed by all. God sent Interim Pastor Ned Flexer to minister to us and help us heal from the loss of Pastor Berger.
In August 2015, Reverend Michael Goldade accepted the call to become the Pastor of our congregation. Rev. Goldade and his wife Shari have ministered with churches in South Dakota, Oregon, Iowa and North Dakota. Pastor Mike (as he likes to be called) views ministry as a team effort, one body with many parts working together. We are are looking forward to serving together in hope and joy as we worship and serve our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ in our community of Cape May NJ.
Our Church has been blessed many, many times over the past 171 years. We have gone through good times and bad but have always come through with a spirit of love and fellowship. We owe much to those generations who came before us and gave of themselves to pass down a history of tradition, family and service to God. We praise His Holy Name and give thanks to Him for lending this beautiful home to us so that we can worship Him.
1. Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior; and on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we do now in the presence of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, angels, and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another, as one body in Christ.
2. We engage therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love; To strive for the advancement of this church in knowledge and holiness, and comfort; To promote its prosperity and spirituality; To sustain its worship, ordinances discipline and doctrine; To contribute cheerfully and regularly, to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and world-wide mission of the church.
3. We aspire to be a fellowship of the concerned, where the lost may find Jesus Christ, sinners may seek pardon, and seekers are welcome. We shall seek to be obedient to Christ in our daily living and we shall strive for attitudes and actions which will reflect God’s Spirit working through us.
4. Believing that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we shall endeavor to avoid experiences and habits which defile the body and hinder our witness.
5. We engage to maintain family and private devotion; to teach our children the Christian truths; to seek the salvation of our family and acquaintances; To be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, exemplary in our conduct; and to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our Savior.
6. We further agree to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember each other in prayer; to aid each other in sickness and distress. To cultivate Christian sympathy in feelings and courtesy in speech; To be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation, and mindful of the rules of our Savior, to secure it, without delay.
7. We also engage that, when we move from this place, we will as soon as possible unite with some other Church where we can carry out the spirit of this Covenant and the principles of God's Word.
We are affiliated with American Baptist Churches-USA (abc-usa.org), as well as American Baptist Churches of New Jersey (ABCNJ.net).
American Baptist Church USA Mission Statement
"American Baptists are a Christ-centered, biblically grounded, ethnically diverse people called to radical personal discipleship in Christ Jesus. Our commitment to Jesus propels us to nurture authentic relationships with one another, build healthy churches, transform our communities, our nations and our world, engage every member in hands-on ministry, and speak the prophetic word in love.”
“As a people of prayer, purpose, and passion, we are in the forefront of creating a diverse community of faith where people of every race, nationality and culture gather as one in worship, witness and work.”
“The heart of the gospel is God’s redemptive love. In our life together, the world will see the power of forgiveness to overcome alienation, the strength of love to transform hate, the power of grace to break the bonds of guilt, the triumph of hope over despair, and the victory of faith over doubt.”
“Through the cross of Christ, we embrace the world as neighbor. Our vision for mission energizes a multitude of servant ministries of evangelism, discipleship, leadership, new church development, social justice, healing, peacemaking, economic development and education. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we work together in mutual trust, humility, love, and giving that the gospel might be preached and lived in all the world.”
Approved by ABCUSA General Board June 2005