History of First Southern Baptist Church

In the fall of 1955 the Desert Park Southern Baptist Church under the leadership of Rev. Richard Stokes agreed to sponsor the work in the area around 32nd Street and Bell Road in name only. The mission began with the Louis M. Belcher family. He was a student at Grand Canyon College and was the church’s first pastor. The first service was held with Brother Belcher’s family and four young girls.

The church met in the Civic Building which was cluttered most Sunday mornings with dirt and beer cans from the previous night’s dance and had to be cleaned before services on Sunday morning.

The mission was organized into a church known as First Southern Baptist Church of Paradise Valley in September 1956. In January of 1957 the church needed better accommodations. They began to meet in the Greenway Elementary School for Sunday School and worship service. They met in the school until September of 1957.

During this time, the church began looking for land and purchased five acres of land where the church is presently located. The church purchased the land for $8,500.00. The church then obtained a loan from the Home Mission Board for $10,000.00 to purchase the five acres and start its first building. In the fall of 1957 they moved into their new building. The church is now using the building for educational space and fellowship hall.

In 1965 the church had outgrown its first building and secured the money to build its present auditorium by selling bonds from the Arizona Baptist Loan.

In June 1978 the church built its third building which is used for educational space. The church secured a loan for $70,470 from the Home Mission Board to build the building.

Rev. Belcher lists the following as charter members: the Rev. Belcher family, Marley McClung family and his mother Virgie McClung, the Hap Galbraith family, Mrs. Cooper, the Harold Ingram family, Mrs. Joe Harrie and daughters, the Troy Horton family, and the Don Heath family.

The following have served the church as Pastor:

  • Louis Belcher 1955 - 1958
  • Jack Daniels 1958 - 1961
  • Gerald Conner 1961 - 1963
  • Bobbie Trotter 1963 - 1965
  • A.L. Hinkston 1965 - 1967
  • Willis J. Ray 1967 - 1968
  • Mel Worters 1968 - 1968 (June – August)
  • I.W. Atwood 1968 - 1972
  • Ennis Hill 1973 - 1983
  • Gordon D. Rhodes 1983 - Oct 1990
  • Jeff Hemken Feb 1991 - June 2008
  • Ed Peterson June 2009 - Nov 2015
  • Dr Mark Hickman Sept 2016 – present (interim as of Nov 2015)


We appreciate Rev. Louis Belcher and Betty Bridwell who supplied the pre-1980’s history and Peggy Dawson for 1980’s to current of the First Southern Baptist Church of Paradise Valley.


Alice Baker
1st Southern Baptist Church of Paradise Valley is a wonderful place to worship. We sing the old hymns and the new modern songs in our services. Join us as we praise God together and study the Bible to learn more about how to serve Him.
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