The Unity Missionary Baptist Church in McNair celebrated its 53rd anniversary on Sunday, Sept. 22. However the actual anniversary date is Sept. 25. Unity Church is located at 2625 Broad Street in McNair and its current Pastor is Rev. Dr. Jermarion Williams.
Those who participated in the program were Sister Deena Taylor – Mistress of the Hour, Welcome – Gabe Ecby, Pulpit Prayer – Appointee, Opening Song and Musical Selections – Voices of Praise, Short Talk – Sister Tori Cole, Introduction of Speaker – Pastor Jermarion Williams, Guest Speaker – Pastor Randy Brigham – Bethany Baptist Church – Houston and Remarks – Pastor J. Williams.
On a sunny, brisk cold day on Sept. 25, 1966 at a small white wood frame (empty) church on Wade Road, 35 people seeking the services of a pastor assembled themselves together and called Reverend Henry Thomas Sr. to meet with them. Later, a wee worshipper named this meeting place, “the church in the grass.”
On that special day, having been elected as pastor, Rev. Henry Thomas Sr. immediately named the church and those assembled in the new congregation, “Unity Missionary Baptist Church.”
This “little church in the grass” was moved to a new site on Godfrey Street in McNair. Since that time, marvelous events pertaining to Unity Missionary Baptist Church have continued to occur and in 1997, the Unity congregation was blessed by God to purchase the former Harlem Elementary School property with plans to erect a new edifice in its current location at 2625 Broad Street in McNair. The Unity congregation entered the new edifice in the summer of 1998 with a parade from the old church site on Godfrey Street to the new location on Broad Street.
It is important to note that “Unity” was founded and conceived in prayer. Five Christians searching for a pastor prayed together on one accord at noon for a week. The prayers of the late Sister’s, Lelia Durio, Emma “Mama” Wilson, Lessie Oliver, Isabella Lewis and late Brother Abram Lewis, were heard and answered by Almighty God. The prayer warriors remained both loyal and loving toward “Unity” from its inception until they went to receive their heavenly rewards.
There were 33 founders of Unity - Founding Pastor – Rev. Henry Thomas Sr. and First Lady Dr. Helen J. Thomas, Sister Sadie M. Bryant, Brother George J. Bryant, Sister’s Celestine Cain, Erma Castle, Rosie Chambers, Brother Leonard Chambers, Minister Cheryl Bryant Cole, Sister Lela Durio, Delaware P. Keys (Chairman), Deaconess Bertha Keys (Chairman), Sister Geraldine Lavigne, Deacon Abram Lewis, Deaconess Isabella Lewis, Sister’s Mary Lewis, Dorethea Neal, Lessie Oliver, Brother’s Jerry Pinchback, Alvin Simms, Sister’s Delores Slaughter, Laura Wallace, Minthiola Warren, Brother Jessie Williams, Sister Mae Gloria Williams, Deaconess Bonnie Wilson, Sister Mahala Pauldo, Brother Robert Pauldo, Rev. Lincton Wilson, Sister’s Bernice Wilson, Emma (Mama) Wilson, Deaconess Emily J. Wilson Johnson, Deacon Peter Wilson, and Brother Willis (POP) Wilson.
The history of Unity reveals that the foundation and founders were built on the solid rock of Jesus and therefore its Christian legacy and principles have withstood the test of time. History reveals that Unity has the characteristics of a hospital (for the sin-sick/lost soul), a refuge or shelter from the storms of life, a school for spiritual growth and education, an energizer for the spirit, a sanctuary for healing and deliverance, a house of prayer, a family-oriented congregation, and a lighthouse of love. Unity has been, through the years, and remains today a place “where everybody is somebody”, a place to consummate love, pay their final respects to their departed love ones, but first and most of all, a place to glorify God, to sing praises of worship to the Lord, and to receive the gospel of the kingdom - against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. Yes, they have come this far by faith, leaning on Christ everlasting arm, trusting in his Holy Word, and Christ has never failed them!
Every member of Unity is “somebody in the Body of Christ.” There are those servants who are forever etched in the memory of Unity, because of their faithfulness and tireless labor to build this ministry… first and foremost, their founding pastor of 49 years and Pastor Emeritus, the late great Dr. Henry Thomas Sr., their beloved founder and original First Lady – the late Dr. Helen J. Thomas.
