1942 - 1997 as written by the homecoming committee
As the Homecoming Committee met to plan activities and research church minutes to prepare this history, many memories were awakened, some happy, some sad. Our desire is that as you read these pages you will be transported back to your particular time frame and find something to awaken happy memories for you.
Ethel Parsons Vines
The community where the church is located was not always called North Highlands. Many remember the area being referred to as Lee’s Junction or Five Points.
And so it was fifty years ago when a young preacher, Rev, Frank Colburn, pastor of Lacy’s Chapel Baptist church, and his wife, Annie Wray Colburn, lived in Five Points. Bro. Colburn knew that his friend and associate, Rev. James Canbron, from Union Baptist Church in Lipscomb, had been conducting weekly Bible Study for the men who worked at the Pipe Shop, and soon Bro. Colburn realized a need for the area he lived in, so he began having Cottage Prayer Meetings in his home at 1608 – 26th Avenue. Having such a tremendous response to his Cottage Prayer Meetings, the people persuaded Bro. Colburn to hold a revival. Bro. Colburn went to Rev. Glen B. Tingley and rented a large tent and advertised that he would be running a two week tent revival in what is now the parking lot between the Citgo Station and Fast Oil Change on 19th Street near Valley Creek. During the summer of 1942, Bro. Colburn stood behind a crude, wooden pulpit and proclaimed his convictions; that Five Points needed a Baptist church. This was the spark that lit the fire in the hearts of the people who lived in Five Points. Immediately following the revival, a series of Cottage Prayer Meetings were begun, the first being held in the home of Elman Roberts. Those twenty persons present voted to meet each Tuesday at the home of J. W. Hand, Sr., until a place of worship could be obtained. The group elected the following officers: Rev, Leon Riddle, pastor of Vineland Park Baptist Church, Moderator; Arnold Lewis, Clerk; and Elman Roberts, Secretary-Treasurer.
However, at the very next meeting Mrs. Lula Hatton offered her art studio to be used as a place of worship. This small wooden building was located diagonally behind what is now the church. At the next meeting the group had grown from twenty to forty. Here a committee was appointed to raise money for a piano. The committee responded and secured an instrument at the cost of $40.00. The first collection taken for expenses amounted to 65 cents.
The group rented a tent in which to organize the church, with plans in mind to use it for a revival after the organization. On Sunday, August 30, 1942, twenty Baptists stood shoulder to shoulder to constitute the pioneer membership. These charter members were: Ernest and Myrtle Chatham, Mrs. Marcele Chatham McCay, Mrs. Connie Cox, Mrs. J. B. Farrington, Miss Thelma Glass, Mr. J. W. Hand, Sr., Mrs. Lula Hatton, Harley and Molly Kimbrel, Arnold and June Lewis, Mr. & Mrs. J. C. Satterwhite and Mrs. Effie Kendrick Young.
During the course of the year, at a regular monthly business meeting, suggestions were requested as to what the name should be for the new Baptist Church. Mr. Arnold Lewis suggested the name be: The North Highlands Baptist Church of Bessemer. When we asked his reasons for this name, he explained that he chose this name because he knew the church’s influence would one day extend beyond the Five Points community. We were on the north end of Bessemer giving a point of location and that we were in a mountainous region. At one time Bessemer, which included Hueytown, was so big that the city fathers along with the U. S. Post office, decided to divide the city into two sections. From the Super Highway to the Hueytown/Concord area would be called the north end of town. From the Super Highway to 19th street hill and surrounding areas would be called the south end of town. This had nothing to do with a compass reading. South Highland Baptist Church (formerly The Red Mountain Baptist Church) was the first church on the south end of town, deriving its name because it was on the south end of town and located on the lower end of Red Mountain)
On February 3, 1943, Brothers Hand, Lewis, and Satterwhite were elected Trustees and given permission to select a church lot, which was to be donated by the Birmingham Association. Excavation was begun by the members in November 1943 with men, women and children all doing the labor. War priorities halted the work of the building, but the organizations continued. A second church lot was obtained in 1945, as well as a priority to continue building. However, because of the scarcity of materials, work was held up until August of 1946. The Baptist Association of Birmingham donated bricks to veneer the basement; blueprints were drawn up, and at the close of 1948 saw the sanctuary completed, a heating system installed and the church officially incorporated. Officially the church was incorporated, The North Highlands Baptist Church of Bessemer, June 12, 1947 and adjusted The North Highlands Baptist Church of Hueytown on November 5, 1975.
