In 1887, three God-loving and faithful men decided to formally organize a church. They were Raleigh Jones, Henry Potter, and Samuel Smothers (since the emancipation of slaves was just 22 years prior to this, I imagine that they were ex-slaves or sons of ex-slaves). Having no church building, Henry and Margaret Potter opened their home for worship services. A friend of the group, Mrs. Mary Cox, learned of the circumstance and became concerned. Therefore on September 9, 1887, a Deed was granted to the worshippers of the Colored Baptist congregation for the sum of one dollar by Mrs. Cox and four members of the Cox family. The Deed was granted to the Trustees of the congregation, Franklin Wilson, Garrett R. Waller, Charles Dixon, Raleigh Jones, and to the Maryland Baptist Union Association, for a half acre of land located in Kirkham, Talbot County, Maryland. Thus, the first Union Baptist Church building was erected.
THE MOVE TO EASTON
After approximately twenty years, the decision was made to move the church to Easton. (Perhaps the new location of the new church was more convenient for the congregation or the congregation had grown too large for the present dwelling or perhaps a combination of both influenced this decision). Therefore, under the Administration of Rev. William Scott, the church relocated to 116 Hammond Street and remained there until 1982. However for several years, the congregation continued to return to Kirkham for a repast or fellowship meals and baptism services in the nearby river, although there was a pool located in the church. After the pastorate of Rev. William Scott, Rev. Garfield was called to pastor Union. He was followed by Rev. Ward and later, Rev. Gilbert Dudley.
A DRY PERIOD
After the pastorate of Rev. Dudley, the church was closed for a period of time while Deacons Sam Smith, Milton Potter, Robert Jenkins, Albert Roberts, and Trustee Clarence Potter continued to interview in search of another ordained Pastor. Members worshipped at other churches during this time, but they maintained their membership and connections with Union.
In 1932, the Rev. Lindsey Crudup was called to lead the flock. He remained at Union for seven years before leaving to extend his pastorate to another congregation on the lower Eastern Shore (Weeping Mary, our sister church). Rev. Luck, then became Pastor and remained at Union for one and one half years. He was followed by Rev. Stamper, who served three years. Under his pastorate, the lot on which the present parsonage is located was purchased. After Rev. Stamper’s tenure, a delegation of members lead by Ralph and Lillian Roberts asked Rev. Crudup to return to lead Union.
FORMAL REORGANIZATION AND EXPANSION
Rev. Crudup returned to Union as Pastor and remained in this position until his death twenty years later. It was under his leadership that the church was formally organized with a Church Clerk to maintain accurate records (Blanche Jenkins, who served for 35 years), several trustees and other official positions and ministries. There were several other changes to occur under his Administration. The membership increased, the church structure was enlarged with an increase in the size of the pulpit, an office for the Pastor, and the addition of separate ladies and men’s restrooms. A parish hall that continues to be located on the 116 Hammond Street site was erected by members of the church. During this time, Rev. Harvey Flood and Rev. Robert Potter assisted Rev. Crudup. He also led the way in forming the Progressive Baptist Association of the Eastern Shore in an effort to unify the Baptist churches on the Eastern Shore.
Under Rev. Crudup’s Administration, the Communion Service was set for the third Sunday of each month, and the church meeting was set for the third Friday of each quarter. Please note that Rev. Crudup continued to provide services for the Weeping Mary Baptist Church in Wicomico County. He had to arrange dates to coincide with the Weeping Mary Baptist Church who became known as our sister church.
A NEW ERA AND THE ROLE IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
Following the death of Rev. Crudup, the Rev. Serenus T.Churn became the Pastor of Union in December, 1960, where he served until April 25, 1965. During his pastorate, the ministry of Union extended. Through his guidance, the Civil Rights Movement was initiated in Easton. The Freedom Riders from Baltimore, Maryland assisted him in organizing. Members of Union led the way in implementing and carrying out the plans. Because of his leadership, the community became involved. This led to non-violent demonstrations and boycotting; thus, many segregated barriers were removed. In addition, the membership of the church continued to grow, finances were greatly improved, and the initially known Improvement Fund became the Building Fund. Land was purchased, and with his and the church approval, his wife (Shirley) initiated the first Youth Choir. This ministry encouraged more young people to join and to become more active members. Rev. Churn was called to pastor another church in Yonkers, New York in 1965.
A NEW ADMINISTRATION
In September, 1965, Rev. Dr. William Revely began his pastorate at Union and served until December, 1978. In 1968, Rev. Willie Wilson joined Rev. Revely as his co-pastor until 1973. Under Rev. Revely’s leadership, the church continued to be involved in the community and after many prayer breakfasts and meetings with the town officials, the streets in black neighborhoods improved. Under Pastor Revely, the congregation was encouraged to tithe and the financial assets as well as the membership grew tremendously. The first plans to build came into focus, the plans to build a parsonage were realized and additional land was purchased. The choir made an album entitled, “I’m Satisfied with Jesus.” During this period, the recording artist, Rev. Isaac Douglas and his pianist Freddie Washington worked closely with the choir. They were instrumental in bringing the late James Cleveland to Easton. Sister Sharon Truxon was designated the choir directress.
