The Chapel on the campus of CrossLife Church was built in 1926. This historic building is just one piece of the long history of the City of Oviedo. It has ties to many of the influential members of early Oviedo as well as the stain of a dark past.
Backstory and Context
The Historic Building
The Chapel at First Baptist Church of Oviedo, known today as Cross Life Church, is one of the oldest building still standing in Oviedo. Originally built in 1926, the building is just under a century old and is still being used today as the Children’s Church. The early to late 20s brought along a large economic boom for Oviedo. The successful businesses of Oviedo played a “vital role in the establishment and growth of” local churches and schools . The congregate on paid just over $30,000 to construct the new chapel which in 2017 would be approximately $420,000 . The current look of the building is virtually unchanged from how it originally looked. The stained-glass windows and matching embellished wooden doors are all the originals. The Chapel has had only a few modifications such as a vital air conditioning system and some basement renovations. The history of the church itself, however, well precedes just this building.
The First Baptist Church of Oviedo first began meeting in 1869 under the shade of a brush arbor with the service being led by Rev. W. G. Powell. From there the congregation began meeting in various wooden buildings until a Church owned wooden building was built on land donated to the church by Rev. Powell and a Will Alexander of Savana, Georgia. Rev. Powell left the Church in 1875 and the pulpit was taken up by T.W. Lawton who served as pastor for many years . Lawton also was the first superintendent of Seminole Country Public Schools and served for 36 years. His house, which is also a historic landmark, was built in 1890 then relocated to its current location in 1910. It still stands today and is used to house the Oviedo Historical Society. It is located just across the street from the Church and is just in front of Lawton Elementary School .
In 1887 a larger building was needed so a larger wooden structure was built and served as the Church until 1926 when the current brick building was erected. In 1946, a small addition was added to the Chapel for more room. As the size of the congregation continued to grow more space was needed, so in 1957 an educational building was built. Moving up to 1968, again the need for more room arose so plans for an 11 thousand-foot, air-conditioned annex began. Construction was completed 1969 and the building still stands and is used today. Other buildings that were constructed after this time were a large sanctuary in 1986, a 3-story office building and a gymnasium in 1996, a temporary metal-frame worship center in 2001, then finally the massive Worship Center was built in 2009 .
Though today the Church is a very inviting and inclusive place which welcomes people of all walks of life, it had ties to a dark time in history. The original pastor, Reverend W. G. Powell just happens to be the father of Lewis Powell. Many of Lewis Powell’s brothers fought in the civil war, one of whom died. Like them, Lewis fought in the civil war for four years until he was wounded at Gettysburg. He later ended up meeting a man by the name of John Wilkes Booth . Lewis joined Booth and was one of the Lincoln assassination conspirators. Specifically, Lewis was tasked with assassinating U.S. Secretary of State William Stewart. He was able to seriously would Stewart, but not kill him. After getting captured, Powell was tried and executed for attempted murder and conspiracy. The execution was a public hanging and took place July 7, 1865. Powell’s remains were eventually brought to Florida where he was buried next to his mother in the historic Geneva Cemetery .
TodayThe current head pastor is Dr. Dwayne Mercer who has been there since 1993. In that time the membership of this church has grown from 650 to 5,000 . Recently, in an attempt to modernize the appearance of the Church, First Baptist Church of Oviedo changed its name to Cross Life Church. This change came along with the recent change to a more high-tech and “more theatrical service along the lines of the First Baptist Church of Orlando” .This name change shed the Church of its more traditional feel in exchange for a more modern contemporary feel in order to appeal to the current culture. There are two services held in the main worship center on Sundays at 9:15 and 10:50 a.m. as well as one held at a satellite campus located at Corner Lake Middle School at 10:15 . There are various small group classes to choose from and many ways to get involved in serving at the Church.
2. Rajtar, Steve. Oviedo Historical Trail. 2008, www.geocities.ws/krdvry/hikeplans/oviedo/planoviedo.html. Accessed 30 Sept. 2017.
3. Archaeological Consultants, Inc. A Cultural Resource Assessment Survey. Volume II, Appendix D: First Baptist Church of Oviedo.
4. Norton, R. J. Lewis Powell. 2017, rogerjnorton.com/Lincoln25.html. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.
5. Reilly, Peter. Built on Faith. 3 Oct. 2017, www.owslife.com/news/article/built-on-faith. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.
6. crosslifechurch.com/im-new/meet-the-pastor. Accessed 30 Sept, 2017.
7. crosslifechurch.com/times. Accessed 20 Sept, 2017.