The following is an edited excerpt from the first book of minutes of our church.
The first Anglo Baptist work in Westwego appears to have been done by Bro. LR Shelton pastor of MMBC in Algiers. During 1928 and 1929 Bro. Shelton and members of his church held services on the street corner near the Railroad on Sala Ave with not much visible success.
Then, during May of 1930, Bro. Shelton and Bro. Deville, a French speaking preacher, preached for 19 consecutive nights on a vacant lot near Westwego’s City Hall. Attendance was good. Visible results were receiving Bro. Andrew Lee and his family by letter.
Following those meetings, Bro. JP Fortenberrry, Deacon of MMBC organized a small Sunday School mission gathering which met first in City Hall then aboard Bro. Lee’s Boat. Attendance was as high as 40. In November 1930, Bro. Fortenberry turned the work back over to Bro. Deville since most of the residents of Westwego are able to speak French. Bro. Deville and his wife labored with success until Aug 1931.
During this time the folks met in Bro. Deville’s home and in an old store in Sala Ave. Ten people were received by baptism during that period. In August of 1931 Bro. Deville moved away from the area and Bro. JP Fortenberry and his wife felt led to take over the work again. Bro. Lawson built a chapel on his property for the use of the mission at this time.
We decided to go into the organization of the church Sept 27, 1931.
FirstWeGo through the years
First Baptist Church of Westwego (which is actually not the first baptist church in our city, that honor is bestowed on our brothers and sisters at the Historic True Vine Baptist Church) was started as a French speaking mission on a houseboat in the bayou on the southwest edge of the greater New Orleans metro area.
We’ve worshiped in numerous places, from a houseboat, city hall and a storefront in the early days to three different auditoriums on our current property (at least three, it appears there might have been a fourth). The original white, wood-sided building was built on donated land by a local neighbor. The second building was a tall A-frame style church that was unfortunately destroyed when Hurricane Betsy blew ashore in 1965. Our current building, which has been remodeled a couple of times (including after Hurricane Katrina took our roof in 2005) stands as the gathering place of a faithful body of Christ-followers welcoming visitors and providing a place of teaching, belonging, fellowship and service for those who are seeking to follow Christ.
FBC Westwego has planted three other local congregations over the years. First Baptist Church of Marrero, Ames Boulevard Baptist Church, and Bridge City Baptist Church were all started by this local body. Westwego has also had a hand in other church plants around the globe including as far away as the Philippine Islands and more recently in South Ogden, Utah.
Former Pastors of the church have gone on to serve in a number of capacities including as IMB Missionaries, NAMB missionaries, as a seminary professor and even a Chaplain at Camp David for a past President of the United States.
Our facilities have been utilized to the glory of God in a number of ways. We were a central location for ministry after Katrina providing food for the area through SBC Disaster Relief teams and our site housed thousands of people coming to serve the area on mission and ministry teams. We have also hosted special events for our community such as home-school programs, boy scout troops, and community art classes.
The people that make up this body have been on mission since the church’s inception. We’ve helped to grow disciples through local teaching ministries and through planting churches locally and globally. We have been on global mission trips to Europe, Asia and South America. We have led small groups, bible studies, and prayer meetings. We have chaperoned Student Ministry trips, gathered supplies for disasters and cooked food for the masses. Some members joined us when they moved here to go to seminary others have been born and raised right here on the West Bank.
FBC Westwego seeks to Magnify God, Ministry to Others and Make Disciples. With that goal in mind we look forward to many more years of introducing people to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and teaching them to observe the things he commanded while we endeavor to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves.