Union Baptist Church of Montclair, New Jersey, had its beginnings in February 1887, when thirty local residents, all members of the Baptist faith, formed their own religious organization and named themselves the "Baptist Mission," Prior to that time they had worshipped at St. Mark's Methodist Church, one of the oldest churches in Montclair, New Jersey. For the next two years the "Baptist Mission" worshipped at several different locations within the town.
The church was known as the First Church or the First Baptist Church in Montclair. This was later changed to its present name, Union Baptist Church. It is the first Black Baptist Church in Montclair, New Jersey. It was incorporated on September 20, 1889 as the Union Baptist Church of Montclair.
In its 128 years, the church has had 9 pastors:
Under the leadership of these pastors, the people of Union have sustained a multitude of ministries ranging from Sunday School to a day nursery. Over the years, three core areas of service have emerged: Education, Feeding, and Housing.
In the 1960's, the Student Aid Society, later expanded into the Union Baptist Church Scholarship Fund was formed and has awarded $150,000 in financial aid.
In the 1970's, Union Baptist Church was the primary sponsor of the Union Development Corporation of Montclair, which organized to build the relocation housing for Montclair's first Urban Renewal Project.
In 1985, the church opened Union Storage at 16 Midland Avenue in Montclair, a self-storage company, which is still in operation.
In 2003, Union Baptist Church purchased a two family dwelling to house persons on 44 Portland Place in Montclair and there are currently occupants residing in the units.
During the 1980's, the Church was a congregate meal site as part of the Essex Country Nutrition Project, which provided hot lunches for approximately 1,000 senior citizens daily at 10 sites in the greater Essex County suburban area. This ministry was sustained for over a decade.
In 2004, The Union Baptist Church Food Pantry was formed to address issues of hunger through nutritious food distribution and advocacy in cooperation with the community. In 2008, it was renamed The Norman and Marie Love Food Pantry, in honor of Deacons Norman and Marie Love.
Currently, the church continues to respond to its sense of calling in the world in these three core areas and so much more...
Feeding and Housing
In 2014, the church partnered with the Montclair Emergency Services for the Homeless (MESH) and fed persons lacking housing. In 2015, we expanded this ministry and now provide respite care for this same vulnerable population.
In 2013, a Three-Week Bible Interpretation Conference was held to equip disciples with tools and resources for interpreting scripture.
In 2014, we partnered with the New Jersey Assistant Attorney General, Ms. Tracy M. Thompson, the Rand Renaissance Middle School and the Montclair Township leadership to coordinate four community-wide educational forums on Human Trafficking.
In 2014 and 2015, we responded to the issue of extreme violence used by police against persons of color. We held a series of Town Hall Meetings, a Prayer Vigil and facilitated a seven-week Interfaith and Ecumenical Sacred Series of Studies on Race, Justice and Liberation. In this Sacred Series of Studies, Montclair clergy from different faith traditions interrogated the Torah, Talmud, Koran and Bible to discern what the Holy books said about racism and oppression, human dignity, white power and privilege, human enslavement and liberation. Other topics that were studied were mass incarceration, justice and the prophetic tradition. Many persons of different ethnic groups from Essex County participated and its success has compelled us to continue the series in perpetuity.
We are partnering with the North Jersey Anti-Racist Alliance and the Anti-Racism Commission within the Episcopal Diocese to share educational opportunities that equip participants to undo racism.
Additionally, the church partnered with local churches in Essex County and the NJ Attorney General's Office to participate in a Gun-Buy Back Program that took nearly 2,000 guns off the streets. We also led a sustained protest against the Star Ledger's biased reporting in the Sunday, July 14, 2013 Final Edition.
The Reverend Jack Harris served as the first pastor of this small group from February 1887 to May 1889, while simultaneously pastoring at the Ebenezer Baptist Church of Orange, New Jersey. His spiritual leadership was of great value in directing the following accomplishments: Started Sunday school in May 1887, consolidated various groups of the First Church better known as the First Baptist Church in Montclair, which was later changed to its present name, Union Baptist, the first Black Baptist Church in Montclair, New Jersey.
The Reverend William Perry (from July 1889 - 1899). The membership was 46 persons when he assumed the pastoral duties. Rev. Perry was born before the Emancipation Proclamation, the son of slave parents. He was well educated due to his parents' determination that he not be untrained. His strong leadership led to the following accomplishments:
The Reverend John C. Love (from May 1899 - 1946) came to Union Baptist Church from the Blount Street Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina. Rev. Love was a practical gospel preacher and had the longest pastorate in our history. He retired in 1946 and became Pastor Emeritus.
The Reverend Deual C. Rice (from September 1946 - 1966) had served as pastor of the Bank Street Baptist Church of Norfolk, Virginia, and for four years he was a Chaplain in the United States Army. He earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in the Liberal Arts College now known as Rutgers University, and his Divinity Degree at Virginia Union University. Under Rev. Rice's leadership our church membership grew to about 900 and we continually added new organizations. He retired in 1966 after twenty years of service and his became the second longest pastorate in our history with the following accomplishments:
The Reverend William H. Gray, III (from 1966 - 1973). Reverend Gray, a graduate of Franklin and Marshall College and the Drew University Theological School, served at the First Baptist Church in Montclair as a student minister. Upon the untimely demise of his father, Rev. Gray was called to the pastorate of the Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia. Under his leadership at Union, he directed and implemented the following accomplishments:
The Reverend Elbert L. Maxwell (from 1973 -1983). He was a former associate minister at West Hunter Street Baptist Church, Atlanta Georgia, where the Rev. Dr. Ralph D. Abernathy was pastor. He also pastored churches in Georgia and southern New Jersey. The community ministry of Union expanded again under his leadership and he implemented the following accomplishments:
The Reverend W. Temple Richie, Jr. (from December 1984 - November 2001). He is a graduate of Virginia State College (now University) and Harvard Divinity School. He had pastored churches in Kentucky (Louisville and Paducah), Columbus, Ohio. Served as a US Air Force Chaplain and as Executive Director of the Carter G. Woodson Center, South Omaha, Nebraska. Under his tenure, various ministries were expanded and new ones were formed. Rev. Richie pastored at Union for seventeen years and under his leadership performed the following accomplishments:
The Reverend Dr. Walter L. Parrish, III (from March 1, 2003 - April 2010). He came to us as Interim Pastor on March 1, 2003. On May 21, 2003, he was voted in to be our eighth pastor. Rev. Parrish is a graduate of Morehouse College and Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He was a pastor in Brooklyn, New York before serving at the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board. He received an Honorary Doctorate degree from Virginia University, Lynchburg, Virginia for his work in making benefits available to historically Black Baptist denominations. Rev. Parrish is the General Secretary of the Progressive National Baptist Convention.