Sacrifice of Love
Who’s watched her walls and steeple rise
To kiss the blue enfolding skies,
And not felt flesh and spirit blend
In tribute to North Highlands;
If there be such, then pity him,
He’s missed the honored Diadem,
The unfeigned joy that comes to those
Who’ve helped build North Highlands;
He’s labored not with brick or sod,
He’s made no sacrifice for God,
Else he’d proclaim wherever he goes,
“I love my church, North Highlands!”
- - June Weaver Lewis 1949
The year was 1942 - The United States was in the Midst of the Second World War. This community was feeling the affects of the war - rationing food items, shortages of ladies’ hose and automobiles, and many of their sons leaving for the war… some of them never to return.
But, a group of twenty residents saw another need and that was for a Baptist church in the community. They met on August 30, 1942, and organized the North Highlands Baptist Church. Seven of these are still living and four are still members of N.H.B.C. They are Mr. and Mrs. Earnest Chatham, Arnold Lewis and Marcele Chatham McCay.
The First meeting place for the group was the Art Studio of Mrs. Lula Hatton, Which was located on Brooklane Drive, directly behind the present church building. Mr. John Hand was the first song leader and his daughter, Margery Hand Hutchinson, was the first pianist. Margery is presently a member of our church.
Two ministers were called, but declined the invitation to serve as pastor, and the third man, Rev. G. C. Morris, came on November 9, 1942. His salary was $25.00 per week and house rent. He resigned on May 8, 1943.
Rev. Joe Bell accepted the call as pastor on June 6, 1943. His salary was increased to $33.00 a week, but he was responsible for his own rent.
The Birmingham Baptist Association gave the church $200.00 to purchase a lot and 2,000 bricks to start a structure. The basement of what is now the chapel was started and services were held there instead of the art studio. In the beginning there was no back wall in the basement, which helped a lot, because it was summertime, and of course, no cooling system. It also had other advantages, or disadvantages. The Roland Jones Family would come to church in their car. Their dog, “Poochie,” would follow them, come in the back and crawl under the children’s chairs and go to sleep. No one worried about her damaging the floor since it was dirt.
Rev. Bell resigned before the basement was completed. Rev. L.M. Jones came as a supply pastor and was called as regular pastor. During his tenure, the basement was finished and the sanctuary was constructed. He resigned on July 26, 1948, and was followed by Rev. C. I. Edge, who served the remaining years of the 1940’s.
The first wedding in the church was in 1944. Miss Effie Kendrick and Mr. W. M. Young, both slightly past middle age, asked the pastor to marry them before his going to the Pulpit to preach on Sunday morning. Rev. Jones made the announcement and the surprised spectators witnessed the ceremony with much interest.
In 1945, the church ordained Thomas Glover to preach the Gospel. His widow, Nell Glover, is a member today and sings in the choir.
The church called its first paid Choir Director in 1948 at a salary of $5.00 per week. He was Tommy McDaniel who is a member today and sings in the choir.
Four pastors served the church during the 1940’s and the church ended that decade with 232 members.
March 2, 1997
In 1950, I began attending North Highlands Baptist Church, at the age of thirteen. I know that you are probably trying to figure in your head how old I am. I will save you the trouble, I am fifty-nine. Back then, we did not have a Youth Director. Our Sunday school teacher planned our activities. Sarah Waldrop was my teacher and she and her husband, Tom, had a cabin on Warrior River. They would take us all down there on Saturdays. Can you imagine keeping up with a group of teenagers on the river? In addition to teaching Sunday school, Sarah was also Training Union Director and she was a G.A. leader for the younger girls. June Lewis was the leader for the older girls. We would meet at their homes after school on Tuesdays. When June started back to college, Eunice York helped out. I have been told that Eunice was a big baseball fan. She would listen to the ball games on the radio during G.A. meetings. (Eunice said so she could tell her son, Dorman, the score when he came home from school.) The girls were supposed to be studying their lessons and praying, but sometimes she would let them listen, too. Some of our 1950’s G.A.’s are with us today. They are: Martha Cox Jordan, Jimmie Lou Cox Dixen, June Bunn Garner, Joan Hosmer Smitherman, and Pat Cummings Bailey.
