Central Park Church celebrates centennial, reflects on rich historycomment (0)
June 10, 2010
By Gary Hardin
Sarah Mullins, 92, loves to tell how God used her mother’s ministry to help start Central Park Baptist Church, Birmingham, in Birmingham Baptist Association (BBA).
In the early 1900s, the city of Birmingham designated an area of town to be called Central Park. Mullins’ mother, Nannie Bonham, realized the need for spiritual training for boys and girls in the soon-to-be Central Park neighborhood.
“My mother walked through the woods looking for children to invite to be part of a newly organized Sunbeam Band (now Mission Friends),” she said.
A short time later, a group of women, including Bonham, organized a Ladies Aid Society with Dovis Lucas as its first president. This group encouraged the parents of the Sunbeams to attend soon-to-be-organized Sunday School classes.
J.R. Stodghill, then-director of missions for BBA, secured a vacant house to be used as a meeting place and helped organize the Sunday School. “My mother and two other women taught three classes: one for adults, another for young people and the third for small children,” said Mullins, a retired Southern Baptist missionary to Hawaii and Macau.
With the help of Earl Parker, a student at Howard College (now Samford University) in Birmingham, Stodghill guided the Sunday School attendees to organize a church in 1910. Parker became its first pastor and served until 1913.
During the weekend of May 22–23, 2010, Central Park Baptist celebrated its centennial anniversary. On May 22, former and current choir members and musicians gathered to provide music for a reunion gathering. Afterward everyone met in the church’s gymnasium for small-group fellowship.
In the Sunday morning anniversary service, former members gave testimonies and provided special music. Lonette Berg, executive director of the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission, presented the church with an anniversary plaque. Bob Terry, president and publisher of The Alabama Baptist, preached the morning message.
Longtime Central Park members Cynthia Fuqua and Rhonda Sizemore organized the anniversary celebration. Fuqua developed CDs of historical photos and music from previous choirs.
Both women understand the significance of Central Park’s 100 years of ministry. “The church has been an icon in the state. The area around us has changed, but we are still here, still ministering, although we are much smaller in number,” Sizemore stated.
BBA uses Central Park’s former children’s building as a community ministry outreach facility, called The Center at Central Park. The center ministers to Birmingham’s West End community and provides dorm rooms for World Changers projects each year. The church also operates a Christian school for kindergartners through 12th-graders.
“This year, we graduated 22 students from our school, and all of them will be attending college,” Pastor Mel Deason said with pride. “We are a great church with 100 years of ministry behind us and finding our way in a different age.”