By Mike LaBella
---- — Two local churches have become one.
After more than six months of discussion between leaders of First Baptist Church of Haverhill and Haverhill Community Church, the two congregations voted on May 19 to become one church.
Their first joint worship service was June 2 at First Baptist Church, 217 Main St.
Established in 1994, Haverhill Community Church agreed to become part of First Baptist Church, which has a rich history in Haverhill dating back to 1765. First Baptist Church hopes to lease the Haverhill Community Church building at 17-19 Newcomb St. to a like-minded church or organization.
In a society where the average church attendance is dwindling, officials of the First Baptist Church (American Baptist) and Haverhill Community Church (Southern Baptist) said they were happy to unite their leadership, including three pastors, and their church bodies, which will now be nearly 200 people.
In November, the Rev. Rick Harrington, pastor of First Baptist Church, proposed the possibility of a merger to Haverhill Community Church pastors Dave Herring and Mike Sperring, citing several reasons. First, both churches have very close similarities in theology, ministry perspective and passion for Haverhill, with significant overlap in several areas. The churches are virtually next-door neighbors and are trying to reach the same community.
Haverhill has a rich church history dating back to the 1600s, but church participation has declined significantly in the last 50 years. Although there are more than 25 evangelical churches in Haverhill, fewer than 4 percent of people in the Merrimack Valley attend a local church.
First Baptist Church welcomes everyone in the community to join in worship and celebration of this merger. For more information, visit fbchaverhill.org or call 978-374-7491.