The History of
Union Grove Church of God of Prophecy
World War 1 was ending, and our nation was on the verge of the great depression.
Archie Parker was very ill. The doctor had diagnosed him as having tuberculosis, and he was not given very long to live. His sister, Diathuller Mitchell, lived near Red Bay, Alabama, and sent word that she had received the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. She had asked members of her church to visit his home and pray for his healing. Archie Parker’s wife, Mollie, not understanding healing or baptism, discouraged them from coming. However, her mother, Ollie Hopkins, had been praying for someone to come and preach on the miracles contained in the scriptures. So, Ollie Hopkins and Archie Parker, without Mollie’s knowledge, returned the message with a “yes, please come.” Bro. Joe Holley and Sis. Elizabeth White from Red Bay, Alabama, came to pray for Archie Parker. He was healed and lived for many more years.
They stayed and preached at Harvey Mitchell’s and Ollie Hopkin’s houses where several received the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. Sis. Hazel Mitchell remembers Sis. White dancing until her hair was released from its pins. Those around her thought that she was dying since they had never seen anything like this before. It was from this prayer meeting that a great revival broke out in the community. Many of the preachers that came over the next several months came by wagon, foot, or hitchhiked from the Red Bay area. Some of those pioneer ministers were: Richard Moxley (Pastor 1919-1922), Joe Holley, Frank Smidley, B.O. Funderburk (Pastor 1930-1934 & 1943-1944), Elmer Wigginton (Pastor 1934-1935), Henry Lucamnes, Bro. Hamilton, and E.C. Ryder.
Not long after, the church was organized in the home of Jimmy and Ollie Hopkins. Eight people joined the church that day: Eunice Franks, Bro. Lucas, Mittie Lofton Mitchell, Claude Loftin, Maud Powell, Troy Hopkins Prestage, Maude Moxley, and Richard Moxley. Bro. Richard Moxley was appointed as the first pastor (1919-1922). Sis. Eunice Franks was appointed the first Church Clerk, and Bro. Lucas was appointed the first Deacon. Having very little finances during this time, the congregation continued to meet in the Hopkins’ home.
These first eight members were baptized on Easter Sunday 1919 in a pond just up the road from the newly established church. Those who were there tell that every time the church met people were saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost. From miles around, people would come to see the “Holy Rollers.” Some were afraid to get too close for fear that the church members would throw powder on them which might cause them to writhe, speak in tongues, and act abnormally as they observed of the church members. A poisonous snake was brought for the saints to handle as was custom at that time. The man who brought the snake said if it bit them, it would kill them. Bro. Moxley, Bro. Parker, and Sis. Hazel Mitchell’s mother, Emma Loftin, handled it. Luckily, it never bit any of them. They handled live coals from the fireplace, and it did not burn them. When they were sick, they would call someone to come pray, and they would stay to pray until the person was healed.
At age 12, Hazel Mitchell contracted typhoid fever and was confined to bed for three months. During this time, she told her father that if he trusted the Lord, she would be healed. She further told him that if he brought in the doctor, she would die. In turn, he decided to trust God. A man who lived nearby told her father that if she did die, he would see to it that he would go to prison. God healed her, and when she went to church, two women were there with flowers to put on her grave because they had wrongly heard that she was dead. Sis. Mitchell lived a long life and eventually passed away in 2009 at the age of 92.
Across the road from the Hopkins’ house, a log cabin was erected to serve as the parsonage and the church. The Moxleys moved in, and the work continued to grow. In mid-1920, land located a few yards down the road was donated by the Parkers and a “rough-edged” plank building was erected.
In April of 1936, a tornado (the same tornado that killed over a thousand in Tupelo) severely damaged the building. Some of the members’ homes were also destroyed during the tornado. God blessed, and the church was repaired. For several years there was no parsonage. In the late forties, under the leadership of Clyde Nelson (1945-1947), a parsonage was built. This home stood where the walking track marker is today. During the pastorate of Bro. J.C. Woods (1953-1961), the church was remodeled and bricked in 1959. Through the years, additions and remodeling were completed on both parsonage and church. A major building program began under the leadership of Gene Douglas (1962-1966). From the “rough-edged” building, an addition of a 250-seat auditorium, 11 classroom education facility, library, and auditorium for children’s church was constructed in 1965. A kitchen and fellowship hall were also located in the basement.
During the pastorate of Bro. Andrew Cook (1975-1985), more land was purchased, and a playground was started. The playground consisted of swings, slides, see-saws, a swinging bridge, a tennis court, and a T-ball field. A pavilion for outside services was built and was located on the newly acquired land. This purchase also served to expand the cemetery.
Under the pastorate of Bro. Curtis Shelton (1985-1991), a new parsonage was built across the road from the old church and is located behind the present-day church.
During the pastorate of Bro. James Akins (1991-1998), the playground saw changes in memory of two of Union Grove's youth. A walking track was constructed in September 1993 and dedicated to the memory of Shelley Green. In 1994, the ball field was dedicated to the memory of Kevin Franks. The current church building, and its facilities began construction during Bro. Akins pastorate and were finished under the pastorate of Bro. Billy Adams (1998-2002). This includes a 400-seat auditorium, an 11-classroom education facility, a library, an auditorium for children’s church, two nurseries, a prayer chapel, administrative offices, a fully furnished industrial kitchen, a fellowship hall, an outdoor fry house, and a gymnasium. Also, during Bro. Billy Adams’ pastorate, Jan Littlejohn, daughter of Pid and Ophelia Harris, donated land in June 2001 to expand the cemetery further west.
During the pastorate of Bro. Ryan Napalo (2008-Present), the youth sanctuary and classroom were completed on the third floor. Also, during this time, the gym was completed, the church mortgage was paid off, Union Grove began online streaming its Sunday Services, three vans were purchased for bus ministry, and the pavilion/outdoor stage was remodeled.
In March 2019, the Memorial Pavilion was erected to celebrate 100 years in ministry at Union Grove. It was built in the northeast corner of the cemetery, near where the original church stood. Friends and members of Union grove purchased 213 engraved memorial bricks which were placed within the foundation. The 100th Homecoming/Memorial Service Celebration took place in May 2019 with all former pastors and/or their families invited.
God has richly blessed the Union Grove church, its members, and the community.
Written by Mary Green, Union Grove Church Historian
Edited by Terry Bland & Sybil Thompson