Rev. Dr. Henry Thomas Sr. retired June 30, 2015 and celebrated his 49th Pastoral Anniversary on Sunday, June 7, 2015. He celebrated his 90th birthday at UMBC on Sunday, March 6, 2016. Rev. Dr. Henry Thomas, Sr. passed away on Sunday, March 19, 2017. His funeral was held March 25, 2017 at UMBC in McNair.
God again blessed Unity with new leadership, the beloved Pastor and leader – Rev. Dr. Jermarion Williams, and First Lady Tamara Williams. Rev. Williams became Pastor of Unity on June 26, 2016 and was installed on Sunday, January 22, 2017. Unity celebrated its 50th Church Anniversary on Sept. 25, 2016, the very date of the church 50th anniversary.
Unity recognizes those who have served the church until death in leadership roles - Brother Dell P. Keyes (chairman of the first deacon board), Brother’s Houston Lewis, Abram Lewis, Peter Wilson, Shade Jefferson, Sr., Oliver Alfred, and Jerry Pinchback, all who served on Unity’s first deacon and/or trustee board until their demise. They recognize Brother Lawrence Davis, Brother Frankie Frank, Brother Levine Fontenot, Brother Michael Cole, Brother Daniel Earl, Brother Albert Henley, Brother Freddie Davis, Brother Rubin White, Jr., and newer deacons, Brother Clarence (Chopper) Fontenot and Brother Roderick Nelson – some of who have faithfully served on the deacon board for many years, and all who are currently serving today. Church members cannot forget the great women of Unity- Sister Leslie Oliver, Sister Bertha Keyes, Sister Lela Durio, Sister Isabella Lewis, Sister Emma Wilson, Sister Mary Lewis, Sister Mahalia Paldo, Sister Thelma Paldo, Sister Erma Castle, Sister Rosie Chambers, Sister Mary Fontenot, Sister Fannie P. Lawrence, Sister Minthiola Warren, Sister Celestine Cain, Sister Dorethea Neal, Sister Mae Gloria Williams, Sister Bonnie Wilson, Sister Castavia White, Sister Georgia Bradford, and Sister Omega Carr – sisters who all served in leadership roles as Deaconesses, Nurses, Missionaries, and Choir members. Unity recognizes the contributions of the late Sister Sadie Bryant who serve in many roles, including Church Secretary, Sunday School Superintendent and Program Chairman until her demise. They acknowledge those who have continued Sister Bryant’s legacy of service at Unity: Minister Cheryl Cole (founder) and Sister Natasha Greene as program chairman; Sister Virginia Hubbard and Sister Joyce Fontenot as church secretaries; and Sister Dovie Williams, Sunday School Superintendent. They recognize the faithful service of Sister Jackie White as the Church Clerk over many years, all of the current deaconesses, mission I and II sisters who serve tirelessly through each year.
They dare not forget Rev. Artis Hodge, who served as minister of music and associate minister until his demise, Rev. Milton Hollis who also served faithfully for many years and their current musicians - Minister of Music, Brother Freddie Gillum and Brother Sherman Jones and L J Fontenot as drummers. They salute the Late Brother Jessie Williams who served as Choir President and Sunday School Superintendent until his demise. They acknowledge Sister Bonnie Wilson, a Unity founder as the first President of the choir, as one who is still bellowing out songs to uplift the souls at Unity, along with Sister Mae Gloria Williams, Sister Georgia Bradford, Brother Daniel Earle, Sister Dovie Williams, and current Choir President, Sister Joyce Terrell – all who have served as choir presidents over the years.
Let us also pay tribute to Rev. Lincton Wilson, another founder of Unity, who started his ministry here at Unity, and delivers the Word of God faithfully to all who will listen along with the other associate ministers of Unity – Minister’s Cheryl Cole, Minister Jerry Nisby, Minister Chester Rescano, Minister David Andrew, Minister Sandra Harris, Minister Brandie Richard, Minister Edless Vance, Jr. and Minister Winston (Boo) Gonzales.
