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New Sunny Mount Missionary Baptist Church
A perusal of the history of New Sunny Mount Baptist church reveals the outstanding contributions the church has made to the St. Louis community.
Reverend John Henry Smith rented a store front building at 2220 Clark Avenue St. Louis, Missouri in May of 1932 for the purpose of forming a mission and holding missionary and worship services. During the month of June that year, the first revival was held. Rev. Felix Catching was the speaker. The membership increased during the revival, along with three candidates for baptism. The last week in June 1932, the Mission met at Galilee Baptist Church, 2808 Spruce Street. The three candidates were baptized in a special service. Rev. Malachi Owens, Pastor of Galilee, presided over a special meeting that followed the baptism. The Church was duly organized under the leadership of Rev. John Henry Smith, Pastor and Sister Josephine Marshall, Church Clerk with a unanimous vote by the membership.
Rev. Smith, along with his congregation, adopted Sunny Mount Missionary Baptist Church as the official name of the church. Some of the founding members were Sis. Pearl Curtis Johnson, Sis. Ruth Moore, Bro. Thomas McCray, Sis. Hattie McCray and Bro. Willie Wise. The Pastor organized the Board of Deacons (Dea. Henry Wilson, Chairman), Mothers’ Board (Mother Udora Smith, Chairman), Usher Board (Bro. “Rev.” Willie Wise, President), Sunday school (Sis. Ruth Nelson Moore, Supt.), B.Y.P.U. (Sis. Hattie Hill, Director) and a Mission Society (Sis. Sarah Wilson, President) to assist him in the leadership of this productive missionary church.
In December 1932, the church moved to 816 North Garrison Avenue in order to provide a larger seating capacity for the congregation. During this period, several young adults united with the church. Some of them were members of the “Quartet Singers”. Rev. Smith enlisted their services to provide music for the church. Two groups were “The Chosen Four” with Bro. Samuel Jackson, leader and “The Silver-Tone Melody Girls”, Sis. Mattie Valentine, leader. In 1935, Rev. Smith organized these groups with others to form the “Young People’s Choir”. May, 1936, Sis. Hattie McCray was appointed Choir President, Sis. Josephine Marshall was appointed Choir Director and Sis. Susie Betts was appointed Choir Pianist. On the second Sunday in July 1936, they made their debut in a highly spirited musical church service.
December of 1936, the church moved to 2923 Delmar. Shortly afterward, Rev. Smith realized the church was in need of a permanent home. Thus, preparing to undertake a new building project, he organized a Trustee Board with Bro. John Sutton, as Chairman, a Building Fund Committee with Bro. George Shiners as Chairman, and a Church Convention Committee with Sis. Pauline Lee as President. A building at 3966 Fairfax Avenue was purchased. On Sunday, September 15, 1946, the members marched into their new church building. In a few short years, the debt on the building was liquidated and the mortgage burned.
On August 17, 1958, members of Sunny Mount Missionary Baptist Church marched into a building at 1212 Academy Avenue. After two months in the new location, Rev William Covington became the Assistant Pastor. In 1960, Rev. Smith became ill and retired in January 1961.
Rev. Clarence A. Williams was elected the new pastor on February 7, 1961. Under Rev. Williams’ leadership, the church grew in spirit and in membership. He organized a Board of Christian Education with Sis. Hattie McCray as Chairperson. A large mass choir was formed and Bro. Ted Rudd was elected President. Rev. Williams was a dynamic preacher, excellent teacher, and outstanding singer. The first church organ was purchased during his tenure as Pastor. He served as Pastor until November 1971. The church was without a pastor until April 14, 1972.
On April 14, 1972, Rev. Chester B. Brookings was elected Pastor. On May 23, 1972, the church held a business meeting concerning issues with the mortgage. Sunny Mount prevailed in a legal decision and was given the option of buying the building at a lower cost or moving to a new location. On the advice of the church’s attorney and the consent of the membership, Sunny Mount entered a Lease/Purchase Agreement with the West Florissant Baptist Church located at 6080 West Florissant Avenue. Sunny Mount moved to 6080 West Florissant on May 13, 1973.
After the move, Rev. Brookings called a meeting and suggested that the church change its’ name. Sis. Beatrice Morgan offered a motion to add “New” to the original name so the church would not lose its identity. The motion was seconded by Bro. Charles Brown. The motion passed. The official name of the church became New Sunny Mount Missionary Baptist Church in 1973.
In fall 1974, a group of young men asked Rev. Brookings to start a Men’s Bible Class. The fruit of this labor prepared six men for the ministry and others for Deacons and Trustees. Rev. Brookings’ leadership terminated on January 21, 1977. Rev. Tommie Brown served as interim pastor.
