(THIS HISTORY IS COMPOSED FROM THE ARCHIVES AND MEMBERS WHO ACTED AS GRIOLES)
Written by Mary E. Andrews
There is nothing more interesting, informative, educational or beneficial in ancient, modern or contemporary literature than a ‘true accounting of events. This has been given as a definition of “History”. “It is a systematic, written account of events, particularly of nations, institutions, and the Sciences of the Arts.” A “true and accurate as is possible accounting” of the progress, ambitions, triumphs, promises and even failures of Grant Chapel A.M.E. Church is extremely significant for the church now and for generations to come. The following is as accurate as the writer can be as information was pulled from the archives, written timeline sheets from members, and as reported by a “Grioles member.”Grioles” were the storytellers and reported verbally the tribal history in African community’s years ago. Mrs. Clara L. Bullard, 60-year plus member of Grant Chapel A.M.E. Church has a vivid memory of her church’s history and did not mind sharing, so that other generations could have this valuable information.
The year of 1921, under the leadership of the late Rev. Harris, a small group of people had been walking more than twelve blocks each Sunday to attend a worship service at a church of their choice, Payne Chapel A.M.E. They had a vision of having their very own church. This small group of worshippers, fourteen exactly, who were led by their pastor, the late Rev. Hams decided to reach out on faith and start an A.M.E. Church of their own. Initially, they all met in a small house until enough money was saved to purchase a lot on Avenue “E” (Fifth Avenue South) at 28th Street South in Birmingham, AL. later the site was considered to be undesirable. Therefore, a move was inevitable! Under the leadership of the late Dr. J.B. Carter, a lot was purchased on Fourth Avenue South and 30th Street The first fifty ($50.00) dollars paid toward the purchase of the new church’s lot was paid by one of the elders of the church, the late Dr. J.B. Carter, and under the leadership d title late Rev. E.D. Taylor on September 20, 1924.
A wooden structure was built and the new church’s name was known as the Brown Hill Mission. The church’s congregation grew rapidly in numbers; it progressed spiritually and financially. The church fellowshipped with other surrounding churches the community and they obtained close relationship with these worshippers. They quickly outgrew their new wooden facility and they had to make ready for an endeavor to transition to erect a new and larger edifice. Under the leadership of the late Rev. Sam Hill, the old brick version was erected on May 5, 1929 and its name changed to “Grant Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.”
In its first years of operation, Grant Chapel A.M.E. Church served its community well as it was used to administer education to grades one through three and was known to the community as the “30th Street School”. The late Rev. ST Grove was appointed pastor for a short while and following him was the late Rev. J.S. Brown who served for seven years as pastor. After the preceding pastor’s reign, the late Rev. F.H. Jackson served as the church’s minister for four years and then the late Rev W.H. McSpadden was appointed and the church’s mortgage was paid off. He served as the pastor for four years. Then the late Reverend E.P. Greene was appointed as pastor and under his leadership, the church was remodeled after the officers, members and the pastor agreed that it was time! New pews, piano, organ, and carpeting were purchased. In addition to the preceding remodeling, a new kitchen and dining area were installed in the lower level of the church. Sixteen years went by very rapidly with growth under the leadership of the late Rev. E.P. Greene. He was appointed as the Presiding Elder of the South Birmingham-Huntsville District and then the church gladly welcomed the appointment of the late Rev. AL Lamar as the new pastor. The late Rev. A.L. Lamar was known by most members because he had been converted and baptized at Grant Chapel A.M.E. Church.
The late Rev. A.L. Lamar served the longest tenure as pastor of Grant Chapel A.M.E. Church. He was pastor for twenty-three years and under his leadership, our church grew spiritually with more than two hundred members being added to our church’s roll. We also grew financially and the following items were added: New stained glass windows, central air conditioning, new organ and piano, a public address system, new furnishings for kitchen and dining areas, pews refinished and cushioned, carpeting and a church bus was purchased. The Youth Choir which was organized under the late Rev. A.L. Lamar changed its name under the presidency of Mr. Charles Shipman from Youth Choir to the “A L. Lamar Cathedral Choir”. This choir produced two professional recorded albums, toured most of Alabama and a tour to Chicago, Illinois. Under the late Rev. A.L. Lamar, our first church program was produced by Ms. Mary E. Andrews at the age of sixteen. We financially had a regular church program every Sunday and on the fourth Sunday, a financial bulletin which included the Church’s revenues and expenses. The late Rev. A.L. Lamar left this finite world to go home to a more infinite world, July, 1983. The late Rev. E.L. Blankenship, the Presiding Elder, took over the pastoring of our church until the Annual Conference in 1983.
