First Spanish Baptist Church

Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 5 August 2002.

Phone: 313-894-7755
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The research was conducted by The University of Michigan-Dearborn Pluralism Project


The First Spanish Baptist Church, affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, was founded in 1960 to serve the Latin American population of Detroit. Earlier, the First Latin American Baptist Church, the first evangelical Hispanic congregation in the city, had been established in 1930, and located on the corner of Fort Street and Rangoon, in southwest Detroit. Initially, the congregation was strictly Spanish speaking, drawing its members primarily from the Mexican and Puerto Rican populations in Detroit. The first pastor, Francisco Lemus, was from El Salvador. He was a Spanish teacher at the Garden City High School, and the Director of the Clark Park branch of the YMCA. During these early years, the congregation met in a storefront on the corner of 18th Street and Bagley, in southwest Detroit. From there the congregation moved in 1964 to its present location, still in southwest Detroit, and completed construction of its new building in 1967. This location was chosen because it was easy to reach by people living in southwest Detroit, the major concentration of Latin Americans in metropolitan Detroit. From 1969 on, the church experienced an increase in membership, drawing not only Spanish-speaking but English-speaking individuals as well. Consequently, the second pastor of the church, Henry Medina, who was born in Spain and raised in Argentina, began to hold bilingual services. The languages of the church are now Spanish, English, and Portuguese


While the church considers its mission to be primarily towards the city's Latin American population, the membership of the church includes people of a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds and nationalities. Over the years it has drawn people from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Puerto Rico, Panama, Venezuela, and the United States. Those from the United States include both blacks and whites.

In the Community

The congregation has had considerable involvement with the surrounding community of southwest Detroit filled with homes and businesses, on the outskirts of downtown Detroit. In the area, 40% of all people fall below the poverty level; 70% of adults over age 25 have incomes of less than $25,000/year; 52% of adults over age 25 have no high school diploma. Women head 20% of households. In 1987, the church purchased a two-family house next door to the church as temporary shelter for families. In addition, the center has a substance abuse program, a tutoring program, home improvement program, Spanish language classes, vacation Bible school, food pantry, translation services, youth outreach, and a radio broadcasts in both Spanish and English. The center has worked with Here's Life Inner-City to distribute Thanksgiving Day meals. It has cooperated with other Latin American congregations in the area, including Messiah Church, to hold bilingual services, and the pastor has participated in the work of area groups including Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development (LASED), and Latino Family Services.


Along with its worship sanctuary, the church has offices, a nursery, a kitchen, and several classrooms for Sunday school and meetings. The services of worship are bilingual, and contemporary in style. In addition to the usual Sunday morning service at 11:00 a.m., there are Bible study meetings in members' homes on Wednesday and Thursday. Members of the church come from throughout the Detroit metropolitan area and Windsor, Canada, and number approximately 100 people.