The first remembrance of a ministry in the Fernwood community was begun by Handsboro Baptist Church as early as 1900, under the leadership of their pastor, Brother Hatch. He would conduct Sunday School in the old one-room Fernwood schoolhouse, standing at the door of the building, with the congregation sitting under a brush arbor.
When the school was moved into a new building, two ladies from a non-Baptist church, a Mrs. Taylor and her daughter, Mrs. Crump, both of Gulfport, conducted the Sunday School. Later, an attorney from the First Baptist Church of Gulfport, Named Mr. Lawrence Taylor, would ride the trolley car down the beach until he stopped at Debuys Road and walk the approximately 11/4 miles north to where the church met. There he would teach Sunday School to the group of believers that met to study God’s Word.
Rev. O.D. Bowen followed Mr. Taylor as Mission Pastor of the congregation, while he continued to be pastor of Handsboro Baptist Church. Later Rev. P.S. Dodge came with Bro. Bowen as the Sunday School secretary and teacher of a class. Bro Dodge was instrumental in organizing the mission into a full-fledged church and continued to be a friend of the church for the rest of his life.
The Fernwood Mission was organized into a church as Bowen Memorial Baptist Church, named after their first mission pastor, on October 25, 1924.
P.S. Dodge became it’s first pastor, and thus began the formal beginning of this church ministering to the Fernwood community. By 1926, church membership reached 25, with an enrollment in Sunday School of 85. In 1937, under J. L. Low’s leadership, there began a very noticeable rise in membership at the church. New space had to be added to the existing building in 1946.
During the leadership of Rev. Richard Alexander, the church began to get to the point of needing new space for its members and in 1953, a new sanctuary was dedicated. Later, during Rev. Stanley File’s tenure (1953-56), Sunday School rooms were added and a new pastorium was added in the back.
The church continued to grow during the 1950's and 1960"s. She began to reach out beyond he immediate area by sponsoring a mission that became Michael Memorial Baptist Church in Nuggent and with two of her pastors going into the foreign mission field. Sunday School membership peaked in 1964 with 191, and attendance of 127 in 1968. Unfortunately that growth slowed down considerably during the seventies. At one point there was even discussion of closing or joining with another church. The members of Fernwood felt that this church was needed more than ever here, and made the commitment to forward in ministry to the Fernwood community.
During the 1980"s and 90"s, despite many setbacks and new beginnings, the church saw mor people ministered to outside the walls. Ministries, such the Seaman’s Center, homebound visitation, van ministry, and others have been used to meet the needs felt by its members.
Fernwood is now in its 88nd year as an established church, and continues to expand it’s ministries again. We had a very successful church wide Mission Group to Philadelphia, and lead worship with the Gulf Coast Rescue Mission, as well as have a relationship with the MS Baptist Children’s Village in Wiggins, MS. Fernwood Baptist Church continues to shine as a bright beacon of light and salvation, guiding people to Jesus Christ, our safe harbor as all in our community (the churched and unchurched) navigate the storms of life.