The Rev J.W. Nashville was appointed and served as pastor for two years. Rev. Myers Hawkins, Jr. was appointed pastor and he served as pastor for seven years. The name of the Sunbeam Choir was changed on November 1, 1987 to the Myers Hawkins Little People Choir and later upon the recommendation of the late Presiding Elder E.L. Blankenship and the direction of Brenda C. McNeil, to The Myers Hawkins, Jr. Youth Choir. Rev. Hawkins referred to the choir as his “A Team”. Under Rev. Hawkins’ leadership, God gave him a vision for our church to move. The officers and membership followed our pastor’s vision and he led us in prayer to raise money for a down payment. God answered our prayers by allowing us to purchase our present site located at 6931 Division Avenue, Birmingham, AL 35206. A house was purchased also that is located on First Avenue South and 70th street. We marched in this new edifice where we are currently located on October 2, 1989. A new choir platform was erected prior to our moving in; we purchased a “Baby Grand piano” and an organ. During Rev. Myers Hawkins’ seven years, we purchased another home located at 6923 Division Avenue which is now occupied by one of our beloved members who has been a member for more than fifty-five years. Ms. Mae Gussie Smith is also known as the “Door Opener and Closer”. She has earned that name because she is most gracious and accommodating to all of our members when she is called upon to open our church and close its doors when it is needed! In November, 1992, Rev. Myers Hawkins, Jr. was appointed Presiding Elder of the West Birmingham District and the late Rev. T.H. Sconiers was appointed as pastor of Grant Chapel A.M.E. Church.
Under the leadership of the late Rev. T.H. Sconiers, the Rev. Walter D. Moon, who had joined our church in 1992 before Rev. Myers Hawkins had been appointed as a Presiding Elder was empowered by the pastor to teach classes on tithing and why it was necessary. Some of our members were convinced by the electrifying, honest, and heartfelt words used by Rev. Moon and so, our church began to see members begin the tithing process under the late Rev. T.H. Sconiers as Pastor and through Rev. Walter D. Moon’s guidance and leadership. Mrs. Jacqueline Bullard Davison is responsible for designing our tithing envelope. In just five short years, during the late Rev. T.H. Sconiers’ leadership, we purchased another house, located across the street on the corner of 70th Street and Division Avenue. This home was purchased for a “parsonage”, a home for our pastor to live in and we also purchased a lot on the corner of 70th Street and Division Avenue for a parking lot. The house that existed when this lot was purchased was torn down; the lot was then cleared, paved, sealed, and striped for individual parking spaces. A first for Grant Chapel A.M.E. occurred under the late Rev. T.H. Sconiers; our officer’s purchased a computer for our church’s use. We had 450 members and more than 18 auxiliaries and our church was growing more alive spiritually with the Lord’s blessings.
The Rev. J. Arthur Rumph was appointed pastor to Grant Chapel A.M.E. Church in October, 1997. He delivered the word great ease, down to earth explanations, examples, simile, metaphors, and comparisons but with ethereal and heavenly visions that inspired, enlightened and called us all to a closer walk with God! The following encompasses the achievements of Rev. Rumph in his six years as our pastor: Early Morning Worship Service, a Couple’s Ministry, a Single’s Ministry, Teen Ministry, Praise Dancers, Praise Team, Athletic Ministry, Tape & Photography Ministry, and Video Ministry. In addition to the preceding ministries, the following endeavors were accomplished: Remodeling of the church, stained glass windows purchased, new public address system, updated computer network, purchased a fax machine, purchased a larger seating capacity traveling bus, and purchased two additional houses that have been torn down for additional parking space. In August, 2002, under Rev. J. Arthur Rumph’s leadership, the mortgage on our church was paid off!
Our current pastor, the Rev. T. Eric Nathan was appointed to minister to Grant Chapel A.M.E. Church in November, 2005. The church purchased a new van for transportation of members. Our computer program has been extended by empowering members and the community with computer skills under the tutelage of Mrs. Cynthia Sims and Mrs. April Kyle. The Women’s Missionary Society has expanded its ranks to include two new entities: The Golden Age Club (members 60 years and older) and the Book Club. Our YPD has broaden their horizons under the direction of Mrs. Lavarne McReynolds by adding additional dimensions and the participation of new advisors working diligently to enrich the youth of Grant Chapel. Competition in Sunday School Convention activities has brought many certificates and trophies to our marvelous youth. This “PECULIAR” man has also revived the New Members’ Class and Bible Study. The Lay Organization and Sons of Allen organized this past conference year.
