United Metropolitan marks 125 years

Photo by Timothy Ramsey

United Metropolitan marks 125 years
December 14
04:00 2017

United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church held its 125th anniversary in grand fashion.  The Benton Convention Center played host to the event, which has been in the works for the past three months.

United Metropolitan represents the merger of two congregations: West End Baptist Church and First Institutional Baptist Church.  West End was organized because there was not a church available to African-Americans residing in the western part of the city. First Institutional started as a prayer band in the home of the Rev. Edward Gholson following an internal dispute among members of First Baptist, where he was serving as pastor.

In 1965, a plan was developed for the possible merger of West End and First Institutional Baptist Churches.  The merger was completed on Aug. 15, 1965.  Rev. James Donald Ballard assumed the pastorate of the newly formed church, which was to become known as United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, and led the congregation for 45 years.

According to church history, the name United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church is symbolic of the merger and the historical significance of the two congregations. “United” signifies the union of the two congregations.  “Metropolitan” denotes the church’s location near the heart of downtown.  “Missionary” was added to the name later by a vote of the congregation and reflects the missionary character and spirit of the church.

Gregory and Beth Hairston, co-chairpeople for the anniversary, said they were asked back in January to serve as co-chair’s for the anniversary.  While brainstorming, Gregory Hairston came up with the idea of highlighting three tenets: benevolence, which is defined as the disposition to do good; edification, which is defined as the instruction or improvement of a person, morally or intellectually; and evangelism, which is defined as the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit with the intention of exposing God’s love to all humankind.

“We basically chose to celebrate the anniversary though those three tenets as they relate to the mission and objectives of any church,” Gregory Hairston said.  “We were really excited because one of the most significant things about us is we were two churches that became one and it’s something we made sure we highlighted and focused on when we did our research and decided on a method of celebration.”

“Today we wanted to take the opportunity to have this as the culminating event of the anniversary,” he continued.  “We really wanted to pay attention to the historical significance of the church.”

The Hairstons performed the duties of master and mistress of ceremony for the celebration.  Rev. Yvette Lovett Martin delivered the church history while Pastor Emeritus J. Donald Ballard gave the grace while recognizing the members who were present during the merger of the two churches.

The planning committee also put together videos that visually display the tenets, which they showcased each week leading up to the culminating event this past Sunday, Dec. 10.  The introduction of new members as well as the acknowledgment of endowment contributions was also included in Sunday’s event.

“Our plan was to show our love for the church through what we do in the church and we hope that the people in the community see that United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church is a church that is heavily involved in the community,” said Beth Hairston.

For the Hairstons, they are very happy to see the fruits of their labor come to light.  This is even more special for Gregory Hairston, who has been a lifelong member of the church.  He says it is great to see how far the church has come and excited for what the future may hold.

The church is seeking a pastor after its pastor, Rev. Prince Rainey Rivers, left in April to pastor a church in Durham.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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