The beginnings of Immanuel Baptist Church can be traced to a baptismal service held by members of First Baptist Church of Paducah on the banks of the Ohio River in 1878. Following the service, a group of people lingered for a prayer service on the river bank. From that prayer service, there emerged a vision for the establishment of a church of the Baptist witness on the south side of the city.
A mission of First Baptist Church of Paducah began meeting in a vacant building on South Third Street. In time a lot was purchased on the corner of Ninth and Ohio streets on which a white frame building was erected. On 21 January 1894, twenty members of First Baptist Church secured their letters and constituted the Second Baptist Church of Paducah. In March 1894, the church called its first pastor, Lloyd T. Wilson, a student minister. The church experienced gradual growth and by 1917 the congregation numbered 200 members.
The Ladies’ Aid Society requested permission to start a building fund in February of 1918. Later in the year, a large lot was purchased at 408-412 Murrell Boulevard. The congregation envisioned the construction of a new facility designed to facilitate a growing program of religious education. Selling the old frame church, the congregation made a temporary home in the basement of the proposed new facility as funds were sought for construction. The final $20,000.00 for construction costs was secured when 18 members of the church mortgaged their homes. The new building was completed in February 1922 at the cost of $65,000.00.
Before moving into the new church building the congregation decided to take a new name. The body was asked to consider: Calvary, Trinity, or Immanuel. Immanuel was chosen. Since 12 February 1922, the congregation has been known in Paducah and among Baptists in Kentucky as Immanuel.
By the early 1950s, the church had outgrown the facilities on Murrell Boulevard. A process began to move the church to the west end of Paducah. In 1952 the church purchased its present site on Buckner Lane. Construction began on an interim sanctuary and education building in 1958, and the congregation moved into the new building in 1959. In 1966, the sanctuary building was completed, and in 1989, our Christian Life Center opened. In 1998, the last additions were made to our building. Our present physical plant sustains a multitude of recreation, education, and mission initiatives.
Immanuel Baptist Church possesses a rich history and heritage. It is a unique Baptist congregation in Western Kentucky. The church has been influenced by a tradition of the faith among Baptists in the South that affirmed an educated ministry, an ecumenical spirit, a desire for order, a warm formality in worship, cooperation with other Baptist entities, and a commitment to world missions. Since the 1930s, Immanuel has been a large congregation with a vibrant education and music ministry. Since the 1940s, there have been staff members responsible for education, music, and children’s ministry. Immanuel has been served by ministers of vision and sustained by a membership willing to explore new opportunities for ministry.
Immanuel began out of a desire for a Baptist congregation on the south side, and the church has always been concerned for the spiritual welfare of city of Paducah. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the church supported three missions in different parts of the city. Immanuel was instrumental in the establishment of Western Baptist Hospital. Dr. A.M. Parrish, pastor from 1934 to 1946, directed fund- raising for the hospital and was its first administrator. Immanuel pledged $75,000.00 for construction of the hospital. Immanuel was instrumental in the founding of the Community Chest which was the forerunner of the United Way in Paducah. The church continues to support local mission initiatives like River City Mission, Paducah Cooperative Ministries, St. Nicholas Clinic, and others. Since 1996, our global missions consciousness has been raised through a partnership with a Russian church.
Immanuel’s life and vision has been sustained by worship. The church has been fortunate to have been led by ministers who took seriously the place of worship in the life of the congregation. Music offered to the glory of God has been at the heart of Immanuel’s worship for decades. In 1947, our first Holy Week services were held. The Life of Christ in Living Pictures became an annual presentation during the Christmas season in 1984. Across the years, some of the leading preachers and scholars among Baptists in the South have spoken from the pulpit.
As Immanuel marches into the twenty-first century, new challenges and opportunities await us. We are confidant that our past assures that our future shall be exciting and adventuresome as we seek to do God’s bidding in the world. We will continue to be a people on a journey of faith.