Church History

The Adventist message began among our people in Birmingham a few years prior to the dawning of the twentieth century with a well-known and most loved Black citizen, Dr. Jim Pearson. Dr. Pearson believed and accepted the doctrines of the sacred Bible as taught by Seventh-day Adventists, through faithful efforts of an able white minister, Elder M.C. Sturdivant. Dr. Pearson and Elder Sturdivant conducted house to house bible study among other Blacks. They labored long and hard and their labors were rewarded. Having no building in which to worship, Elder Sturdivant gathered the believers from time to time in his home for worship. The number of believers continued to increase. By the year 1897, it became necessary to find a place to worship: A house was rented on 18th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue and turned into a chapel and school room.
Shortly after the organization of the church, Brother G. B. Jackson, one of the charter members, was local Elder. Miss Clara Myers took charge of the church school. From the very beginning of the church, it was alive and aggressive. The work continued to grow and a larger place of worship was needed. In 1902, a lot on Walker Street at Graymont Avenue was purchased and a frame structure was erected. This was the first Black Seventh-day Adventist Church in Birmingham. Some of those who worked with this congregation were Elder Sidney Scott, Elder J.H. Lawrence, and Elder J.G. Dasent.
By 1919, the church membership had increased to one hundred fifty members. The labors of the early ministers and the congregation continued to be rewarded. A new church site was purchased on Avenue F at 13th Street South. The Walker Street Church was sold. Some of those who served as pastors and associate workers at this location were Elders T.B. Buck, T.S. Tate, E. Blake, C.M. Kenney, W.L. Bird, A.C. Bird, and Randall Johnson.
The church on Avenue F lasted a short ten years. It also became inadequate to accommodate the ever growing congregation and at the same time serve the Sabbath School members, both young and old. More space was also needed for the expanding elementary grade work carried on by the church’s grade school. In the year of 1929, the brick church on 6th Avenue and 2nd Street North was erected under the leadership of Pastor W.H. Baker.
Some of those men who served so wonderfully from 1931 to 1946 were as follows: Elders F.A. Osterman, J.S. Green, Sr., W. E. Adams, W. Wilkins and F.L. Bland.
Again, the increased membership of more than three hundred believers, the demand for modernization of public buildings and the ever-widening influential work of Seventh-day Adventitst, warranted and demanded a new church home. Under the leadership of Elder H.R. Murphy, a large amount of the money needed to erect our old edifice was raised. SInce he was called to serve as president of the South Central Conference, the responsibility fell upon the shoulders of first Elder J.G. Thomas, second Elder N. Richardson and Elder D.B. Reid. In 1946, ground was broken for what was to be Birminhgam’s most modern Black church.
On Febraury 5, 1949, Elder D.B. Reid led his congregation into its new modernized church home. Elder F.L. Peterson, then president of Oakwood College was the guest speaker. Elder Reid accepted a call to labor in the city of Kansas City, Missouri and Ephesus was left to local leadership guided by the conference president.
On March 4, 1950, the South Central Conference, led by God, chose Elder C. Sampson Myles (1950-1954) to assume the pastoral responsibilities of the Ephesus Church. During the next two-year period, over 100 souls were added to the church. On April 19, 1952, the 446 member congregation dedicated the new edifice to the honor and glory of God, debt free. In 1954, Elder Myles was called to labor in another city.
Elder D.L. Crowder (1954-1958) invited Elder E.C. Ward, conference evangelist, to Birmingham to conduct a Summer Evangelistic Crusade. As as result of God’s blessings, more than 100 precious souls were added to the church. Elder Crowder having served well here was called to another field.
Under the pastoral administration of Elder E.T. Mimms (1958-1966) many more souls were added to the church. Two evangelistic crusades were held which resulted in the baptism of more than 200. The pastor and members had a vision of moving the school out of the basement of the church and erecting an eighth grade school in the greater Birmingham area. The Lord blessed and they were able to purchase four real estate lots in the Powderly area for that purpose.
Ephesus, was known as “the action church” during the tenure of Elder M.M. Young (1966-1972). Though yet unable to financially fulfill the vision of a new school, the church basement, which housed the church school was completely renovated. Elder Young conducted several evangelistic crusades, resulting in many souls being added to the church. In 1972, he was called to serve as the Youth Leadership and Educational Secretary for South Central Conference.
We continued to move forward as we were led by Elder M.E. Joiner (1972-1976). Under his leadership an Eighth Grade Junior Academy was purchased on McMillon Avenue, SW. The vision of a separate school building was fulfilled. The children of Ephesus and the community could enjoy a school building comprising six classrooms, library, cafeteria, and gymnasium. The school’s enrollment doubled and several new teachers were added to the staff. Elder Joiner’s tenure at Ephesus ended when he was called to serve as the Sabbath School and Lay Activities Secretary for the South Central Conference.
Elder W.J. Cleveland (1976-1980) of the Southwest Conference was called to carry on the leadership of our church. An invitation was extended to Elder E.E. Cleveland, the brother of our beloved pastor, to conduct a Summer Evengelistic Crusade in Smithfield. As a result of this thrust 164 souls were baptized. In 1978 and 1979, Elder Cleveland returned to Smithfield and more than 220 souls were added to the church, creating a need for additional housing. As a result of the great reaping, Ephesus gave birth to a new congregation in the South West Section of Birmingham, known as the South Park SDA Church. Elder Cleveland was asked to serve as the pastor of these new “babes in the faith”, along with several older members to help establish the new congregation.