REALIZING THE DREAM
Rev. C. Clayton Casson began his pastoral duties at Union on June 17, 1979. During his Administration, the goal to build a new church structure became a reality. After so many years of praying, hoping, giving, working, and planning, on the morning of May 29, 1982, the building of the new structure began. On November 21, 1982, the congregation moved into the new church located on 233 Glenwood Avenue. Along with greater emphasis being placed on Bible Study, under Rev. Casson’s Administration, Union also became a totally tithing church (no more dinners sold or other fundraising events). On April 10 and April 17, 1983, services of dedication were held at Union. On Sunday, September 25, 1983 after fulfilling his dream of building a new Union, Rev. Casson preached his final sermon as Pastor of the Union Baptist Church. In June, 1984, the call to lead was extended to Rev. John Bagley, Jr. On October 7, 1984, he was officially installed as the Pastor of the Union Baptist Church, where he served for four years.
CELEBRATING OUR HUNDRED YEARS OF SERVICE
In 1987, Union celebrated its 100 years anniversary from January to December. This was during the tenure of Rev. Bagley. Many services and events took place each month with the entire congregation participating. The congregation dressed in 1887 attire during the final service. Rev. Bagley departed the latter part of 1988.
THE BURNING OF THE MORTGAGE AND ENLARGEMENT
In February 1990, Union had a mortgage burning ceremony because the new edifice was paid in full. Members and officers along with local officials and area churches joined together in the celebration.
ENLARGING THE EDIFICE
In March 1990, Rev. Willie E. Garrison responded to the call to pastor. Under his leadership, a new and larger sanctuary was constructed. The old sanctuary was converted to a multipurpose hall with a new and complete kitchen and nursery. Many ministries were reinstated such as the Missionaries, Pastor Aid, and the choirs were combined to form the Mass Choir. The membership grew and several members from other races. Several changed their lifestyles and became true followers of Christ. During his Administration, Rev. Garrison changed the Communion Service from the third Sunday to the first Sunday. He felt that God should get the first of everything. The deaconess attire for Communion was changed to white on the first Sunday from April to September and from October to the first Sunday of March, the attire would change to black. Rev. Garrison preached his final sermon as the Pastor of Union December 26, 1993.
In September, 1994, Rev. T. James Anderson was called to pastor Union. He remained until May, 1998. Under his leadership, the Church Council, Brotherhood, and Children’s Church were implemented. Several of the older women were named “Mothers” of the church. Through his teachings, many became more aware of their black heritage as Children of God. During Rev. Anderson’s pastorate, a total of nine (9) ministers were licensed to preach (listed alphabetically): Horace Armstrong, Shirley Blackwell, Roxine Palmer, James Pierce, Jr., Robert Potter, Curtis Roberts, Carlette Sullivan, Andrew Tilghman, and Sharon Truxon. (Curtis Roberts, Andrew Tilghman and Shirley Blackwell went on to become pastors of other churches).
A LOOK AT RECENT YEARS SINCE 1999
In June, 1999, the call to pastor Union was extended to the Rev. Fentress A. Hickman, a native of Oklahoma, who had earned a B.S. Degree (Bowie State University) and a Masters of Divinity Degree (Howard University) and had been serving as pastor of a church in Washington, D.C. for 12 years. He began his service with Union on September 1, 1999 and was installed on Sunday, January 16, 2000. Under Pastor Hickman’s pastorate, the Youth Advisory Committee was formed to increase emphasis on having all of the youth becoming more involved in the church.
The youth lead the morning worship one Sunday a month, have sponsored Youth Revivals, special Youth Days, and have formed their own Usher Board. The Youth Choir and the Praise Dance Ministry were revived. In addition, the Senior Unionites Ministry had been revived. Further, four other ministries were added: the Women’s Ministry, Couples Ministry, Higher Ground Drug Addictions Ministry and the Voices of Praise. An official Church Historian position was initiated with Sister Nadia Caldwell serving. Three became licensed to preach God’s Word: Mary DeShields, Joanne Brooks (who has gone on to pastor another church) and Dwayne Anthony Lovett. In 2008, the Hospitality Committee was reinstated. The oldest active member, first church clerk of 35 years, first secretary to the Progressive Baptist Association of the Eastern Shore and the unofficial church historian died, Blanche Jenkins. Three were ordained as Deacons (Robert Hubbard, James Bell and Ralph Potter).
During the 118 years’ celebration of the church history, the pastor and members unofficially adopted the church colors as black and gold. The black symbolizes solidarity, strength, peace, infinity, growth and the divine. Gold symbolizes wisdom, knowledge, inspiration and a reflection of God’s Glory.
In 2011, a Strategic Plan was implemented which caused every official ministry of our church to set realistic, time-bound and relevant goals for the short-range and long-range future. Several of these goals were still in process as of 2014. This Strategic Plan gave the congregation a greater sense of desired goals and aspirations that were formulated to life humanity and to please and give glory to God.
