Explore Birmingham’s historic places of worship at ‘Sacred Spaces, Civic Places and Building a Magical City’ on February 27

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An early postcard showing Birmingham’s First United Methodist Church in the 1930s.

YOU are invited to hear from special panelists and congregational leaders on the history of Birmingham’s early houses of worship. Sacred spaces, civic places and building a magical city is free and open to the public, and will be held at First United Methodist Church on Sunday, February 27 from 3-4:30 p.m. Keep reading to find out more!

Celebrating 150 Years of Religious and Civic Growth in Birmingham – A Panel Discussion

St. Paul Methodist
A 1949 photograph of St. Paul’s Methodist Church, an African-American Methodist church organized in 1869, two years before Birmingham was founded. (Photo courtesy of Birmingham Public Library Archives and Manuscripts Department)

On December 19, 1871, the city of Birmingham was incorporated into Jones Valley, an area of ​​farmland owned by the Elyton Land Company that was soon to be a hub for two major railways. In Birmingham, dreams of a thriving industrial city came true thanks to the abundance of coal, iron ore and limestone, all the ingredients needed to make iron. As people flocked to the growing southern city in search of new opportunities, they began to form congregations for worship.

  • 1869 – An African-American Methodist congregation – St. Paul United Methodist Church – began meeting in tents.
  • 1872 – The Elyton Land Company grants land grants to five white worshipers of major denominations – Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, United Methodist and Baptist – to establish places of worship in the fledgling city.
  • 1873 – Birmingham’s first black Baptist church, the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, is established in the city centre, also on land granted by the Elyton Land Company.
  • 1882 — The city’s growing Jewish community establishes its first temple, Temple Emanu-El, in Birmingham.
Cathedral Church of Advent
A 1910 photograph of the Cathedral Church of Advent in Birmingham city centre. (Photo courtesy of Birmingham Public Library Archives and Manuscripts Department)

These eight congregations—St. Paul United Methodist, Sixteenth Street Baptist, Temple Emanu-El, First Presbyterian, Cathedral Church of the Advent, First Methodist, St. Paul’s Cathedral and First Baptist – include Birmingham’s earliest places of worship and are still thriving to this day .

“The 150th year of the founding of our churches gives all of us in Birmingham another chance to discover the value of our differences, the joy of our uniquenesses and the glory of being the same.”

Theodore (Ted) Debro, Chairman of the Board, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church

What to expect at “Sacred Spaces, Civic Places and Building a Magical City”

Temple Emanu El
This 1889 photo shows the original location of Temple Emanu-El at the corner of North 5th Avenue and 17th Street in downtown Birmingham. (Emanu-El Temple)
  • What: “Sacred Spaces, Civic Places and Building a Magic City” – A panel discussion on Birmingham’s early places of worship and their significance in the history of The Magic City
  • When: February 27, 2022 from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Or: First United Methodist Church Shrine, 518 19th Street North, Birmingham AL 35203

At Sacred Spaces, Civic Places and the Building of a Magic City,” attendees will learn about the intertwined history of worship and civic growth in Birmingham from three expert panelists:

  • Pamela Sterne King, Assistant Professor of History and Historic Preservation, UAB Dept of History (retired)
  • Jim Baggett, Head of Archives and Manuscripts Department, Birmingham Public Library
  • Barry McNealy, Historical Content Expert, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Historian

“Birmingham’s 150th anniversary celebrations compel us to look back at Magic City’s tirelessly ambitious foundation and grapple with its motivations, passions, contradictions and circumstances. the “Sacred Spaces, Civic Places and Building the Magic City” A panel will examine why the 1871 founders put many white and black congregations on their original development maps. Have they bet on the construction of architectural monuments, on spiritual investments or on their role as civic partners? Conversely, how did the Birmingham congregations see themselves and what visions did they plan to achieve? This panel will explore the interesting and vital partnership between the founders of Birmingham and the role of religion in their vision.

Pamela Sterne King, Assistant Professor of History and Historic Preservation, UAB Dept of History (retired)

Additionally, the panel will give time to representatives from each of the eight Covenants to talk about their history in The Magic City:

  • St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 1869
  • First United Methodist Church, 1872
  • Cathedral Church of Advent, 1872
  • First Presbyterian Church, 1872
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral, 1872
  • First Baptist Church, 1872
  • Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, 1873
  • Emanu-El Temple, 1882

“Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was the first colored Baptist church in Birmingham city centre, organized in 1873, two years after the founding of the city of Birmingham. The church had several locations, locations that were not suitable for a colored church in those early years. These locations were condemned by the city, so the church moved and built a brick structure in 1884 at the corner of North 6th Avenue and Sixteenth Street. The church has played a key role in the development of Birmingham’s ‘coloured society’ and welfare. The church opened schools, the Alabama Penny Savings Bank, the first Missions for Colored, the Bible College, concerts, lectures, and Colored dignitaries were featured in Birmingham’s First Colored Baptist Church. The current building was built in 1911, designed by one of the first African-American architects, Wallace A. Rayfield.

Theodore (Ted) Debro, Chairman of the Board, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church

Sacred spaces, civic places and building a magical city is free and open to the public, and daycare will be available.

Planning to attend Sacred spaces, civic places and building a magical city? Tag us @bhamnow to let us know!

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