Elder W.R. Robinson, (1980), a retired former Conference President, was sent to Ephesus as the interim pastor. He served for one year.
In February 1981, the South Central Conference called Dr. Patrick E. Vincent (1981 -1993), a native of Trinidad, West Indies to take up the mantle of leadership of the Ephesus Church. Under his leadership, our church experienced unprecedented growth, through his implementation of the S.W.A.T. (Soul Winning Action Team) Concept. With this concept, Dr. Vincent, taught the members of the church how to unite as one in laboring for the up building and prosperity of the church. It awakened in the membership a new joy in sharing their fatih. Becasue of SWAT, along with the Revelation Seminars and hall/tent meetings, one hundred or more members were added to the church annually.
The S.O.S (Save Our School) Rally was implemented by Dr. Vincent to help our school to remain financially solvent. This effort was so successful that it was held annually.
In 1985, due to the tremendous growth of the church membership, our congregation, led by the pastor, envisioned a dream of a much needed new edifice. After searching the city of Birmingham for a suitable site to erect a sanctuary, it was decided by a majority vote that we seek to acquire the various properties adjoining the present church site. The old building was demolished and a new, beautiful edifice was built to the glory and honor of God, to house its membership of 953.
Dr. Vincent extended an invitation to Elder W.C. Scales, Jr., Associate Ministerial Director of the General Conference of SDA to conduct an evangelistic campaign during the summer of 1985. As a result of that crusade, 153 precious souls were baptized and the Ephesus Church again gave birth to a new church congregation in the northern section of Birmingham. This new congregation became the Real Truth SDA Church (later changed to the Norwood SDA Church).
As we entered our new edifice on April 19, 1986, thirty-four years since the dedication of the old edifice (April 19, 1952), our hearts were filled with praise and thanksgiving to God for the bountiful blessings He had bestowed upoin His people. Dr. Eric C. Ward presented the “dedicatory” sermon.
The church continued to add many families to its membership and with that an increase in our school enrollment. In 1989, a new school building was added to Ephesus Academy, which included 8 classrooms, a science lab, library, office, and storage space. The old school building was refurbished and there was established the Ephesus Academy Child Development Center serving children 2 1/2 to 5 years of age. Designed with the thought of assisting in liquidating the $200,000 mortgage on the school and assisting in its general budget operations annually.
Dr. Vincent used the Library of the school from 1991 to 1993 to conduct Revelation Seminars each year and many souls were added to the church. In October 1993, he was called to pastor in the Southeastern Conference of Seventh-day Adventist.
On October 19, 1993, Elder Joseph I. Grider (1993-1999) was called to serve as pastor. Under his leadership was acquired a grant for phase 1 and phase 2 of the McMillon Estates and Annex, high rise apartment buildings for senior citizens located in the southwest section of Birmingham. In 1996, with the concerted effort of the Ephesus School Board, the mortgage was liquidated on the school with the resources provided by the Child Development Center (CDC).
Elder Dana C. Edmond (2000), Executive Secretary of the South Central Conference served as interim pastor for 6 months.
Elder Jonathan Thompson (2000-2006) was called from the Northeastern Conference of SDA to serve as pastor. Our church continued to grow and expand as we purchased a house on 1st Street North to house the Community Services Center. As the population dynamics changed around the church, especially among the Hispanic population, many accepted the Three Angels Messages of the Revelation 14. Therefore, it became necessary for our church to provide space for worship. A new congregation was established — the Ephesus Hispanic Congregation, which was housed in the Fellowship Hall.
Elder Thompson, along with the Ephesus Academy School Board and Church Board envisioned separating the Ephesus Academy high school from the elementary school because the school population had increased to over 200. Plans were placed in motion to acquire properties available near the church. The church acquired two lots on 6th Avenue, North and one lot on 8th Avenue, North.
The church’s restrooms were refurbished with plans of embarking upon completing other needs within the church building. However, in late 2006, Pastor Thompson was called to serve as the director of the Ellen G. White Estates on the campus of Oakwood University, Huntsville, Alabama.
Elder Auldwin Humphrey (2007), Executive of South Central Conference, served as interim pastor for approximately one year.
Elder Alex Horton (2007-2014) was called from the Southwest Region Conference to serve as pastor as of December 1, 2007. He led the church to complete several much needed projects. The church sanctuary was remodeled with a completely new pulpit area, as well as adding new pews and carpeting. The kitchen was renovated to meet 21st century health code standards. A portico was also added to the 6th avenue side of the church as well as a new parking lot.
Elder Benjamin Jones (2014), Ministerial Director of the South Central Conference, served as interim pastor for 6 months.
On February 7, 2015, Dr. Compton Ross, Jr., was called from the Central States Conference of SDA to serve as pastor.
Elder Joe I. Grider (October 2015), Ministerial Director of the South  Central Conference, served as interim pastor for 3 months.
On January 1, 2019, Elder Larry Bailey and Tyler Buford were called from the South Central Conference of SDA to serve as head pastor and Youth/Young Adult Pastors, respectively.