The history of Greater Union First Baptist Church is an amazing one, with the loftiest ideals of man accentuated by and predicated upon a deep spiritual understanding of the will and purposes of GOD, through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Tradition and records have provided us the information that the GUFBC was organized in the early 1880’s (http://docsouth.edu/church/negrochurch/dubois.html); however, the specific date is not clear. Over the years, the anniversary has been observed on a date between mid-November and early December. The first services were held in a frame wood building located on what is now known as Rich Avenue in DeLand, Florida (approximately where the Deland City Hall Annex is presently located), with its first Spiritual Pastoral Leader, the late Rev. A. J. Brown, and seventy- five members. This selection of town was commonly known as the Bermuda Bottom. The little church was called “Union” because at that time it was the only Christian organization for Black People in DeLand. Fourteen of the original seventy-five members have been identified through available written records and interviews of elders in the community. They were: Mrs. D. C. Hill, Mrs. E. Gilbert, Mrs. M. Littleton, Mr. Willie Robinson, Mr. James Taylor, Mr. Paul Dixon, Mrs. P. Garvin, Mrs. Maria Miller, Mrs. Dilley Dixon, Mrs. Rachel Jackson, Mrs. Della Martin, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Myrics, and Mrs. Judy Bryant.
Since 1880, Greater Union First Baptist has been blessed by the service of a long little of dedicated and successful ministers. Their names of office follows:
A. J. Brown- 1880-1885
W. B. Killix – 1885-1891
J. N. Stokes, Sr. 1891-1895
J. M. Trammell – 1895-1896
R. W. Washington – 1896-1899
James A. Davis – 1901-1907
W. M. Morgan – 1908-1910
W. C. Daniels – 1910-1911
J. B. Blake – 1912-1917
M. A. Trier – 1917-1922
F. D. James – 1922-1923
C. A. Pugh – 1923-1925
C. W. T. Barnes – 1925-1927
E. Jackson – 1927-1928
G. W. Carr – 1929-1929
C. A. Weaver – 1929-1937
G. T. Martin – 1939-1942
A. C. McQueen – 1943-1947
John Cole, Jr. – 1947
R. C. Curry – 1958-1960
C. S. Felder – 1961-1964
James A. Bing – 1964-1972
Allen Weaver, Jr. – 1973-1975
Young Glover – 1976-1977
W. T. Lockett – 1978-1980
Leslie B. Cusack – 1980-1985
Daniel Johnson – 1985-1986
Arthur G. Stuart. – 1987
Johnnie Horton – 1988
Kenneth E. Lee – 1990-1997
Troy A. Bradley – 1999-present
From the beginning of this great church, There have been fourteen “Pulpit Associates”, Rev. Nehemiah Starke, Sr., Minister Tyron Tyus, Minister Gerald Odom, and the Rev. Maxwell Johnson. Pulpit Associates who preceded the ones of the 2000 millennium were: The Rev. E. D. Cromody, Rev. Charles Roberts, Rev. John Robinson, Rev. Seth Gore, Rev. Mayo Staples, Rev. G. T. Barton, Rev. Harold Dixon, Sr., Rev. Gladstone Welch, Rev. Alvin Mosely, Rev. Albert W. Bowe, Rev. Herbert M. Martin, and the Rev. James Johnson.
The historical records of the church reflect that varied significant events occurred under the leadership of most of the ministers. During the leadership pastorate of Rev. Killix, the first revival was conducted, and the church became a member of the Florida State General Baptist Convention. Under Rev. J. N. Stokes., the lot where the present buildings stand was purchased. The first and only sanctuary was erected under the blessed leadership of Rev. J. M. Trammell. Pews were purchased, completion of the debts incurred were liquidated, and the mortgage burned under the leadership and direction of Rev. James A. Davis. Rev. G. W. Carr’s leadership was responsible for the installation of the Cornerstone on the outward southeast corner of the sanctuary. Under Rev. John W. Cole, the sanctuary was renovated. Four rooms were added to the west end of the building, a separate dining room was built, the the first electric organ was purchased, chimes were purchased and installed, a new piano was also purchased. The name “Grater” was added to the former name of “Union First Baptist”.