On September 23, 1977, Rev. Donald Hunter was called to pastor New Sunny Mount Missionary Baptist Church. He preached the first Sunday in October. After the sermon, forty-five people joined the church. By December 1977 the membership increased by 296 new members, doubling the church’s membership. Rev. Hunter initiated a fund raising effort resulting in the purchase of the 6080 West Florissant building. He established a “Deacons Ministry” charging Deacons to become caretakers of church families. The Trustees were charged to oversee the business of the church.
In 1977, Rev. Hunter brought with him Bro. Ronald Metcalf who formed the Chancel Choir and transformed the quality of music at New Sunny Mount. In 1980, the “Junior Church” was formed so that the youth would have the gospel taught on their level. Rev. Edward Ruffin was appointed Jr. Pastor.
An improvement project was completed in 1986 with the intent of increasing the seating capacity by 25%. Within a few months, the ability to seat the growing membership became impossible without utilizing the narthex and the hall space. An Early Morning Worship Service was instituted; an Early Morning Choir was established, as well as supportive auxiliaries and groups. The “Singles Ministry” and the Yokefellows were established to assist the Trustees and the Deacons. The image of the Trustee Board changed with Ms. Mickey Thomas, the first woman, serving as Chairperson.
Rev. Hunter proclaimed God’s work by replacing:
·Doubt with Determination
·Despair with Hope
·Uniformity with Change
One example of significant change was the purchase of a church van. In 1979 the church purchased a used 43 passenger coach and in 1981 purchased a second coach to provide traveling services for the membership and other groups.
Rev. Donald Hunter, frequently referred to as a “Visionary Servant of Great Faith”, envisioned and established the 319 acre New Sunny Mount Ranch Retreat Site. It was dedicated on September 3, 1989. The facility was open to all denominations and organizations as a place to fish, camp, fellowship, pray and study.
In 1990, we witnessed that faith in action again with the addition of the first two new buses, purchased from the Vanhool Bus Company of Belgium. That purchase made New Sunny Mount the first church in the United States to own Vanhool Coaches. The church then established “Sunny Hill Transportation”, a charter bus company.
From the beginning, New Sunny Mount has expanded with tremendous growth in membership. In 1990, the church purchased four and one-half acres of land consisting of two lots located at 4700 West Florissant, on which the current church was built.
The completion of the new facility provided for the spiritual and economic development of the people. Rev. Hunter said that he would not stop the ministry of the church for brick and mortar. Through his working faith and teaching by example, he has helped to carve out a niche unique to New Sunny Mount.
Rev. Hunter has challenged the congregation to be:
·A church with total commitment to God and the community
·To be unlimited in our scope of missions
·To display and live a practical ministry that addresses life, in a practical yet spiritual way
Rev. Hunter’s motto is: “It’s nice to be nice, but it is nicer when others think you are nice “. It is this ideology that has drawn many people to the church. Visitors from various countries have worshipped at New Sunny Mount Church.
In February 1998, Rev. Donald Hunter, Terry Mills, Herbert Boykin, Walter Coleman, Saul King, Umphy Smith and Curtis Triggs transformed the bus garage at 4638 West Florissant Avenue into a beautiful temporary worship facility. They were known as the “Magnificent Seven” and they were accompanied by Deacon Arthur Walker who provided supervisory support, prayers and encouragement. Worship services, meetings, rehearsals and other activities were held in this facility for fourteen months while the new church was being built.
On the First Sunday in June 1999, the congregation marched, with joy and thanksgiving, from 6080 West Florissant Avenue to 4700 West Florissant Avenue, the current location.
In 2006, the Arthur Walker Educational Building was completed and a new fifty-seven passage Vanhool Coach was purchased. Progress Continues!
New Sunny Mount applied for and received a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization status with the Internal Revenue Service. This marked the beginning of New Sunny Mount Community Outreach Mission.
Under Community Outreach there has been collaboration with other community organizations in providing programs that address the educational and social needs of the community. The Church has also engaged in outreach missions in Ghana, West Africa.
The New Sunny Mount Community Outreach Mission is an avenue that has allowed the church to truly live up to its motto as “The church in the Sun of Righteousness for Missions to the World”. Pastor Hunter’s vision of a summer youth program came to fruition in 2009 with the NSMCOM Summer Youth Academy. This successful program provided academic study, the arts, and educational field trips for students in grades K-8. The key organizers of the program were Rev. Clyde Crumpton, Deaconess Dr. Sheila Ward and Sister Lynette Williams.
This is the history of the New Sunny Mount Missionary Baptist Church, from its humble beginnings, to its magnificent present. We anticipate moving on to future greatness, as those members who follow will continue the legacy of the founders.