Historic 135-year-old Homewood church raising funds for renovation

Union Missionary Baptist Church
Reverend Edward E Steele, pastor at Union Missionary Baptist Church in Homewood. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

For 135 years, Union Missionary Baptist Church has stood unchanged in Homewood’s Rosedale Historic District. Now, the church is looking to raise $135,000 to ensure the building can serve future generations. Keep reading to learn more about Union Missionary Baptist Church and how you can help.

Union Missionary Baptist Church predates the City of Homewood

Union Missionary Baptist Church
Union Missionary Baptist Church in Homewood. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

Located at 1731 26th Avenue South in Homewood’s Rosedale Historic District, the Union Missionary Baptist Church is older than the City of Homewood itself. The church was formed by the merger of two congregations—Healing Springs Baptist Church and Walnut Street Baptist Church—in 1914, but traces its roots back to the founding of Healing Springs Baptist Church in 1887.

“Union Missionary Baptist Church has been on the same place, same corner since the beginning. Every stone on the outside was hand-placed and all of the original wood that is inside the church is over 100 years old. The wood itself is in great condition for being as old as it is.”

Reverend Edward E Steele

During the Civil Rights Movement, Union Missionary Baptist Church served as a temporary classroom for the students of Rosedale High School after their school was damaged by a bombing. The church was no stranger to racially-motivated bombings during this time; miraculously, no one was harmed and the building’s original stained glass windows were unscathed.

Union Missionary Baptist Church
Union Missionary Baptist Church’s wooden pews are original—making them over 100 years old. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

“My grandfather and my mother were both members here, so I was raised and baptized in this church. After I came back to Birmingham and became licensed and ordained to the ministry, this congregation asked for me to be their pastor. I think my grandfather would be smiling to know that.

This is my fifth year as pastor at Union Missionary Baptist Church. When I came on board, I made it my job to do everything I could to preserve the legacy of this historic church. You don’t find too many churches that have been on the same corner for 135 years and still look as good as we do!”

Reverend Edward E Steele

Over the years, the area around the church has changed from mostly residential to commercial. In addition to fundraising, Reverend Steele is trying to get the church listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as the Alabama Register of Landmarks & Heritage to prevent the church from being torn down.

However, the church is looking to thrive—not just survive.

Seeking Funds for Renovation

Union Missionary Baptist Church
Reverend Edward E Steele in front of Union Missionary Baptist Church. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

As the church celebrates its 135th anniversary, the congregation is looking to raise $135,000—a thousand dollars for each year the church has been around. According to Reverend Steele, the funds would go to a number of renovation and modernization projects.

Union Missionary Baptist Church
Part of the church’s original pipe organ. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

One of the goals of the fundraiser is to repair the church’s original pipe organ. According to Reverend Steele, there is only one person in Alabama who knows how to fix a pipe organ of that era. Since the man is in his 90s, the Union Missionary Baptist Church will have to dismantle the organ and bring it to his home in Central Alabama to complete the repairs.

Union Missionary Baptist Church
The original mortar used to keep the hand-cut stones of Union Missionary Baptist Church together. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

Another goal of the fundraising efforts is to repair the mortar on the exterior of the church. The mortar is starting to chip and fall apart, putting a strain on the exterior of the building.

Fun Fact: The stones on the exterior of the church were originally cut in a Homewood quarry!

You can help preserve the legacy of Union Missionary Baptist Church

Union Missionary Baptist Church
You can help ensure Union Missionary Baptist Church stays around for generations to come. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

Currently, Union Missionary Baptist Church is collecting funds for their fundraiser via Cash App at $UMBC1887 or via check made out to Union Missionary Baptist Church.

In addition, Reverend Steele and the congregation of Union Missionary Baptist Church want to extend an invitation to anyone who wishes to visit.

“We are an all-inclusive church where everyone is loved, valued and respected. There is no such thing as an all-white church, and there is no such thing as an all-black church. We may worship differently, but we are all children of God. If we can’t worship together here, we won’t have the opportunity to do it up there.”

Reverend Edward E Steele

Have you visited Union Missionary Baptist Church? Tag us @bhamnow to let us know!

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Nathan Watson

Senior Content Producer with Bham Now | Originally from Tennessee, Nathan moved to The Magic City after graduating from Birmingham-Southern College. Nathan is passionate about recognizing Birmingham's history and is thrilled to learn more about the big things planned for The Magic City's future.

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