A friend of mine was dating the Nazarene preacher’s son, so one night after Training Union, four of us girls walked across the street to the Nazarene Church. Johnny Carter, and some of the deacons, found out about it and chewed us out! My, how things have changed since the 50’s! Now we invite the whole Nazarene Church to worship and fellowship with us, and even let the preacher preach in out pulpit…we have come a long way.
Bro. Cecil Sewell, Sr. was called to be our pastor on June 1, 1952 and served until March 25, 1962. North Highlands had the largest growth in membership in the 1950’s than any other decade. In 1950, our membership was 247 and in 1959 it was 852. We had a Sunday school enrollment of 927 and an average attendance of 462 in 1959.
In the fifties a Bible was given to every hundredth member and my husband, Brents Jones, was the 700th member. He received the Bible I am holding from Bro. Sewell on November 9, 1958. Pat Bailey received a Bible for being the 500th member.
In October, 1959, Mrs. Edwina Cummings was elected Church Clerk and in 1997, she is still going strong and we all love her dearly. I don’t know what we would do without her love and her wisdom.
I would like to thank God for placing me here at North Highlands Baptist Church. I am so blessed to be a part of this wonderful fellowship. I love you all and I love our church, staff, we have the best.
April 6, 1997
Well, time is passing by. Here we are in another decade with our historical highlights- the 1960’s. Many significant things happened during this period in our church history.
On Wednesday, December 9, 1959 with Rev. Cecil Sewell serving as Pastor, the floor plans for a new building were submitted for the Church’s approval. By motion and second, these were approved.
On June 3, 1960, the ground breaking ceremony was held, and on June 4, 1961, North Highlands Baptist Church dedicated its new building, which is where we are gathered today.
On Sunday, May 15, 1960, the church rejoiced in the licensing of two of its young men to preach the Gospel – Steve Todd and Henry White. On July 10, 1960, Tom Homer was ordained for full-time ministry.
Sunday, January 29, 1961, is a very important date in our church history. It was this day the church called Mrs. Edwina Cummings to become Church Secretary. She began work the following day, January 30, and has remained in that position since that time. Edwina is a valued and beloved member of our church staff.
On September 17, 1961, Ordination Services were held for Luther C. Barnard, Jr. at the request of Searles Mission, Antioch Baptist Church, and he became their full-time pastor.
On November 19, 1961, the church membership voted to complete the Baptistery as a Christmas gift to the church. A bid of $950 was accepted.
In May of 1962, Rev. W.A. Luckie accepted the call as pastor of our church.
During these years, the church continued to see many of its young men surrender to God’s call to preach the Gospel. In September, 1962, an Ordination Service was held for Charles Forriester; in January of 1965, Ronnie Dabbs was ordained at the request of Birmingport Baptist Church where he became full-time pastor.
In February of 1965, the church voted to complete the Fellowship Hall and Nursery and to purchase a 50-ton air conditioner.
In January of 1966, the Deacons recommended to the church that Sam Shell, who was Minister of Music, be licensed to the Gospel ministry. This recommendation was approved.
In August of 1966, the Pulpit Committee called the church into a special conference to recommend that Rev. J. Floyd Cummings be called as Interim Pastor. This recommendation was unanimously approved, and later in November he was called as pastor.
In June of 1967, one of the church’s teenagers, Debbie Sheffield, represented North Highlands Baptist Church in the State Youth Speakers Tournament sponsored by the Alabama Baptist Association. She won the competition and was awarded a scholarship to Judson College.
Several beautiful weddings were held in our church during the 1960’s. Two names that most of you will recognize are Patricia Cummings who became the bride of George Bailey on March 14, 1964, and Koni Kincaid, who became the bride of Anthony Troncalli on November 22, 1965.
