BY Win Dolan
Highlights of Our Story First Baptist Church: 1867-2007
A year long series that originally appeared in the Tidings (article #2)
Did you know, if you’re not an old-timer, that the big white house across First Street, now the City Hall, was once the parsonage of the First Baptist Church? Indeed it was, for several years in the 1950’s.
The idea of a parsonage, a home provided for the minister’s family, must go back at least to the manses and vicarages of the Church of England, many of which have been in use for centuries. The clergyman may have been as poor as the mice that shared the premises, but he had a dignified home in keeping with his standing in the community. The concept was adopted by many Protestant churches in this country; my own childhood was spent in a big five-bedroom parsonage across the street from the red-brick Baptist church my father pastured. When our McMinnville church first provided such a home is uncertain, but by 1950 the pastor lived in a house rented by the church on South Davis Street. If his salary as budgeted sounded meager, at least it was augmented by the home provided.
As for the current City Hall, it was formerly the home of Louis Courtemanche, a local business man. Whatever his taxes or other financial situation may have been, he offered the house to our church at a figure far below its value, making a generous gift of a large part of the transaction. Accordingly, FBC became the owner of the quite luxurious property. The family of the pastor moved there from a rather inadequate rental and lived in the house for six years. By that time it became obvious that the church could not afford to maintain such a property over the long run, and the house was sold to the city for its present use.
Meanwhile, the widespread opinion among churches was growing that parsonages as such, were outdated, often unsuited to the minister’s family situation. Better to pay him a housing allowance and, if necessary, to lend him funds to buy his own home. This has been our own practice since that time. If you look at our present church budget in the Annual Report, you will find that in addition to cash salary, there are items such as retirement, medical insurance, Social Security offset and others, several of which are so listed because of laws regarding certain tax-free provisions for clergy in general. Thus the minister is paid, overall, more nearly in keeping with his professional education and status.