RANTOUL — Members of Bible Baptist Church of Rantoul will celebrate their 65th anniversary April 7.

The church was officially incorporated in 1954 with 17 charter members.

Prior to the incorporation, there had been several families meeting in their homes from 1950 to 1951. In the fall of 1952, the group decided to make an effort to establish a gospel witness in Rantoul. That decision reduced the number of families from seven to three.

The Fellowship of Baptists for Home Missions was contacted concerning the availability of a missionary pastor to lead the group. The Rev. Samuel Muralt and his wife, Mildred, came in May of 1953 and became the church’s first pastor.

A vacant lot was purchased at 122 S. Chanute St., where a building was built to house the group. By 1965, the congregation had grown and more room was needed, so the old First Baptist building at the corner of Century and Grove streets was purchased.

In 1975, a new sanctuary with a basement was built adjacent to and north of the old building. The old building was razed in 2002, and a handicapped-accessible entrance was built on the southeast corner of the new building. Lots across the alley and north of the church were purchased for parking and future expansion.

Through the years, the church has ministered to all age groups, and until the closing of Chanute Air Force Base, its congregations included many Air Force families.

For the past 65 years, with the leadership of various pastors from Muralt to Albert Bennett (the current pastor), the church has remained a fundamental, Bible-believing and preaching church.

The church is open to all visitors. Its next service will begin at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 7.