Union Baptist Church, Gordonsville, Virginia
Updated: Nov 19, 2021
History of Union Baptist Church
It might be said that the history of the Union Baptist Church dates back to the organizing of the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in 1865, the organizing of the Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in 1868, and the organizing of the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in 1917. Whereas all of these dates are significant to the church’s history, its origin is best dated from 1953, when a committee made up of officers and members from these three congregations met to merge three Sunday Schools into one.
In 1953, a committee was formed to merge the Sunday Schools of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church and Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, all of the town of Gordonsville. On the first Sunday in January 1954, the three Sunday Schools consolidated into one. Deacon C. H. Carey served as the superintendent and Sister Mattie Hill as secretary of the newly formed united Sunday School. The Sunday School meeting site was rotated to coincide with the Sundays that worship services were held at the respective churches, meeting at the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church on the second and fourth Sundays, at Mt. Carmel and Mt. Pisgah Churches on first, third and fifth Sundays. This unified Sunday School continued at alternating sites with positive comments from the three congregations.
In 1954, the spirit of unity continued to emerge and moved many to consider the possibility of a “United Church.” The Sunday School and church members of the congregations formalize plans to merge the congregations. However, before the end of 1954, death claimed the Rev. J. H. Ford, who had been the pastor of the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, and the Rev. E. D. Stewart resigned as pastor of the Mt. Carmel Church.
Each of the churches assigned members to serve on the church merger committee with the ultimate goal of combining the three congregations. The three committees united as a single action body. The committee convened a meeting at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in December 1954. It was decided “that the body, without further delay, would consolidate, use Mt. Carmel Baptist Church building as the House of Worship, and begin their united worship on the first Sunday in January 1955.” The committee from Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church declined to join the affirmative vote to merge and thus through mutual understanding remained as a separate congregation and continued to be recognized as Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church under the pastorate of the Rev. N. H. Stanton.
The merged congregations adopted the name, “Union Baptist Church.” Deacon C. H. Carey was elected by the new body as Chairman of the Board of Deacons with the following brethren serving: Deacons John Avery, Edward Burley, George Gray, Fred Thompson, Alfred Verdier, Frank Winkey and Sidney Winkey. Sister Mildred Avery was elected as the first Church Clerk and Brother Morris Avery as the first treasurer. The Board of Trustees was comprised of Brothers Cecil Thompson (Chair), Roscoe Brown and Robert Hill. While the trustees were initiating the legal proceedings at the Orange County Court House and the Gordonsville National Bank, the deacons were arranging with the Rev. C. B. Valentine, Moderator of the Piedmont Baptist Association, to have the church properly recognized as Union Baptist Church.
The Rev. Benjamin F. Bunn, Pastor of the First Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Virginia, rendered the first sermon at worship service held on the first Sunday in January 1955. In May of that year, the Rev. E. T. Wheeler was voted as the first pastor and official recognition was granted to the Union Baptist Church from the Piedmont District Baptist Association on the first Sunday night in July 1955.
Rev. E. T. Wheeler stressed the importance of study and moved the congregation to learn and to commit themselves to Bible study. Vacation Bible school was invigorated that summer with an increase in youth attendance. Rev. Wheeler tendered his resignation, which was accepted in November 1956.
After sermons by visiting and interested candidates, the congregation voted the Rev. Frederick Smith of Washington, DC, as the second pastor in May 1957. Installation service was held on the third Sunday in July, and he served through his resignation in March 1962.
The Rev. Arthur R. Preston of Alexandria, Virginia was called to serve at Union Baptist as its third pastor. He was installed on October 31, 1962 and served as pastor for ten years. During his leadership, the membership increased and the church was actively involved in the Piedmont District Baptist Association. Numerous church improvements and renovation projects were completed. Rev. Preston became involved in civic issues in the Gordonsville community and encouraged the congregation to attend town council meetings, to exercise their right to vote, and to get involved in local, county and state venues. His resignation was given, sadly received, and effected on the first Sunday in Jan. 1973.
Union Baptist installed the Rev. Moses Anderson as its fourth pastor on October 21, 1973. He continued strong religious leadership of the former pastor, Rev. Preston. Union celebrated its 25th Silver Anniversary in 1980. Under the leadership of Rev. Anderson, The Rev. Robin Brown accepted her call to the ministry, was ordained and installed as Assistant Pastor. With great sorrow, the church mourned the passing of Rev. Anderson on May 18, 1984 and later renamed its lower fellowship hall in his honor. The Rev. Robin Brown served as Interim Pastor during the search period for a new pastor. She served as revival speaker that year: but she resigned on October 23, 1984 to pursue other goals.
The Rev. Williams S. Wilson was chosen as pastor of Union Baptist in December 1984. He met with the assembly, presented his projected program, but was called, and accepted the pastorate of a larger congregation before being installed as pastor.
The Rev. Leonard Smith was installed on April 21, 1985, as the fifth pastor of the Union Baptist Church. During his pastorate, the membership grew by leaps and bounds. The Mass Choir of 40 plus voices was organized. The Youth Choir increased with over 100 members. A church parsonage was purchased and occupied by the pastor and his family. Church renovations were initiated and completed and church auxiliary ministries were organized and functional. Rev. Robert Trice accepted his calling to the ministry. He and the Rev. James T. Jackson were ordained and served the church. Rev. Smith was called to pastor a larger church in Lynchburg, Virginia, and submitted his resignation effective August 29, 1989.
The sixth pastor of the Union Baptist Church was Rev. James T. Jackson, who was voted as pastor in September 1989. Rev. Jackson was ordained as a Baptist minister on December 16, 1989 and was installed as pastor on January 21, 1990. Under his leadership, the church’s auxiliary ministries and support teams have been reconstituted. Wednesday night Bible Study and Monday thru Friday noon day prayer are ongoing ministries. There have been additions and renovations to the church building. Members and the community have been provided opportunities for computer classes and Christian growth. The Rev. Sherman Collins accepted his calling to the ministry and was licensed to preach after his initial sermon and served as an associate minister to the church and congregation. Rev. Collins was called by the Wake Forest Baptist Church in Scottsville, Virginia, and was ordained and installed as their pastor on July 29, 2000. Ministers Christopher and Wendy Cooper preached their initial sermons and were licensed by Union Baptist Church in November 2003. Minister Virginia Ford returned to the Gordonsville community also in 2003. She and Minister Danny Brewster united with Union Baptist Church in November 2003.
From its inception some 50 years ago, the Union Baptist Church in Gordonsville has served the community as a beacon light for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Excerpts of the church’s history taken from the Union Baptist Church’s 50th Anniversary Booklet dated April 10, 2005.