They pay tribute to Brother’s Willis (Pop) Wilson, Robert Pauldo, William (Son) Castle, Alfred (Man) Lewis, Edgar (Shorty) Thomas, Sr., Eddie (Jr.) Castle, the late Bay Alfred, and late Rubin White, Sr., brothers who all served on the Usher Board at Unity until their demise. To their ranks they honor the late Sister Castavia White, Sister Della Narcisse and all of their current Usher Board members who have served and are still serving Unity over the years as Ushers and Nurses. All of these ushers have stood the test of time in serving Unity faithfully.
They pause to acknowledge the matrons over the years at Unity who have worked to continue the legacy of children who have been “trained up in the way that they should go” – among them are Sister Joyce Terrell, Sister Gloria Henderson, Sister Shameka Nelson, Sister Jackie White, Sister Joyce Fontenot, Sister Tangee Fontenot, Sister Dovie Williams, Sister Natasha Henley, Sister Sharon Andrew, Sister Cheryl Cole, Sister Brandie Richards, Sister Meyaconnie Williams, Sister Natasha Greene, Sister Marsha Taylor, Sister Dominique Fontenot, Sister J’merle Pierre, Sister Shameka Nelson and Sister Tori Cole. Not all of these members were founders, but they all served God as if there were!
Let us now pay tribute to all of those that started years ago or yesterday, whether young or old that worked or is working tirelessly for the kingdom in this ministry of spreading the Good News – to God be the Glory for the spirit of Unity!
Every auxiliary head or staff member has served Unity with innovative, creative, talented, and anointed leadership that has made each organization cohesive, functional and progressive. It is no wonder that by God’s grace, they have become a lasting pillar of truth and encouragement in the Baytown-McNair community. It is especially inspiring that many of the youngsters who were here at the inception of Unity are now adults and are still active members along with their families, continuing the tradition of Unity under the same teachings, guidance, and pastoral leadership that has spanned fifty-three glorious years. Unity Missionary Baptist Church continues to grow in this new millennium, and that growth is rooted and grounded in the Lord Jesus Christ, because this is HIS House and he continues to give the increase!
When many of the members of this church have gone on into eternal rest, Unity will continue to be a hospital for the sin-sick soul, a refuge and shelter for the lost and needy, a place to renew the spirit, a sanctuary of prayer, and a praise and worship center for years to come. This church history proves God is faithful… from its humble beginnings as the “church in the grass”, to a growing Unity at the Godfrey Street site, to their wonderful present site on Broad Street in McNair. God has been good to Unity and they can’t help, but to praise him for his Goodness, His Mercy, His Grace, which has sustained this church for fifty-three years! Yes, they have truly come this far by FAITH and Faith will lead them on into eternity!
Anticipation and excitement about what God is doing at Unity has been and will always be a part of their legacy. For the posterity of Unity’s congregations - the joy, the love, the knowledge of God’s word, and the truth of the Gospel has been Unity’s destiny. Throughout the events of the past, their original leader, Rev. Dr. Henry Thomas, Sr. - pastor, was their leader at Unity for forty-nine years. Their auxiliaries have grown through the years into this list: Deacon Board, Ministers’ Wives and Deaconnesses, Brotherhood, Ushers and Nurses, Voices of Praise Choir, Youth Choir, Women’s Conference Choir, Men’s Chorus, Mission I and Mission II, Bible Band, Sunday School, The Program Committee, Essence of Praise Dance Team, Youth Drill Team, Media Ministry Team; Adult, Young Adult and Youth Bible Study Classes, and Children’s Church on Sunday mornings. As they reflect in their minds today, many events have occurred through the years, storms came, the winds blew, and the water rose, but all of that could not prevail against them, as they stand today by the Grace of God to say, “Unity is alive and well in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They are still about the Kingdom’s business of spreading the Gospel to a dying world, compelling men, women, and children to come to Christ, while the blood is still running warm in their veins. And if you are listening today, and do not know Jesus as your personal Savior, It’s not too late. They at Unity Missionary Baptist Church invite you to “Come to Jesus, while you have a chance”. They have been extending this call for fifty-three years, and they’re not tired yet. For they are confident, that he that began a good work in us will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ according to Phillipians 1:6.
J. Warren Singleton is a local historian and Baytown resident.