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Lipscombís Union Church celebrates 175 yearscomment (0)

August 13, 2009

An estimated 375 people — more than 10 times the average Sunday attendance of 35 — gathered to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Union Baptist Church, Lipscomb, on June 7.

Changing demographics in the area has left the Bessemer Baptist Association congregation with a small, mostly senior adult membership. But that didn’t keep current and former church members from celebrating its anniversary.

Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, offered greetings at the celebration.

Don Graham, who grew up in Union Baptist and is one of eight pastors ordained by the church, was pulpit guest for the service.

Like Graham, Thelma Horton’s roots run deep at Union. She was baptized at the church in 1945 and has remained there for the vast majority of the nearly 65 years since.

Horton said it’s a sense of belonging and Union’s commitment to missions that have kept her there.

“It’s been such a wonderful church in so many ways,” she said. “The members of our church are like family.”

And it’s a family determined to keep growing.

“They want to keep the church going,” Interim Pastor Dewey Mayfield said of the congregation that includes only two or three middle-age members and no young people.

A 12-page history prepared for the anniversary notes a record attendance of 408 in 1923.

But Union started small back in June 1834 with 18 members. They left Bessemer’s Canaan Baptist Church, which at the time was located in the village of Jonesboro, two miles west of Bessemer, to constitute Union in a log cabin.

At some point in its early history, the church ceased to meet. W.R. Hallman re-established Union and built a one-room frame building that the congregation used for more than 30 years. The church’s history notes that Hallman subsequently was called as pastor in 1888.

Through the years, Union has been a member of several associations, including Bessemer and Birmingham. It helped to organize Bessemer Association on Oct. 18, 1899. When the association later disbanded, the church became part of Birmingham Baptist Association until 1949. Union then joined the reinstituted Bessemer Association.

On Feb. 19, 1992, the church completed construction of its current auditorium. (TAB)

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