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Vestavia Hills Baptist Church celebrates 50 years of rich historycomment (0)

May 24, 2007

By Grace Thornton

I bet we’re the only Southern Baptist church located on the site of a former pagan temple,” Ginny Bugg said with a laugh. “We’ve got some creative people who saw the possibilities in that property.”

Nearly half a century after purchasing Vestavia Temple and changing it into a church, those possibilities are a blossoming reality.

Vestavia Hills Baptist Church, which sits on the crest of Shades Mountain, celebrated its 50th year with three weeks of activities culminating May 6.

And Bugg and her fellow members of the anniversary committee spared no detail in teaching everyone young and old about the Birmingham Baptist Association church’s unique history and heritage.

“One thing we did was a coloring book for the children depicting the history of the church,” Bugg said, noting that the committee got the idea from First Baptist Church, Huntsville, which is planning for its 200th anniversary in 2008.

The coloring book spanned the years with illustrations and stories of milestones and oddities:
- “My church was started in 1957 in the Vestavia Hills City Hall. … The first nursery was downstairs in the City Jail.”

- “In the year 2000, a tornado hit my church … . 65 children in the Child Development Center were safe in the basement.”

- In the 1970s, “We … had a rooster in the garden. He was named COB after our Pastor C. Otis Brooks, who told the four-year-old class the Easter story when COB was a newly hatched chicken.”

“A lot of adults were wanting copies of the coloring book, too,” Bugg said.

In addition to the book, on its May 2 Evening of Memories, Vestavia Hills Baptist gave out about 200 Japanese maples grafted from a single tree in the church’s garden. The purpose is for members to plant the trees in their own yard as a reminder of their church and its history, according to Pastor Gary Furr.

“It’s something that will help them remember for a long, long time,” he said.

Furr said the weekend of May 6 was a time for the congregation to “remember back to the beginnings and remember who we are but also look ahead and dream for the church.”

“It was one of the most extraordinary weekends not only in the life of the church but in my entire ministry,” he said.

Leading up to the final weekend of the celebration, Vestavia Hills Baptist held an Alabama Symphony Orchestra concert, a hoedown fellowship and a choir cantata.

On the final celebration Sunday, a chamber orchestra played and all the church’s choirs sang together. At the end of “Lift High the Cross,” the children held up small crosses they had decorated, a “great visual” of the church’s purpose, Bugg said.

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