In April, 1968, the Deacons recommended that the church purchase and install fixtures and appliances in the kitchen at a cost of $1437.14. This recommendation was approved. I think that Sue will agree that these are the same ones she is using today!
In February, 1969, the Deacons recommended that Mike Lewis be licensed to preach the Gospel. This was unanimously approved.
On August 10, 1969. Rev. Leslie M. Duke was called as pastor.
Many other things occurred during this 10-year span. Among them:
The first Ladies Church Softball League was formed- some of the original members were: Elsie Jones, Jo Ann Bunn, June Garner, Pauline Lamons, and Faye Brown.
One very important matter that was handled during this era was… at a business meeting on July 6, 1960, the following new business was brought before the church- that $15 be designated to buy new pencils! The motion was made, seconded, and carried.
This was the decade of the 60’s.
May 4, 1997
Bro. Leslie M. Duke began the decade as Pastor, with Roger Isbell as Music and Youth Minister.
The average attendance in Sunday school in January of 1970 was 314.
In April of 1970, 42 people were baptized. This occurred during the spring Revival where the Lord worked in people’s lives through the preaching of Bro. Cox.
In July 1971, a recommendation was brought before the church concerning organizing a DEACON FAMILY MINISTRY. This ministry was very similar to the Deacon Family Ministry plan that is being used at this time in our church.
In December of 1971 there began to be some disruptions in the church and deacons made an effort to alleviate the problem in the most Christian-like manner possible. By early 1972 some of the membership called for their letters and Hueytown Baptist Church was formed.
Historical events were occurring all around …
On Feb. 2, 1972, the Lord sent to the Wayne Norris family their second son, a bouncing baby boy. After having grown up in our church, Randy Norris now serves as our Youth Minister and we thank the Lord for his ministry here at North Highlands in 1997.
In September of 1972, North Highlands Baptist embarked on a new ministry, North Highlands Baptist Kindergarten. The Director of the Kindergarten was Brother Duke, with his wife, Ann, as Assistant Director. The Five Year Old Teacher was Linda Buttram, and the Four Year Old Teacher was Kathryn Hyche.
In December of 1972, Bro. Duke resigned.
Bro. George Jackson served as Interim Pastor.
In April 1974, Bro. Jimmy Sims was called as Pastor.
During Bro. Jimmy’s tenure as Pastor is when my husband and I joined NHBC. One day I received a phone call from a friend who was a member here inviting us to come to church. We did the following Sunday. We were so welcomed and felt so loved by God’s people here that we knew we had found a church home. Roxie Bonham was our Sunday school teacher and we had many cottage Prayer Meetings, Sunday School Socials, get-togethers after services on Sunday nights and in-depth Bible Study and Outreach. It was a wonderful learning experience for a young Christian. Roxie is now with the Lord, but the seeds she planted will continue to flourish. There were many other fantastic Sunday school teachers at our church during this time but Roxie was ours and will always be remembered.
Bro. Sims resigned as pastor in 1975, and then Bro. J. Floyd Cummings served as Interim Pastor.
In August of 1975, the church approved a new church Constitution and new Bylaws.
Plans for renovation to the Sanctuary including carpeting, painting, and roofing were approved, also. Today you are looking at the same carpet and most of the same painting that was done during the renovation in 1975, which makes it 22 years old.
May of 1976, Bro. Ron Jackson accepted the call to be Pastor of our church.
In September of 1977 plans were approved to renovate the old church building. The financing was to be handled through a bond issue. This is the same bond issue that was paid off at our 50th Anniversary in 1992.
On March 1st of 1978, Bro. Jackson resigned as Pastor.
Bro. Tom Cleveland was interim pastor during the renovation period and …a pulpit committee was elected. Those members were: Eddie Hill, Chairman, Doug Hyche, Roxie Bonham, Reggie Hallman, Joe Davidson, Johnny Pate, Lewis Wooley, and Pauline Lamons was an alternate member.
On November 5, 1978, James Michael Lewis was ordained into the Gospel ministry. Mike is the son of Allene Lewis and son-in-law of Marie Lambert. He is now chaplain (Lt. Col.) in the United States Army and is in the process of being relocated from Korea to Fort Bragg. We think of Mike and his wife, Delores, as our “missionaries to the world.”
