Merged Baptist church celebrating 55 years

Bruce Hughley, 70, left, and Sylvester Richards, 83, both longtime members of United Missionary Baptist Church, are excited about the church’s 55th anniversary celebration this month.

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Bruce Hughley, 70, left, and Sylvester Richards, 83, both longtime members of United Missionary Baptist Church, are excited about the church’s 55th anniversary celebration this month.

Fifty-five years ago, three Middletown churches merged to form one church, United Missionary Baptist Church.

The late Rev. James Holloman was named pastor of the newly-formed church in 1963, and since then, 11 full-time and interim pastors have served the church. For the last 25 years, the Rev. Gregory Tyus has led the congregation.

That history will be celebrated during a two-day affair, Sept. 29-30, that will include a musical, a re-enactment of the march from the former Booker T. Washington School to the church, and a sermon delivered by Middletown native, the Rev. David Bryant Sr., pastor at Greater Saint Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Cocoa, Fla.

Sylvester Richards, 83, and Bruce Hughley, 70, both longtime members of United Missionary, said the church and its members have always been involved in the community. The church financially supports several college scholarships, provides back-to-school supplies to local students and volunteers at Rosa Parks Elementary.

Hughley said United Missionary has been “a catalyst” for education and personal and spiritual growth.

He said instead of marking its anniversary with a fund-raiser, the church needed to celebrate its impact in the community.

“After 55 years and the struggles, the loss of elders whose shoulders we stood on and are still standing on, we need to celebrate where God has brought us from,” he said.

The church has a history of producing social activists who instruct the African-American congregation to “pride themselves” to be active in the community, to take the message outside the church and into the streets, he said.

“We believe that if you got God in your life, and allow God to lead and guide your footsteps, then you will be an asset to the community,” Hughley said. “Because then you won’t be out here trying to rob somebody or you won’t be out here doing drugs.”

Richards believes the church’s members, especially its elderly congregation, need to mentor its youth.

“They don’t know there’s more to life than to play and have fun,” he said. “I have great concern about the community. There are children who would miss basic training if not for this church. I’m proud to touch the lives of the youth.”

At United Missionary, Richards said he sees a church with “a bright future” that has celebrated victories and overcome defeats.

“It’s time for people in general to re-enlist in God’s army,” he said. “Not throw stones at each other. But become stepping stones for each other.”


HOW TO GO

WHAT: United Missionary Baptist Church's 55th anniversary

WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29. "The Maestro to the Master" musical; 10 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 30: "There's No Place Like Home," a trip down memory lane. A re-enactment of the march from the location of the former Booker T. Washington School to United Missionar Baptist Church; Worship service: Guest speaker will be the Rev. David Bryant Sr., a Middletown native and pastor of Greater St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Cocoa, Fla.

WHERE: 719 18th Avenue

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