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Sardis Church marks 125 years of service in Birminghamcomment (0)

December 17, 2009

By Gary Hardin

The decision by the congregation of Sardis Missionary Baptist Church, Birmingham, to purchase the vacated property of Hunter Street Baptist Church in 1987 positioned it for growth.

Sunday worship attendance at Sardis Missionary Baptist averages about 900 today, a number exponentially larger than the 34 people who began the church in 1884.

On Nov. 8, the Birmingham Baptist Association church celebrated 125 years of ministry.

Through the years, Sardis has served as a model for churches in the black community, Pastor Kurt S. Clark Sr. said. “Sardis has proven that doing and believing are connected. The church has long been a source of inspiration and hope for the greater Birmingham community.”

And “God has been with us every step of the way,” noted Robert P. Williams, chairman of deacons for Sardis.

At the anniversary service, Gregory Howard, a Virginia pastor, brought the morning message. Melanie Metz, administrative assistant for the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission, presented the church with a commemorative plaque, and three church members staged a historical presentation, “Sardis Generational Family.”

That evening, former and current choir members performed a reunion concert.

In September 1884, 34 north Birmingham residents met at the home of Violet Foreman to organize the church. Shortly thereafter, Foreman donated a lot on 13th Avenue North on which to build a wooden frame structure. In the early 1900s, the church moved to Fourth Street, where it stayed for more than half a century.

In the mid-1970s, the congregation relocated to Graymont Avenue and then in 1987, bought the Hunter Street Baptist campus at Fourth Court West.

The last two moves occurred under the leadership of Samuel P. Pettagrue, who served as pastor of Sardis for 35 years (1971–2006).

“Sardis has a rich heritage,” Williams said. “Rev. Pettagrue did much for the church and the larger Birmingham community.”

During Pettagrue’s tenure, the church expanded its community ministries, launched its missions ministry, added staff members, opened a child development center, started Sardis Christian School and remodeled the family life center.

According to Williams, Clark, who was called as pastor in 2007, is “leading the church to continue its heritage.”

Clark began his tenure by immediately leading the congregation in a strategic planning initiative.

“Through the planning emphasis, I hope to refocus the church on its core values, mission and vision and to provide the church with stability,” he said.

Part of the emphasis encompasses the church’s missions ministry, led by Eddie Gibson, minister of missions, who has served the church for 11 years.

Gibson leads extensive ministries to college students, children, the homeless, the hungry and others and organizes statewide and overseas missions trips.

Over the past eight years, “more than 375 short-term Sardis missionaries have gone out on these trips,” he said.

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