Vickie Scott was called as church Pianist and began her duties on June 3, 1979. Yes, this is the same Vickie who is graciously serving at this time as our interim Pianist.
One of the most interesting things of the 70’s decade would have to be the number of pastors the Lord used here at North Highlands. He in His infinite wisdom was using His plan, and not ours. You see, we could not understand why we were having so much trouble keeping a pastor. It seemed impossible to get one to stay longer than 18 months. But, God was in control and His plan was to be accomplished.
After many visits, interviews, meetings, discussions, prayers and research, the Lord led the pulpit committee to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
On July 30, 1978, at a special called conference, the church extended a unanimous call to Bro. Doug O’Brien to become its pastor. Next year will be Bro. Doug and Barbara’s 20th year with us here at North Highlands. To God be the Glory.
June 1, 1997
At the beginning of the new church year in October of 1979 there were 793 resident members, and 172 non-resident members. Our Sunday school had a goal to reach above 200 and the Church Training goal was to average above 100. The Brotherhood had 27 men in attendance. The W.M.U. was receiving laundry products and personal care items for the Bessemer Rescue Mission. The Adult Choir had an average of 22, with Bro. J. W. Frazier as Minister of Music.
A Commissioning Service was held for Miss Lena Kornegay. She would be working with The Mission Service Corp. through the Home Mission Board.
Deacon Election was held on November 18. Previously ordained men who were elected were: Jackie Bunn, Robert Heaton, Johnny Pate, and Tommy Reeves. An Ordination Service was held on December 30 for Wayne Norris and Dennis Stewart. All six men began service on January 1, 1980.
The church gave its official call to license Bro. Rex Moore to the Gospel Ministry on March 16, 1980.
In June, 1980, Mrs. Pat Bailey was called as Office Assistant and was to begin work immediately.
There was a need for paid nursery workers for Wednesday night services. The Personnel Committee secured those workers.
The anniversary date was August 24. Bro. Doug O’Brien was to bring the message and the Garywood Singers presented special music in the afternoon.
Deacon Ordination for William Brooks, Larry Conoles, James Foster, and Terrell Solowes was held on December 21, 1980.
In April, 1981, several members asked that the church begin a Pew Cushion Fund. In May of 1982, the committee recommended that 33 cushions be purchased along with enough material to cover the 5 sanctuary chairs, the total cost was $4,525.00.
Bro. Doug Proposed a Sunday school picnic for May 31, the vote carried.
In May, 1981, Bro. J.W. Frazier resigned as Minister of Music. Mike Bonham agreed to serve as Interim. In August, the Personnel Committee presented Wayne Goodwin as the recommendation for Minister of Music. The Church approved.
In October, 1981, Lois Wade resigned as church organist. Bro. Charles was approved as the new church organist.
In November, 1981, the communication system was installed for the outside doors. November 23, the church hosted “M” night and November 25, a Joint Thanksgiving Service was held with Vineland Park.
In December, the church gave a piano and song books to the West Jefferson Corrections Facility.
In January, 1983, the church the church exceeded its goal for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
In March of 1983 the church unanimously voted to give Bro. Doug and his family a day of rest to begin Friday at noon, and also Saturday.
The church voted to have a pictorial directory. The Southeastern Directories of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was to make them. Dates were to be September 8-11.
The church bought a 1984 Ford Van for $12,086.00.
1986 was a busy year with a mission project going as Saco Road Baptist Church in Towanda, Pennsylvania as well as all the committee work and other projects in our immediate mission field.
In 1987, the West Lansing Baptist Chapel in Lansing, Michigan, sent reports stating how God was meeting their needs and what their needs were. They thank N.H.B.C for their prayers and financial support.
In May of 1987 N.H.B.C became a member of the Annuity Board for the employees of the church.
The church voted to take part in the World’s Mission Conference conducted by the Bessemer Baptist association. The dates were February 12-19, 1989.
In February, 1989, Family Night Supper prices were raised to $2.50, with a maximum to be paid by a family set at $10.00.
In July, 1989, it was shared with the church that a new organ had been purchased and was paid for through designated offerings. To God Be the Glory!
