In June of 1896, four men sat on a log, in a grove of trees at the corner of Walnut and Lime Streets in Waterloo, dreaming of what God could do andconsidering the place as a site for a church building. Soon after, that piece of land was purchased for $350. By October of the same year, the people of what was named Walnut Street Baptist Church began meeting for worship in their newly constructed building
To meet the needs of a growing congregation, a brick building with room for 1400 people in the auditorium was constructed in 1908 at the same location. “A Church for People” was engraved at the base of the church tower. The celebrated evangelist Billy Sunday conducted evangelistic campaigns in this building in 1910 and 1932.
The third and current church building was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1971. In order to reflect the new location on the corner of Ansborough and Ridgeway Avenue, the name of the church was changed from Walnut Street to Walnut Ridge Baptist Church.
investing in the youth of waterloo
A passion to invest in the youth of Waterloo has been part of Walnut Ridge’s legacy since its early days. By 1908, participation in Sunday school had reached over 500. Seeing the limits of bringing people to church, the leadership decided to take church to the people. Four Sunday school chapels were started in various neighborhoods of Waterloo. Two of these chapels grew to reach “maturity” and became Burton Ave Baptist Church and Hagerman Baptist Church.
In 1952, the church bought land across from their building on Walnut Street and erected the Sunday School Building. The purpose of this annex was to train young people to know God and make Him known.
The culmination of these efforts was the creation of Walnut Ridge Baptist Academy in 1973. Now known as Waterloo Christian School, the school has the privilege of partnering with families in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls and surrounding communities who desire to educate and train their children within the context of a biblical worldview. To date, over 740 graduates have been equipped to serve God, their families and their communities in a way that brings honor to God.
going to the nations
A dedicated effort to reach the young people of Waterloo did not prevent the church from a serious commitment to sending its people as missionaries to the ends of the earth to share the good news of God’s love and forgiveness. In 1947, the church had 13 members serving as missionaries in the following places: Ethiopia, Nigeria, Liberia, French Equatorial Africa, Brazil, Peru, India, the Ozark mountains and the Virginia mountains. All of them were supported 100% by the church. Seven others were partially supported by the church.
Today, Walnut Ridge still believes that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only hope for the world. The missions program supports a large number of ministries and missionaries serving in ten countries on five continents.
The future of the church will certainly build on Walnut Ridge’s legacy of faith in God’s word, love for young people, and commitment to making disciples of all nations.