The Church

Today there are no longer church services within the building, however it has outstanding acoustics, a beautiful historic interior and remains available to host concerts, weddings and other events.  The sanctuary and vestry of the Freewill Baptist Church are intended to be used and enjoyed by the residents and visitors to the island of Islesboro.  The building may be used for holding public or private gatherings of a character consistent with the well-being of the community and appropriate for the building such as weddings, funerals, educational forums, religious services and concerts.  
 
Policy decisions regarding use of the sanctuary and/or vestry are made by the board of the Society for the Preservation of the Free Will Baptist Church. If you are interested in utilizing the sanctuary and/or vestry of the Freewill Baptist Church, please contact us via this website.
History

Residents of North Islesboro formed the Free Will Baptist Church in 1821. Most were squatters and rebels against the authority of landed gentry, state supported churches, and learned ministers. Many had refused to pay General Knox for the land they had cleared and farmed. As Free Will Baptists, they rejected predestination and distrusted educated clergy. They supported free choice in selecting good or evil, a divine call call to the ministry, "born again" experience as a prerequisite to membership, full immersion baptism, and the guiding role of the Spirit working on the individual.

 

Forty-one people joined in 1821. They probably rejected the down island First Baptist Church because it was a long walk away, because their families and neighbors were joining the new church, because they considered the north end of the island separate, and because the theology of First Baptist was more conservative and Calvinist.

 

Meeting in homes at first, the Free Will Baptists were led by home-grown ministers who were licensed by the denominations's Quarterly Meeting. The congregation built the Free Will Baptist church in 1843. It was probably financed by the sales of shares and pews, perhaps supplemented by contributions responding to a "subscription paper." Forty members were addded by baptism that year, bringing membership to ninety-one.

 

Free Will Baptists of the day believed it was the responsibility of the church to aid its members to "walk in an orderly way." Committees were appointed to "visit and labor" with wayward members suspected of drinking, dancing, or missing church. They ordered public confessions of fault and excluded unrepentant sinners from the church. The church also mediated disputes between its members and in the larger community.

 

The Free Will Baptist Church had 119 members in 1844, the year after the building was constructed. Numbers declined to 100 in 1858, and to 77 in 1870. In 1872, the congregation voted to disband the existing church and create a new church separate from the Free Will Church organization. They erected the vestry in 1877, and an itinerant painted is believed to have done the stencils late in the century.

 

There was a flurry of baptisms in the early 20th century, when the church hired Rev. Harry Hull, "a young man of education and ability." But Hull and his successor moved on to larger churches, and an attempt at having one pastor for the two Baptist churches on the island failed. Thereafter, the decline continued. The church relied mostly on the intermittent services of supply ministers, visits from the pastors of Second Baptist, and summer sermons by visiting preachers. The Sunday School continued until at least 1941. By the mid 1950's, even summer worship was sporadic.

© 2014 by Society for the Preservation of the Free Will  Baptist Church