Accomplishments during the pastorate of Rev. C. S. Felder were a Pastoral Office and a screened-in- porch were added to the old parsonage, a barbecue pit was built to enhance youth activities, the Teenage Commission was organized (a part of the State Church School and B. T. U. Congress), a church school baseball team was also organized and was active for several years. Many members were added to the church by baptism and assertion.
After Rev. Felder’s tenure, Rev. James A. Bing was the successor. Many spiritual and physical improvements were achieved. The exterior of the sanctuary was painted regular to maintain its stately appearance. The retaining wall bordering the east side of the church property was rebuilt. A sidewalk was installed and the parking area paved. The interior of the sanctuary was completely renovated. New pulpit furniture was purchased. Pew bibles, hymnals, offertory baskets, pew racks, book shelves, and chairs were donated and purchased. Draperies were installed in the Baptistery. A new organ with chimes was purchased for the sanctuary.
A church office and Pastors’ Study were created and furnished. A new parsonage was built in 1969. The debt was paid and the mortgage was burned in 1970. More important than all other accomplishments, many youth and adults were claimed or reclaimed for the Lord. The Church’s membership grew immensely. The minister’s family grew as well. The Reverend and Mrs. Bing were blessed with a precious little baby daughter, Je’nah Louise Bing.
On July 8, 1973, a new twist in the ministry of the Greater Union took shape under the leadership of another young minister, Rev. Allen Weaver, Jr. The spiritual life of Greater Union grew more intense under his tutelage. Under Divine Guidance, he watered the seed that the young Rev. James Bing planted and God gave the increase. It was not at all unusual or odd to see him call the tiny tots down front and tell them a bible story with a lesson for their everyday nourishment throughout the week. Because of his sincere concern for the very young, youth, and equal zeal for the elderly, his powerful prayers changed the entire climate of Greater Union in becoming a more Spirited-filled fellowship. Both, Rev. Bing and Weaver refused to take credit for all that was accomplished under their leadership. They said that what was done happened because of the cooperation of the “Flock” and the movement of the Holy Spirit spreading joy within and without; nevertheless, many new changes were evident in Greater Union First Baptist Church. Listed are some of the physical accomplishments achieved under Rev. Weaver’s ministry: 1). Air conditioning of the sanctuary and parsonage 2). Painting the exterior and interior of the sanctuary – 3). New pews with cushioned backs and seats were purchased and installed 4). An improved and upgraded pastor’s study and the church’s office with new office furniture and equipment 5). Employed two new staff members (a secretary and a and a sexton) 6). Instituted a new workable financial system 7). Organized a first class nursery room for tiny tots 8). Ordained five men to the Deacon’s Ministry, namely, The late Deacon Homer Williams, the late Deacon Earnest Wright , the late Deacon Henry Robinson, Deacon Samuel N. Price, and Deacon James E. Cusack – 9). Organized the Union Inspirational Choir with the late Mrs. Elizabeth Harris as Directress and Pianists, 10). Established and organized a functional Christian Education Board with Ms. Edith Shannon as President, 10). Just before his tenure ended, he and Mrs. Weaver were blessed with their first child, a baby boy who was named in his honor.
The Holy Spirit continued to move swiftly and smoothly within the congregation through the leadership of Rev. Young Glover. He watered the seed that was conceived and planted by Rev. Weaver for the existing Education Building with Deacon Samuel N. Price, and his son Darrell drafting the architecture design and plans for the building. The late Mr. A. D. Corley was the general contractor. Under Rev. Glover’s leadership the following four young men the church became ordained Deacons; William DeShazier, Clarence Davenport, Charlie Jenkins, and the late Deacon Julian Robinson. Rev. Young Glover terminated his tenure a few months prior to the completion of the Educational Building. He was a great, humble family man, as well as a strong Spiritual Leader.
