A Bit of our history

Our Church

UMBC is an organized body of believers founded upon the principles of God Almighty and dedicated to the service of Jesus Christ. God has honored this commitment and service by continually blessing and protecting this body for nearly a century. Rev. Victor E. Covington has served as the pastor since the fall of 2004, fostering numerical growth and spiritual depth under his watch. We are constantly improving and applying our urban ministry approach in the 'South-end' of Albany, New York where we are located. The church serves as a lighthouse in the South-End.


The History of Union Missionary Baptist Church

In 1924, the church began after a group met at the home Mrs. Leona Turnage for prayer. Mrs. Turnage opened her home to Bertha Hines, Bryant Turnage, Phoebe Turnage, and Rev. King who presided over the prayer group. Union Missionary Baptist Church is one of the oldest Black Churches in the City of Albany has been a constant refuge and a beacon of hope for Capital District residents for close to 90 years. In 1924, the church began after a group met at the home Mrs. Leona Turnage for prayer. Mrs. Turnage opened her home to Bertha Hines, Bryant Turnage, Phoebe Turnage, and Rev. King who presided over the prayer group. Later that year the prayer group found a suitable building on Rensselaer St. with Rev. Harris as their leader. In 1925, Rev. Thomas Crenshaw joined the group. In 1926, the group established themselves as the Union Missionary Baptist Church. The church was later incorporated in 1930 under the laws of New York State. The membership grew to approximately 100 people, leading the church to lease a building for worship at 64 Herkimer Street.

As the membership grew under the spiritual leadership and guidance of Rev. Crenshaw the church needed a larger place to accommodate its congregation. In 1939, Deacon John H. Johnson secured 90, 92, and 94 Franklin St. The premises were renovated to accommodate a membership of 300 people at 90 and 92 Franklin St. and the patronage was housed at 94 Franklin St.

In 1946 Rev. Crenshaw began to suffer poor health and Rev. Pond volunteered to become his assistance. During this time Rev. George Collins heeded the call to preach and was licensed by UMBC. Rev. Ponds had the opportunity to establish a new church, left UMBC and organized Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Albany. Rev. Crenshaw retired in 1949 due to poor health. A call was extended to Rev. Charles Woodard who served as pastor until 1952. During this time Rev. George Poole was licensed to preach.

In January 1953 Rev. John Boxley was called to serve as pastor and resigned in 1954. Under the leadership of Deacon Clarence Jackson, the first chairman of the deacon board, Deacon Coleman Crawford , conscientious officers and members, Union survived almost two years without a pastor. One of the church’s goals was to build a new church. A building fund drive was instituted with strong encouragement from the chair of the trustee board, Marshall Cardwell.

In January 1956 the church extended a call to Rev. Louis C. Brewer who accepted the call in March 1956. Under his energetic leadership the membership increased to 360 which led to a need for a new and larger edifice. In July of 1959 Union’s members found themselves without a place of worship because the property was acquired by the City of Albany for the construction of a new public school. The church was determined to remain in the area where it began therefore a 100x110 foot site was purchased for approximately $17,000 at the corner of Morton Avenue and Clinton St. Soon after, plans for a completely modern building that would seat 354 worshippers at the cost of $90,000 was underway.

On March 25, 1962 ground was broken for the new edifice at 1 Morton Avenue and a jubilant congregation marched into their new church home on October 14, 1962. Union Missionary Baptist Church was the first church building newly erected in Albany, NY by a black congregation.

In August 1972 a new church parsonage was acquired at 26 Edgecomb Street in Albany, NY.

On May 16, 1976 a special mortgage burning ceremony was held and the church was cleared of all indebtedness. Under Rev. Brewer’s leadership the church prospered and the membership increased.

Under the leadership of Rev. Brewer the church prospered, membership increased, and several individuals were ordained and licensed to preach:

Deaconess Velma Miller, consecrated 1959

Deacon Kenneth Williams, ordained 1975 and Deaconess Joyce Williams was consecrated

Deacon Wilson Walker Jr, ordained 1979

Rev. Zeddie Mackey licensed to preach on April 16,1978 and ordained to the gospel ministry along with Rev. Pleasant Foy on August 31, 1980

Rev. Maxie Miller Jr. was licensed to preach in July 1982

Rev. Arthur Moore and Rev. Richard I. Headley began their preparation for the gospel ministry in 1982

Rev. Richard I. Headley was ordained to the gospel ministry and Deacon Willie Freeman and Deacon Norman Macklin were ordained as deacons in September 1984

Deaconess Rhonda Brown, consecrated July 1985

In 1980 Union co-sponsored an Ecumenical Vacation Bible School, a venture that was very successful. Union currently hosts Vacation Bible School at the church.

On September 25, 1981 an agreement was signed with the City of Albany for a federal grant for the construction of a community center under the auspices of Union Missionary Baptist Church.

On November 7, 1981 the ground breaking began for the community center to be built adjacent to the church. This “dream” of Pastor Brewer was completed in June 1988. Deaconess Pecolia Macklin spearheaded this effort.