July 6, 1997
I would like to recall with you some of the Highlights of the 1990’s.
As we ushered in the new 1990 decade, we saw our country on the brink of war in the Middle East, and in Hueytown, our church was on the brink of its own. We were struggling to finish paying off a million dollars of debt and at the time motivate a church that was trying to plateau in nearly ever area.
The first glimmer of hope came in June of that year when we experienced one of the most successful Vacation Bible School ever attended with 350 in attendance, 35 making professions of faith, and we had 16 workers that had to seek professional counseling for nervous conditions.
As we began to access our situation it became increasingly clear that one of the crushing problems that we faced was the deterioration of our church buildings due to lack of finances.
After a great deal of prayer by a lot of our people, the Lord gave us a great opportunity to begin motivating ourselves, and little by little over the past few years we worked elbow to elbow, to remedy many areas of need. Some of these areas included:
Just as the Apostle Paul’s voice has reminded us, may all our future generations to know this one truth… “THE LOVE OF CHRIST LEAVES US WITH NO CHOICE!”
These are just to mention a few.
Some of the staff has seen these changes during this time as well. Our pianist in 1990 was Vickie Scott, and Vickie is back as Interim Pianist, following the resignation of Paula Austin.
In the area of Music, there was Dan Marlow, and now serving as Minister of Music is Lloyd Jones.
Since 1990 the youth ministers have been Sam Fitts, Judy Manning Shaw, and Now Randy Norris.
Our organists have been: Charles Goodwin, Barbara O’Brien, and now Joyce Cox.
Our office assistant was Allison Hutcheson Phillips, and now Allene Lewis.
We have added to our staff positions:
Bro. Lloyd Jones as Senior Adult Minister.
Rev. Gwin Coffey as Associate Pastor/Adults.
Mrs. Sue Reeves as Family Meals hostess.
We survived the 50th anniversary of the church in 1992, at that time we paid off all of our debts at one time!
It has been our privilege to ordain to the Gospel ministry Rex Moore in 1991 and Randy Norris in 1995, and to support with prayer those who have surrendered their lives to Christian service.
We have had a Ministry to the Deaf, Sponsored: Mission Trips, Retreats, Associational Events and Festivals, Sav-A-Life, Covenant House. We bought Bibles to send to Russia, given New Life to a Ministry for our Homebound, started an Annual Youth Christmas Drama that witnesses to the 100’s who attend every year. And what a blessing the C.A.R.E Ministry is to everyone! Many have benefited greatly from the University of Discipleship as we strengthened our ideals and encouraged us to develop a servant- relationship in our lives, while others have lost weight as they studied God’s Word.
And what a profound experience the two great Area-Wide Crusades were as we witnessed tremendous numbers of Professions of Faith.
We have waved Old Glory on Independence Day. And how it has tugged at our heart strings as we paused to remember 63 members of our church family who have gone home to be with the Lord since January of 1990.
Who knows where the next 2 ½ years will take us. Better yet, what about the next century? The horizon of the year 2000 is before us, and right now, we are laying the foundations for ourselves and for future generations.
II Corinthians 4 lays out a reasonable plan that says:
God has been kind enough to trust us with this work, that’s why we never give up. Our message is that Jesus Christ is Lord!
We are as Clay Jars in which this treasure is stored:
We often suffer, but we are never crushed!
When we don’t know what to do, we never give up!
When we are knocked down, we get up again and we live by faith not by what we
July 27, 1997
North Highlands Baptist Church has licensed and/or ordained twenty-five men to preach the Gospel and has been served by eleven pastors during its 55 years. Our present Pastor, William Douglas O’Brien, has completed his 19th year on August 20, 1997, almost twice as long as any other pastor. Under his leadership, sound preaching, example, and belief in the people, North Highlands has reached goals and made accomplishments that might otherwise not have been made. As the old adage goes, “behind every successful man, there stands a good woman,” and Barbara O’Brien has exemplified that, at the same time carving out her own niche by teaching Young Married Couples Class, actively supporting WMU, and other church organizations, while always being ready to fill in as pianist or organist.
As we begin our 56th year at NHBC, I challenge each member to “Let you light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Ethel P. Vines