The future of Greater Union is more secure today, not because of the men God has provided as leaders, but because of the indwelling Holy Spirit within each of its members that have bonded with the sweet Holy Spirit of the ones who were called and chosen to serve this united body as Pastors and leaders. Rev. W. T. Lockett took over the helm at this point in time. he was a strong advocate giving and sharing with everyone without ever expecting to receive any compensation for cost of material or preparation, in other words, no sales of consumable goods to support the church’s ministries. The Educational Building was renamed under his reign in memory of the late Deacon Charles A. Cusack, Sr. The new name is the Charles A. Cusack Educational Building. Another highlight of Rev. Lockett’s ministry was when Brother Lastly B. Cusack accepted the call and the challenge to preach the Gospel. The Lockett’s were also blessed with a newborn baby girl a few months before leaving to seek a higher calling in Atlanta, GA.
God has given and continues to give us the strength to stay aloft Rev. Lestly B. Cusack, a home grown son, was prayerfully elected to continue leading the membership in establishing a greater personal relationship with God. His leadership reflected his environmental interest in improving the aesthetic beauty of the physical plant. Thus, the Lestly B. Cusack Guild was formed and the sanctuary was completely covered with white vinyl aluminum siding. Brothers Charles Williams, Charles Cusack, Jr., and Grady Jackson became Ordained Deacons under his reign as Pastor. A new outside lighted bulletin board was also erected.
Rev. Daniel Johnson succeeded Rev. Cusack. He initiated a new day of celebration in gaining a closer personal relationship with God. Thus, RACE RELATIONS AND PROFESSIONAL DAY arose. The Adult Choir No. 2 (which was renamed the Sanctuary Choir) was reactivated and a children’s Sunshine Band Choir was organized.
Rev. Kenneth E. Lee continued to build on the physical and spiritual foundation that he inherited. Shortly after becoming Pastor, the church was Incorporated under Chapter 617, Laws of the State of Florida. All boards and auxiliaries became ministries. The Bus Ministry and the Nurses’ Guild Ministry were added to the standing list of ministries, formally known as auxiliaries. The interior of the sanctuary was redecorated with new windows, carpet, and refurbished pews. Many members were added coupled with the ordination of seven new Deacons, namely, R. J. Jenkins, Gerald Odom, Willie D. Miles, Darrell M. Price, Conrad Reid, Tyrone Tyus, and Lavon Williams.
Our current pastor, Rev. Troy A. Bradley, has led us through to the new millennium with the proper tools necessary to climb those magnificent mountains to spiritual maturity. As stressed in his theme, “COMING TOGETHER IN UNITY AND LOVE,” the tools are: Go to God in prayer Daily (John 15:7). Read God’s Word daily (Acts 17:11), Obey God, moment by moment (John 14:21), Witness for Christ by your life and your words (Matthew 4:19), Trust God for every detail of your life (1 Peter 5:7), Holy Spirit – Allow God to control and empower your life (Galatians 5:17-17; Acts 1:8).
As of this day, Greater Union First Baptist Church is more determined that the direction of its life will be focused toward Jesus Christ – not away from Him. Members are smiling and reaching out to others more in varied ways that reflect love and unity. Brothers Keith Smith, Reginald Odom, Willie Clark, and many other young men of the Lay and Trustee Ministry have harmoniously led the way by using their natural talents to remodel the kitchen and perform other tasks that are identified.
From November of 2000 to November of 2005, Rev. Troy A. Bradley, Sr. has continued to lead Greater Union First Baptist Church with God being his pilot and he, the co-pilot, to greater heights. Under the divine leadership of Rev. Bradley’s preaching and teaching, the church has grown spiritually and physically. There has been an enormous increase in membership as well as an increase in worship participation which includes: Ministerial Staff, Deacons, Deaconesses, Trustees, Youth, Adults, and Young Adults.
Listed are the noted accomplishments under this distinguished Pastor’s leadership for the past five years:
With undaunted faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior, we have come this far by faith into the 21st century, and we are determined to answer God’s call to serve the present age as we continue to move forward in this century with prayer, faith, and greater love for each other as we strive to win others to live for Christ Jesus.