Pastor Brewer grew the church by growing the people:

Minister Norman Macklin in March 1987 was licensed to preach

Deacon Ralph Smith, Deacon Joseph Hudson, Deacon John Martinez, and

Deacon Albert Pickens were ordained on July 10, 1988

Minister Shirley Freeman received her license to preach September 18, 1988

Rev. Charles Riggins was ordained October 29,1989 to the gospel ministry

Rev. Norman Macklin was ordained April 21, 1991

Minister John Stinson was licensed to preach November 20, 1991

Minister Robert Bradley was licensed to preach June 28, 1992

Rev. Robert Bradley and Rev. John Stinson were ordained September 26, 1993

Deacon Amos Peoples, Deacon Robert Hargrove, Deacon Gary Mansfield and

Deacon Ruben Pugh were ordained November 7, 1993

In March 1994 Rev. Louis C. Brewer retired after 38 years of service. We thank God for the work done through Rev. Brewer for the advancement of God’s Kingdom and the building up of His body, the church.

For the next two years Union was under the leadership of the Deacon Board, Deacon Ralph Smith, Chairman. In September 1994, a Search Committee was formed for finding a new pastor.

On April 20, 1997 the Rev. Dr. Ronald Steward was installed as Pastor. Under his leadership

8:00 a.m. Sunday Worship and Wednesday noon services were instituted. The Golden Age Ministry was organized and a second church van was purchased. In this same year Deaconess Lola Stinson, Princess Fludd and Deborah Scott were consecrated.

On October 11, 1998, Minister Byron Steele was licensed. On October 21, 1999 an ordinance was introduced by Deaconess Shirley Foskey (Councilwoman). The ordinance passed and authorized the transfer of all rights, title, and interest of the City of Albany, New York in certain property located at 7 Morton Avenue (Crenshaw Community Center) to Union Missionary Baptist Church. The center functions today as home for Head Start Day Care program.

In November 2001 Deaconess Shirley Foskey (Councilwoman) requested that the City of Albany rename the area, one square block from Morton Avenue to Arch Street bound by Clinton and Grand Streets, an honorary designation known as “Union Square”. The City installed the Union Square sign on November 17, 2001 during the 75th Church Anniversary. On that same day, the Diaconate Ministry approved naming the dining hall “Deacon Joseph J. Miller, Jr. Fellowship Hall.” The hall was named in memory of Deacon Miller for his love, loyalty, kindness, understanding, and dedication of service to the church and church family.

2000-2004 Deacon Kenneth Williams, Chairman of the Diaconate Ministry and the entire deacon board led the church in the absence of a pastor.

In September 2004, Rev. Victor E. Covington was installed. Under his leadership the church sponsored its first Foreign Missions trip to Malawi, Africa, in June 2007. The mission trip included the financial support of two orphanages, the roofing of a rural church, and donations to the primary school of the Blantyre Baptist Church which hosted the UMBC missions’ team. These acts of kindness greatly reinvigorated our missionary ministry.

Pastor Covington reinstated the 8 a.m. worship service and started a Bible Study class at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon so that our senior members would be accommodated. The Men’s Choir was revived and two additional choirs came into being, the Total Praise Ensemble and Fifth Sunday Choir (renamed the Victory Mass Choir). The Young Lions Rites of Passage for boys 9-18 years of age and Daughters of Promise for girls 9-18 years of age stressed leadership and participation to challenge the youth of the church. The Creative Expressions Liturgical Dance Group featuring teenagers began in 2004 under the direction of Vallencia Lloyd later the Pearls and Cubs of Excellence, a liturgical dance group with Sister Carol Douglas directing began in 2008. Overcomers, a male support group was developed as well. The AWANA (Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed) was initiated as a bible ministry to teach children and youth to know, love, and serve Christ.

Pastor Covington has led the church in various outside Street Ministries including a partnership with Capital City Rescue Mission and established the Evangelism/Outreach ministry.

The Church continues to expand under Rev. Covington’s leadership:

Deaconess Arndreia Goodbee consecrated 1982

Deaconess Shirley Foskey consecrated 1982

Deaconess Juanita Edwards consecrated 2007

Minister Kuwan Jiles and Minister Richard L McGee, Jr. were licensed to preach 2007

Deacon Thurmon Myers ordained a deacon on July 27, 2008

2010 started the South Side project – acquired the property across the street from the church

Rev. T. Lewis Steele licensed to preach March 24, 2009; ordained March 9, 2013

Deacon Terell Strickland Sr. ordained a deacon October 25, 2009

Rev. Frank C. Dixon ordained October 30, 2010

Deaconess Yasmin Strickland-Walker and Deaconess Sue Strickland consecrated

October 24, 2012

Minister George Chochos licensed to preach July 28, 2013

Deacon Edward Lovelist was ordained a deacon October 26, 2014

Mrs. Willie Mae Robinson, our oldest member departed life at 105 years old November 2014,

By recommendation of Pastor Covington, Sister Sheila Irvin became Assistant Church Clerk May 2016.

In 2015 excitement arose for our milestone birthday celebrating 90 years of service. Pastor Covington stated that all Union members were to be involved in preparing for this celebration. The theme was “Remembering, Rededicating and Rejoicing” Joshua 4:21-24.

A steering committee was called together in 2015 with Rev. T. Lewis serving as Chair. A goal of $40,000 was set and each member was asked to pay $250.00 beyond tithes and offering to reach this goal. Several other committees and coordinators were named by the Steering Committee to participate in this celebration.

The members of Union Missionary Baptist Church are extremely grateful for God’s blessing the church to carry on his work. Keeping in mind that we are only instruments of His will, we unite in thanking and praising God for all his wonderful blessings in the past. We pray the God will continue to use the members of the church to do his will and bless our future Christian endeavors.

To be continued......