There is no doubt that our building has seen a lot of history, and it a joy to be part of two hundred years of continual worship on the corner of Church and Third. On April 4, 1800, three lots were purchased in downtown Franklin to serve as a location for a Baptist church and a school. The official date of the founding of First Baptist is 1830 on the first Sunday of February. The church underwent various trials in the late 1830s but grew to 440 members by 1851. A travelling evangelist used the church building for preaching and all but four members of the church followed him. Two of the remaining four members moved a few months later leaving Deacon John C. Wells and his daughter to faithfully meet in the deserted building to sing and pray. The church began to grow, but the facility was seized by Federal troops for use as a hospital during the Civil War. The damage to the building only worsened when it burned in the early 1890s leaving only blackened walls. The church was rebuilt (with what are considered to be some of the finest stained glass windows in Middle Tennessee) and continued to grow until First Baptist relocated and sold the building to Christ Community Church in the mid 1980s. CCC relocated in 2001 to their new facility on Hillsboro Road and left the Chapel in downtown Franklin for various ministry purposes—including the planting of daughter churches. Cornerstone, a granddaughter church of CCC, purchased the building in 2012.
When we purchased the facility, we inherited many things as part of the building. One of those fixtures was the simple cedar cross that was hanging in the front of the church. Pastor Mike Smith of Christ Community Church made that as a temporary placeholder many years ago. You may not have realized it, but the central section of the front of the church was originally a baptistery with steps leading up and down. This was part of the adaptation of the building decades ago that included creating a wall in front of the old baptismal area and placing screens on either side where the steps were located.
The temporary cross has never matched the interior of the church in shape or color or materials. In fact, when we talked with Pastor Smith a few years back about the cross, he was surprised that we still had it hanging in the Chapel. For these reasons, we asked our own Jerry Palmer to provide some ideas to make more permanent fixtures that fit in with the Chapel. He provided sketches of new screens for the front, cross designs, and some other architectural details that will blend in more intentionally with the overall historic design of the Chapel. He’s working on several of these projects, but he started with the cross. The cross you see is the design that we chose from the many options he presented.
This is what Jerry had to say about his design:
I wanted to blend together historic, traditional, and contemporary elements. It was important that the cross fit the interior of the church, but I wanted to use both smooth and rough elements to convey the “old rugged cross.” To the world, the cross is foolishness, but to me and to others who trust only in the saving grace of Jesus, it is beautiful. The Celtic part of the cross hanging before you signifies the beauty of Christ our Savior and how we rejoice in Him, the rugged oak cross speaks of His agony on that cruel tree. I hope it will be a blessing to all who look upon it.
We are so thankful for Jerry and Kimberly Palmer and their gifts and talents. And we are grateful that this is yet another step in preserving and extending the history of the Chapel.