First Union Missionary Baptist Church, once considered the headquarters of civil rights activities among Meridian churches, is celebrating a rich history that began 125 years ago.
“Everything that happened in the black community seemed to have started at this church. The first head start in the city started here. The first black bank in this city started here,” Pastor Melvin Hendricks said.
The church also had a unique relationship with prominent civil rights leaders.
“The civil rights guys who were killed, particularly James Chaney, he had his memorial service here. His mother’s funeral was here.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. even spoke from the pulpit.
“Dr. Martin Luther King spoke here. In fact, he spoke shortly after the death of the civil rights workers,” Hendricks added.
The church is holding a community banquet tomorrow at the temple theater ballroom to commemorate it’s 125th anniversary. The theme of the event is “building on the foundation of faith,” which reflects the church’s current mission.
“Trying to get more people into the church, especially our youth. They need sunday school. Our choirs need to be rebuilt, so we’re trying to build them up,” Choir director Lucinda Houston said.
Hendricks, who has pastored the church for almost 10 years, says a major part of that mission is moving the church back to its social justice roots by building a preschool.
“If we can catch children at their most formative years and instill in them some moral principles that are based on christian values then we won’t continue to have what we’re faced with today,” Hendricks said.