The history of the Tabernacle Baptist Church enables us to keep alive the yesteryears, to open the gates to its rapidly expanding present and to pave the broad highway leading in Tabernacle’s unlimited future. The 129th Anniversary Celebration is the continuation of a dream born in 1886. Tabernacle, at its inception, began meeting as a Christian family in a small white wooden church on 25th Place, North.
1886 – 1912 – The Reverends Sims, Grover and Kenny nurtured the dream with evangelistic zest and sound Baptist Doctrines.
1912-1926 – The Rev. N.H. Washington inspired the construction of a $65,000 sanctuary at 1013 North 25th Street. By 1922, the membership of 400 completed the building and burned the mortgage.
1927-1932 – The Rev. James H.L. Smith extended the building program to construct a parsonage on the church site.
1932 – 1940 – The Reverend E.W. Walton focused on the spiritual revival and unity of the membership.
1940 – 1949 – The Rev. W.L. Varnado burned the mortgage on the parsonage, renovated the basement, restrooms and kitchen; added a rear upstairs wing to the church.
1949 – 1954 – The Rev. William Prince Vaughn purchased an organ with chimes, organized the William Prince Vaughn Chorus, and purchased a mural for the sanctuary.
1955 – 1956 – The Rev. W.B. Coats encouraged growth by affiliating with the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. on the national, state, and local levels.
1956 – 1963 – The Rev. J.H. Calloway became pastor and the congregation purchased property on Center Street at a cost of $50,000, the location of our current edifice. The Altar Circle was organized for the purpose of beautifying the sanctuary with live flowers
1963 – The Rev. Samuel Kyles was called. Ill health prevented him from assuming duties as pastor.
1964 – 1971 – The Rev. Moses Javis provided leadership of fruition: A parsonage was purchased at 813 Bolin Street, Southwest at a cost of $22,500. In 1968, the present sanctuary was constructed at a cost of $325,000.
1971 – 1975 – The Rev. Henry Wise Jones sustained the spiritual development, initiated the building fund and added a new organ.
1976 – 2002 – The Rev. Edsel M. Davis, Sr., was called as pastor. Under his leadership:
- Parsonage was enlarged, fellowship hall and kitchen were constructed and the mortgage was liquidated on the sanctuary (renovated seating and carpeting) and on the fellowship hall/family life center
- Additional property was purchased on First Street West
- Missionary Ministry was enlarged to include Outreach programs known as the
Helping Hand Center that included a food pantry and clothes bank
- The Golden Agers and Nurses Guild programs were organized
- Youth Church was organized, updated the kitchen, purchased drums, organ, and piano
- Mini-van purchased and Bus Ministry was expanded
- Louis S. Sommerville, Sr. Library was constructed and organized
- Parking lot was resurfaced and lawn furniture was purchased
- Tabernacle Christian School was organized
- Licensed five persons into the Gospel Ministry
2003 – Present – The Rev. Dr. Christopher M. Hamlin served as Interim Pastor.
Tabernacle extended a call to him and he became pastor of Tabernacle January 2004. Since coming to Tabernacle, these ministries were initiated, including: Deacon Ward Ministry; Sister-to-Sister Teen Ministry; Boys-to-Men/Men’s Ministry; Firehouse Shelter Outreach Mission; and Project Ghana, a mission project based in Winneba and Accra, Ghana, West Africa. Also, the congregation, in partnership with five other churches from Smithfield and College Hills, is partnering with Jefferson County Meals-on-Wheels to distribute food to persons in need in these two communities. These congregations (First Congregational UCC, Greater Temple Baptist Church, Our Lady Queen of the Universe Catholic Church, St. Paul AME Church, and Thirgood Memorial CME Church) continue to be involved in this ongoing project and was recently documented and their partnership was published via the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Public Health.
The church, in partnership with the New Baptist Covenant of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, developed an initiative with two additional congregations that focus on community-based service opportunities. Inaugurated by President Jimmy Carter, Tabernacle is providing food for students and families at a local elementary school. The Weekend Backpack Project is supplying food for twenty-five students/families on weekends that may not have nutrition when students are not in school. Tabernacle’s partnership also involves volunteering at the Community Food Bank to pack food for this project. We are collaborating Baptist Church of the Covenant and Vestavia Hills Baptist Church.
The Music Ministry participated in key community events, including: City Stages on the Oasis Stage and singing for the premiere of the Broadway hit, The Lion King at the BJCC. The choir has provided music for visiting groups to the City of Birmingham on behalf of the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Since Pastor Hamlin’s tenure, the congregation replaced HVAC system that serves the Sanctuary and educational wing of the facility and a new bus was added to the transportation ministry. In addition, the church purchased two properties on Abraham Lincoln Woods Blvd. The church computers are now networked, church management programs have been added to ensure better record keeping and management, and a computer lab is housed in the Sommerville Library. A website has been developed: www.tabernaclebirmingham.org. We are using social media, Facebook and Youtube, as a means of sharing our ministry to a wider audience.
In 2015, the congregation affirmed moving forward in a Capital Campaign to renovate our facilities. A Strategic Facility Study was done by a committee of
members and a construction company has been selected that will lead and manage the congregation in the process of making strategic modifications. This work will commence in 2016.
In recent years, the Rev. Gregory Powell was ordained to the Gospel Ministry; eight Deacons (Larry Cooper; Jermaine Fuller; Ledell Kimbrough; Ronald Lee, Sr.; Reginald Reeves; Paul Simmons, II; Tommie Whetstone; and Joseph Williams) were ordained to ministry; Bro. Hollis Johnson became Director of Music Ministry; Angela Smith-Martin became the Church Secretary/Office Manager. Dea. Carl Harper was affirmed by the congregation to become the Church Clerk.
Legally, the congregation took the step of separating the church from Tabernacle Christian School. Articles of Incorporation were developed for both entities.
In 2016, Pastor Hamlin and the congregation were awarded the prestigious Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Grant. The grant will afford the pastor a three-month sabbatical to explore the theme of family heritage. The congregation will benefit by being able programmatically to incorporate the same theme in expanding ministry opportunities. This grant was awarded to 147 congregations throughout the United States.
The church continues to experience moderate, consistent growth and ongoing ministries and mission work are making a difference in the community.
Our Mission Statement is: Tabernacle Baptist Church is a group of committed Christians seeking to grow the kingdom of God by worshiping, teaching, witnessing, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and caring for all God’s people.