During this time, major actions were taken by this congregation to our physical facilities. They include: upgrade of the kitchen with commercial appliances with a code-compliant fire suppression system; renovation of bathroom facilities which doubled the size of both male and female bathrooms; new carpeting throughout the church; purchase of three crosses that depicted Calvary for the main sanctuary; new roof; upgraded sound system that enables making and playing of CD’s; purchase of a new electronic piano for fellowship hall; purchase of two sets of robes for the mass choir; purchase of attire for Mindful Praise Dancers; refinishing of parking lots on Glenwood Avenue and Clay Street; purchase of CD duplicating machine; new computers for church use and other major renovations, upgrades and maintenance. These and other things were the result of the dedication, support and cooperation of the membership of Union Baptist Church but God gets all of the glory.
During this period, Union Baptist Church began participating and supporting several initiatives that expanded the scope of our ministry of service to God throughout service to others. These include, but are not limited to the following: Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), the Neighborhood Service Center of Easton, Talbot Family Network, the Commission on Aging, Blue Ribbon Commission on Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Talbot County Multicultural Education Committee, the Talbot Minority Ministerial Partnership (now inactive) which sought ways to eliminate the academic gap between minority and other students. A weekly Sunday evening radio broadcast (WINX-94.3FM) was started and a church website was launched (www.ubceaston.net).
We continue to actively support the Progressive Baptist Association of the Eastern Shore, having had our pastor, Rev. Hickman, follow the example of a prior pastor, Rev. Lindsay Crudup by serving as the Dean of Christian Education, 2nd and 1st Vice Moderator and four years as Moderator; Minister Shirley Blackwell, who served as president of the Women’s Auxiliary for seven years; Deacon Edward Potter, who served as President of the Deacon’s Union for ten years; Deacon Robert Hubbard, who served as Treasurer for several years; Deaconess Phyllis Hubbard, who served as Vice-President of the Women’s Auxiliary.
The Union Baptist Church continues its long-practiced legacy of supporting local, national and international initiatives which include: Hurricane Katrina ($30,000+), Haiti Earthquake $20,000+), Frederick Douglass Honor Society for the erection of his statue on the courthouse grounds of Easton, Maryland ($5,000), Fresh Start Transitional Housing ($6,500), annual donations to Shore Breast Cancer, CASA, and providing emergency assistance to numerous individuals and families facing evictions, utility cut-offs and funds for medical, food and other needs. Union Baptist Church also ministers to Talbot Hospice, the Pines/Genesis Elder Care Nursing Home, Habitat for Humanity, American Red Cross, Talbot County Jail and is a regular participant with the Maryland Mobile Food Bank in providing food to needy families. Our worship services on the election and inauguration of the first African-American as President, The Honorable Barack Obama, were accepted by the American Folklife Center of the U.S. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. and are archived in the Library’s Inauguration 2009 Sermons and Orations Project.
The church continues to grow spiritually and in membership. With such a rich past and a joyful presence, it is our desire to continue to forge ahead with such initiatives as eliminating drug and alcohol addictions, eliminating unwed pregnancies, promoting Christian principles and increasing knowledge of and adherence to the Holy Bible, and to promote Christian unity among all.
We shall continue to stand on faith, wisdom, knowledge, strength, courage and above all, the promises of God.
THE END OF AN ERA
On August 17, 2014, the Pastor, Fentress Hickman, passed away after a period of illness. The congregation was shocked, saddened and grief-stricken. Rev. Hickman was eulogized August 22, 2014 with family, pastors, members and friends from far and near attending the “Homegoing Service.”
The church continued to function under the leadership of the Chairman of the Deacon Board, Edward Potter, and the Deacons. Although the church continued to mourn, a meeting was set up on September 19, 2014 to select a committee that would begin the procedure of selecting another pastor. A committee of eleven members was elected. The ministers of Union and visiting pastors delivered the “Word” each Sunday morning. The Church continued to stay prayerful seeking God’s guidance in the selection of another leader.
“…and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” Romans 10:14-15.
The committee met and set up criteria for the applicants of the position for a new pastor. Sixty-two applications came in timely; thirty-three met the criteria; and seven were selected to come in for an interview with the committee and church members and preach. One candidate withdrew his application. Therefore, six came. The interviews went from February to April. All candidates were outstanding. In June, Dr. Rev. Lawrence Hood was selected by the majority of the members of Union Baptist Church, who began his tenure September, 2015.
“And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, Which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
The Beginning of A new Era
In January, 2016 Rev. Hood was officially installed as pastor of Union. Dr. Hood left later this year.
Our Journey Continues...
A new search committee was established. In July 2017, Rev. Roland C. Brown was officially installed as pastor of Union. The love and support for the congregation since their arrival clearly displays the spiritual foundation in which their ministry is built. the manifestation of God's power in the form of a gifted leader, teacher and preacher has inspired members of Union Baptist Church to become "Agents of Change."