Our Story

Story About Us

How it all started

The history of a church is more than a calendar of dates and events, an account of land purchased and buildings erected, or a list of organizations and their purposes, a church is “people worshiping the Lord.”

Where it all began

For over 150 years, the First Baptist Church has been sharing the Word of God to the greater New York City metropolitan area. Established on April 7, 1870, as the First Baptist Church of Hackensack, the members of this small church soon bought a small plot of land and constructed a chapel. In 1916, with 179 members, the Lord called Pastor Harry C. Leach to be Senior Pastor. In a way that seemed miraculous the church began to grow and needed to expand. By 1922 the property on the northwest corner of Union and Passaic was acquired and plans were started to construct a new Sanctuary. On August 26, 1923, the cornerstone of the new church was laid. The Lord continued to bless the ministry under Pastor Leach’s ministry. On December 1, 1948, Dr. Leach retired after 32 years of faithful ministry, having seen the church grow significantly in that time. At the time of his retirement, the church membership had grown to 1,051 members and 1,201 Sunday School students.

The early days

Reverend Joseph M. Stowell preached his first sermon as Senior Pastor at the Hackensack Church on September 18, 1949. Only two years later, the church had purchased each property on Conklin Place and the congregation voted unanimously to construct a new Bible School building. The cornerstone was laid, and on Sunday, September 20, 1953 the building was opened and formally dedicated. During this time, a branch mission work was inaugurated and the first such branch church was the Valley Baptist Church in River Vale (now Cornerstone Bible Church). Soon after, the church purchased 86 and 92 Passaic Street in 1960 for staff & missionary housing. Pastor Stowell conducted his last worship service at the church on October 26, 1969 after 20 faithful years. The following year marked the Centennial Year of the church. At this time, membership had grown to 1,400.

A Strong Vision

In the fall of 1970 Pastor Robert Gage became the Senior Pastor. Under his leadership, the church saw several ministries develop. In April of 1972, the church, in partnership with the Garden State Fellowship of Regular Baptist Churches, purchased Pennington Island on the Delaware River from the Philadelphia Presbytery and it became New Life Island, a summer youth camp and retreat center. The following year, after sensing the need for a quality Christian school in Bergen County, the Hackensack Christian Schools opened as a Pre-K thru 12th grade school. With all these ministries growing, it became evident that more space was needed for the growing church and school. In 1977, the Leach Memorial Building which contains a full-size gym, classrooms, a full-size kitchen, and a fellowship lounge was constructed. Pastor Gage conducted his last worship service at the church in 1980. At this time there were 395 students attending HCS and Cornerstone Day Camp, the church-sponsored day camp started in the 50s, had seen significant growth.

A bright future

Pastor Glen E. Crabb was installed as Senior Pastor and faithfully preached the Word of God in Hackensack until his departure in 1985. Soon after, Pastor James E. Smith became Senior Pastor. Under his leadership, the church built the duplex townhouse on 92 Passaic Street. This was replaced with no outstanding debt. Pastor Smith retired in 2010 and Pastor Wohner served as Senior Pastor between 2011 – 2014. After Pastor Wohner’s departure, church leaders called Pastor Bill Park to serve as Interim Pastor. Under his ministry, the church saw growth. Hackensack Christian Schools was reestablished as Bergen County Christian Academy. Pastor Park initiated conversations with the Hawthorne Gospel Church to see if they would be interested in adopting the Hackensack Church as a campus of their church. Two weeks before the coronavirus pandemic affected the entire world, the First Baptist Church of Hackensack was adopted and became a ministry of the Hawthorne Gospel Church effective March 3, 2020. Pastor Howie Van Dyk, Jr. was appointed as the Campus Pastor of Hackensack. Since then, the church has seen steady growth. The AWANA program, youth ministry, and college & young adults ministries were reinstated and people in the community have joined the church.