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The City Journals

Historic Murray Baptist Church closes

Mar 27, 2019 04:06PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

The Murray Baptist Church has voted to close its doors after more than a century in Murray. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

One of the oldest churches in Murray, dating to before the city’s incorporation, has voted to close its doors. The Murray Baptist Church (184 E. 5770 South), which survived several moves, including one due to fire, heard its last sermon preached on March 31.

Liz Pattison, a member of the congregation (her father, O. Ray Kerley, was the pastor of Murray Baptist Church from 1990-2018, until he retired), stated, “Attendance at Murray Baptist has been slowly declining through the years due to a number of reasons. After my dad retired, several more people left... there wasn't enough growth to continue to pay the bills.”

The church and the small house next door, which the church also owns, will be placed on the market to be sold. The current church was constructed in the 1950s and sits on several acres of land near State Street. 

“It was decided to sell the church and its assets so it could be used by the American Baptist Church to [support] missions around the world and in the United States (examples include hospitals in developing countries, such as Haiti, disaster relief in the US, and growth of new churches here and abroad). Some of the proceeds will also be given to Camp Utaba, the American Baptist Church camp near Liberty, Utah,” said Pattison.

Congregants will be able to attend Murray Baptist's sister church, First Baptist Church (1300 E. 800 South), in Salt Lake City. 

“I will miss the people. Murray Baptist Church was a very loving and caring congregation. There were so many good memories from that little church. Whenever we learned of a need, we always did everything in our power to fill it. The church always loved helping others,” reminisced Pattison, who added the congregation won a few awards too.  

“We always participated in, and many times won, the Crossroads Urban Center's annual July Golden Celery Cup competition, because we donated more non-perishable food per person in attendance than any other church in the competition,” she said. “Food banks run low on inventories during the summer months, and we wanted to do our part to help with this need. We were a small church, but we had a big heart.”

The original Murray Baptist Church was founded in historic downtown Murray. The meetinghouse hosted everything from the large revivals of visiting out-of-state preachers to speeches promoting temperance. That building met tragedy when the publishing company next door caught fire in 1924, and nearly the entire block burned down, including the Murray Baptist Church.

The Salt Lake Telegram reported, “The Murray Baptist church was a complete loss of $7,000, and no insurance being carried on the building. The church organ was destroyed and only the church benches were saved.”

The members rallied and rebuilt their church by 1926. In 1949, faulty wiring in the attic started a blaze in the new chapel during the middle of Sunday services. Fortunately, the ministers noticed in time to help everyone evacuate and the fire department was able to limit the damage to the roof. The chapel was repaired, but, by the 1950s, the small building was running out of space. 

Members started a “Buy-A-Brick” campaign in 1952, at 50 cents a brick, to construct a new church. By 1958, they had moved from downtown Murray to their current home on 5770 South. The older chapel was purchased by Murray City and now functions as a meeting hall. Over the years, the Murray Baptist Church contributed to Murray through various ways, from service projects to fielding a championship women’s bowling team in the 1970s.

While parting may be bittersweet, Pattison hopes the members reflect on the reason for the church. “In my dad's last sermon on April 15th, 2018, he had a simple insert in the bulletin. It read ‘God loves you. Work harder: Love God. Love your neighbor.’”