The Clinton Baptist Association appointed a “Committee of Three” in 1889 to visit Chillicothe and “report at the next meeting.” When they came, they found a young man by the name of Bartley holding services in the City Hall. A Recognition Council was called and the Peoples Baptist Church was organized with 14 members on July 20, 1890. The church reported 29 members in 1891 and “a meeting place fitted up in good style, a baptistery and robing room and a rented hall.” Rev. Bartley resigned in 1892.
Rev. W. S. Bayne came to Chillicothe in 1895 and found a discouraged flock that had been without a pastor for two years. He began with 30 names on the roll, but 30 more had been added by the end of the year. The records show that 30 of them gave to local expenses and 10 gave to missions. The pastor’s salary was $254.58 that year; $14.94 was spent on the church school; $16 was given to missions.
A real step of faith was taken in 1897 when the “Old Grove House” was purchased at the corner of Hickory and Main Streets for $5,000 and a chapel costing $6,000 was proposed. At this time the name of the church was changed to “Tabernacle Baptist Church.” It was a long, hard task to get the money, and gifts came from Baptists all over Ohio as well as from many interested citizens of Ross County. The chapel was first used in 1899, but the huge debt delayed dedication until October 3, 1903. There was steady growth in interest and spirituality and the church became self-supporting in 1921.
A group of dedicated pastors followed, each one being used to build a faithful congregation. On April 10, 1955, ground was broken for a new sanctuary that was first occupied on February 24, 1957 during the Pastorate of Rev. Herschel Roper. It was a thrilling day when the congregation marched into the new sanctuary singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The final payment of the sanctuary indebtedness was made on March 28, 1963.
Stepping out on faith under the leadership of Rev. Charles Lusher and Rev. Robert Hardy we built the first phase of the educational building. The $150,000 structure was dedicated to the glory of God on July 20, 1965.
As time went on we outgrew our beautiful church, known as the “church with the wavy walls.” Again, we dreamed and prayed and on October 11, 1967 voted to proceed with Phase III of our building program, razing the 1899 Chapel, building a new chapel, lounge, Sunday school classrooms and office, and four new administrative offices for the staff.
March 19, 1969 the church voted to go ahead with a general contract of $99,073. On May 22 the cornerstone box was lifted from the 1899 Chapel and opened. It contained two (2) daily newspapers dated August 11 and September 13, 1899, a Journal and Messenger (American Baptist publications), membership list of 78 names, 1899 Indian head penny and a beautiful picture of the proposed new TBC as of 1899. On July 26, 1970, the third phase was dedicated under the leadership of Pastor Arthur J. Eddy.
Tabernacle members are known as a caring, growing and praying church. In early 1983 a remodeling committee was organized and during the next 3-1/2 years many meetings took place. Several problems needed to be addressed: the existing flat roof that leaked, we experienced a high loss of heat through glass wall, there were traffic flow issues, the office space was crowded, we had an aging baptistery, there was inadequate choir space, the sanctuary had poor acoustics, etc. Doubts existed about accomplishing the upgrades, but we learned that God can’t be underestimated, and His people will rise to the task with sacrifice, prayer and commitment. On July 16, 1986, the church voted to go ahead with the building of a new sanctuary, administrative offices, choir room and baptistery. By mid-August the wavy walls were down and work had begun on the new sanctuary under the leadership of Rev. William Burns. During construction, services were held in the multi-purpose room of our educational building.