We give tribute to the following Presiding Elders and Bishops who through our omnipotent Lord showed leadership and guidance to our pastors and membership: the late Rev. J.R. Burgess, the late Rev. R. Gray, the late Rev. J.S. Thompkins, late Rev. I.T. Walker, the late Rev. P.T. Matherson, the late Rev. W.R. Pogue, the late Rev. T.D. Peters, the late Rev. Blankenship, Rev. Dwight E. Dillard, Sr. and now our current Presiding Elder The Reverend Oliver Allen. The Bishops as follows: the late D.H. Sims, the late RA Grant, the late Decatur W. Nichols, the late W.H. Fountain, the late S.L. e, the late Carey A. Gibbs, the late l.H. Bonner, the late H.N. Robinson, the late Vinton R. Anderson, the late Frank Madison Reid, Phillip Cousin, C.E. Thomas, Z.L. Grady, T. Larry Kirkland, and our current Servant Bishop James L. Davis.
The following individuals have served as musicians in some capacity at Grant Chapel A.M.E. Church either for one of our choirs or for the Sunday School. They are listed and as accurate as can be recounted: Mrs. Nancy Jordan, Mrs. Jackson, Mary Eaton Carter, Mrs. Bessie Oden, Mrs. Lillie M. Bishop, Mrs. Agee, Mr. Roosevelt Vaughn, Mrs. Dorothy Merkerson. Mrs. Mary, Mr. Spencer, Mrs. Sammie Essix, Mrs. Deborah Blankenship Jackson, the late Mrs. Sarah Rice Edwards, late Mr. Thad Scarbrough (Director of Music), Mrs. Janice Blackmon Lacey, Mrs. Brenda Cook McNeil, Mr. Carlton E. Jackson, the late Mr. Daryl Marshall, Mr. Demetrius Chappell, Mr. Donald Shipman, Jr., Mr. Larry Sims, Jr., Ms. Johnetta Toodle, Mr. Christopher White, Ms. Dionne Welch, Mr. Marcus Collins, Mr. Tony Brown and currently, Mr. Josh Fikes. Percussionist who have served our church choirs are as follows: Johnny Bullard, Jr., Reginald Servant, Gary Douglas, Steven Blackmon, Brandon Shipman, Johnetta Toodle, James A. Rumph, Jr. and Javoris Polk. Mr. Donald Shipman, Sr. has served as our only guitarist.
Excellence is in the air as we celebrate our 88th year as Grant Chapel A.M.E Church. During the upcoming year we must continue to trust God and work more fervently toward reaching and broadening our horizons so that we can achieve our goals of enlarging the Master’s Kingdom.
From The Book Titled: “The History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Alabama” – 1868 -1999. The book was provided under the leadership of Bishop Zedekiah Grady. As a part of the recorded history, two bishops are identified with the last name “Grant” one of which our church is named for today.
Bishop Abram Grant
Abram Grant, Nineteenth Bishop of. The African Methodist Episcopal Church, was born a slave in Lake City, Florida, August 25, .1848. He was sold at auction at Columbus, Georgia. He was converted in 1869, and ordained deacon in 1873 and elder in 1876. In 1888 he had gained great fame as .an evangelist, and at the General Conference, on the fourth ballot, he was elected Bishop. He was assigned to Alabama in 1892
Bishop Robert Alexander Grant
Alexander Grant, Fiftieth Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was born. December 25, 1878, in Tallahassee, Florida, Leon County. He graduated from ·Florida A & M College B. S., and Gammon Theological Seminary, (Valedictorian) B. D., 191t; LL D. from Paul Quinn College, 1926; D. D. from Morris Brown College. In 1908 he was converted and licensed to preach. He was admitted to the Florida Annual Conference in Pensacola, Florida, November 1911; and ordained deacon by Bishop M. B. Salter. In 1912 Bishop Coppin ordained him elder. In 1928 he was elected Bishop and assigned to Alabama in 1928. ·
This has been a moment in Black History, a moment in A.M.E. History and yes a moment in the history of our beloved Grant Chapel !!!