On April 12, 1987, we had our first worship service in our beautiful new sanctuary. The laying of the cornerstone was on Sunday, August 30, 1987, and the Dedication Service was September 20, 1987. The sanctuary and educational building are colonial in architecture with an appraised value of $2 million (1987). Our sanctuary has a seating capacity of 500 with a balcony at the rear with a room vestibule. We have a choir practice room with a storage room and robe area. New offices were provided for the senior pastor, secretary, and pastoral care associate. A large children’s activity room and youth meeting room were also included. The educational building is a three-story structure (including basement) with a hall down the center of each floor. There are 21 classrooms which are used for children and adults for Christian education. The basement under the main sanctuary is used for our fellowship hall. It has a well-equipped kitchen and a stage area. As a church grows, parking and access always become an issue. Tabernacle had a large parking lot at the time and was repaved in the summer of 1989. Parking was and still is permissible along streets surrounding the church and many businesses near the church have parking lots which are available to the church on Sundays In the early 1990s a long-range task force was formed to determine where God was leading us as a church. Ministry was the top concern for this group. A close second was a need for space to do ministry. The overall plan for expanding the church ministries and facilities was adopted on September 8, 1996. The long-range task force came to the congregation with the recommendation of a new Life Center. The Life Center would be multi purpose, allowing us to worship together, enjoy recreation together, fellowship together and work together. Much debate surrounded where this Life Center should be. The long-range task force formally made a motion to proceed with building a family life center on March 26, 2000, and this was passed. One of the most pivotal events in the church’s history also took place that evening when the task force also presented a motion to purchase land and construct the life center at another location, preferably north of the city. After much discussion, this motion was defeated.
The decision was made that we would stay on the corner of Hickory and Main so that we might impact our neighbors for Christ. To accommodate the building and the parking, we began purchasing surrounding properties along Hickory and 2nd Street so that we could see this dream become reality. These purchases in 2000, 2001 and 2007 provided the space necessary to free up the existing parking lot for the Life Center expansion and give us the additional parking areas necessary to support our growth. Also during this time, a building committee was formed.
On July 13, 2003, the Building Committee presented the proposed three-phase project. Phase One included renovating the exterior of the Education Building and replacing the boiler heating and cooling system. Phase Two included a 3,500 square foot multi-use welcome center. Phase Three included the 500 – 1000 seat Family Life Center. On July 23, 2003, a more detailed presentation was made to communicate how the project process would work. On December 21, 2003, a special business meeting was called to continue with planning for the renovation of the education building and building the new life center. Planning was also presented for a multi-phase, multi-year capital stewardship plan for the Life Center and renovation work. Again, there was good discussion and the motion was carried to continue.
In 2004, our bus garage expansion was completed allowing for additional needed storage and a tool shop. On March 21, 2004, our first three-year Capital Funds campaign began for the new Life Center and Education Building renovations.
On April 30, 2006, a special business meeting was conducted to proceed with completion of the Life Center project and to arrange the mortgage agreement with our financial lender. This motion was carried with overwhelming approval and the final phase of the project proceeded with Master Church Builders. On September 10, 2006, the groundbreaking ceremony was conducted for the Life Center.
2007 was a whirlwind year full of anticipation for our new Life Center and challenges as our senior pastor was away recovering from illness and surgery for an extended time. Praise be to God as He saw us through all the challenges and times when our faith was tested. On January 14, 2007, a quarterly business meeting led to a decision to conduct the second capital stewardship campaign. This began the last weekend of May. On May 20, 2007, a walking tour of the new Life Center was conducted by those interested from the congregation. On October 21, 2007, our senior pastor rejoined us following his extended illness and recovery. On November 10, 2007, we celebrated the new Life Center opening with a combined concert with Zion Baptist and Tabernacle choirs.
In 2008, Tabernacle began a new era, becoming a more mission-minded church. With new facilities, God’s people only need to be obedient and share His word and message of grace to impact the community and beyond. With the opening of the new Life Center, our staff switched offices and the existing offices were used for the Sunday School and Financial Assistant offices. The former Teen Center became the “Kids Zone” for grades K-6. On April 27, 2008, Tabernacle dedicated the newly renovated Education Building as “Lusher Hall” in honor of our former senior pastor. We have and continue to use our new Life Center, Teen Center, and Welcome Center to reach the lost and hurting as we have in the past and in new ways. Whether just having a conversation with friends, lending a sympathetic ear to stranger seeking help, holding concerts, dramas, having AWANA, sponsoring Upward Basketball, holding teen events, or having combined services. Tabernacle continues to discover new ways to use the tools God has provided.
2011 brought a year of continued expansion of our ministries for the community and abroad. Since then there have been changes and challenges. Senior Pastor Steve Schmidt resigned August 28, 2011 after 21-plus years of leadership. Since then Interim Pastor Steve Gage and Senior Pastor Andrew Shearer have led our congregation. Currently in 2016 we are looking to God to renew our mission and vision for the future so we can continue to impact our neighbors for Christ.