of Our Church

Humble Beginnings

UNION BAPTIST CHURCH stands today as an example of just how good God is and how a people, endowed with solid faith in God and His Word cannot only survive; but grow to be one of this city's, state's and nation's leading congregations in spreading the Gospel and in Mission Outreach.  During her pilgrimage through these years, Union has been a pioneer and leader in many areas of ministry.  Union has been a passageway for many Aftican-Americans who migrated from the south to New York City.  From the early 1900s through the 1950s a majority of these persons passed through Union Baptist Church.



 Historical Overview


UNION BAPTIST CHURCH stands today as an example of just how good God is and how a people, endowed with solid faith in God and His Word can not only survive; but grow to be one of this city’s, state’s and nation’s leading congregations in spreading the Gospel and in Mission Outreach. During her pilgrimage through these years, UNION has been a pioneer and leader in many areas of ministry. UNION has been a passageway for many African-Americans who migrated from the south to New York City. From the early 1900s through the ‘50s a majority of these persons passed through UNION BAPTIST CHURCH.

UNION BAPTIST CHURCH was organized by a great leader and visionary, Dr. George H. Sims, Sr. As a young man of 27, George Henry Sims had a dream in which God gave him the key to a church and directed him to unlock the door. When he awoke, he decided to act on that vision. He packed up his bags in Nyack, NY and moved back to New York City, where he had received his first religious training. It was here that he resolved to re-organize and begin the new UNION BAPTIST CHURCH, which he did, with only nine members and a few dollars. The old UNION BAPTIST CHURCH had dissolved. The new UNION, located on 63rd Street, was born November 6, 1898.

THE UNION BAPTIST CHURCH began on the eve of the twentieth century and now it has become a bridge to the twenty-first century. Rev. Sims was criticized by many for organizing and locating the church in what was considered the most wicked section of New York City - “Hell’s Kitchen.”  Men gambled in the street and there was fighting and prostitution everywhere. Friends laughed at the idea of building a church in this modern Sodom, but they did not know Rev. Sims. Instead of calling the officers of the law, Rev. Sims organized the “Crap-Shooters Association.” For years, he gave boat rides for thousands of the outlaws. He made friends with the noisy, boisterous people who roamed the community. He won them.

He overcame the assumption that Negroes could not make investments, build, and manage an institution. The plan moved forward, and the new building was constructed and dedicated in July 1901. Rev. Dr. G.H. Sims erected two church buildings before moving to 145th Street in Harlem. During his term, the church laid cornerstones for four buildings: July 1901, September 1905, June 1927 and August 1948.

Pastor Sims emerged as a great racial figure in the days of the bloody riots on San Juan Hill, located between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues from 60th to 65th Streets - the site is now occupied by the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

In 1926, the UNION BAPTIST CHURCH moved to 240-52 West 145th Street, our present location.  Due to population shifts. Harlem had become the central residential area for Blacks migrating from other districts, various states and other countries. Our present facilities, originally built for a theater, seated 1,000 people, with space for seven stores. The auditorium was renovated for church use.  The first renovation at this location took place in 1927.  A more extensive renovation was done at a cost of approximately $143,000.00 and was dedicated in 1948. The church was again renovated after a fire in 1971.  Our last Building Renovation Project, under the leadership of Dr. Ollie B. Wells, Sr., began in August 1988 and was completed in April 1990, at a cost of $3,500,000.00.

Pastor Sims was awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity in June 1905, from Guadalupe College in Sequino, Texas. He was elected President of the NY State Baptist Convention in 1912 - an office he held for 36 years. He also received many awards and recognitions: and held many offices, set on numerous boards and served many organizations locally and nationally.

Various governors honored Reverend Dr. George H. Sims with appointments: Governor William Sultzer, Governor Glenn, Governor Whitman and Governor Thomas E. Dewey.

In 1955, at the age of 84 years, “Doc Sims” was called from labor to reward. The Christian Community lost a courageous, creative, compassionate and charismatic champion.  Union’s rich past has been due to her being blessed with great pastoral leadership, staring with our organizer, Dr. George H. Sims, Sr., and continuing with all of his successors.

REV. GEORGE SIMS, JR., seemed destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. After graduating from Virginia Theological Seminary and College in Lynchburg, Virginia, he answered the call to preach.  George, Jr. was ordained by the church in 1938.  Subsequently, he was elected to serve as Co-Pastor along with his father.

Rev. George Sims, Jr. was energetic and creative and was blessed with many organizational skills. As Co-Pastor, he revitalized the various auxiliaries of the church and interacted with them to develop and expand their leadership qualities. When his father passed, Rev. George Sims, Jr. became the pastor. He was a scholar and an excellent preacher.  Rev. George H. Sims, Jr. continued to pastor after the death of his father, but because of ill health, he was only able to continue as pastor until 1956.  He was called home in 1965.

Following the resignation of Reverend Sims, Jr., Reverend Raymond A. Bryant served as interim pastor until the next pastor was called.

REV. ALFRED ISAAC, a native of Orangeburg, SC and a Civil Rights Activist who had worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., became the next Pastor of Union in June 1957. He pastored until August 1958, when he was suddenly called home by the Lord. However, during this brief pastorate, God  blessed our church and congregation as he enabled us to set meaningful goals and revitalize our worship service.

REV. DR. CARL B. TAYLOR, served as our pastor from 1959 until 1962. One of the great blessings his pastorate brought to the church was his involvement and affect upon the youth of our church and the growth of our Youth Ministry. Rev. Taylor also laid out some great plans for restructuring our groups for ministering and Christian Education.

REV. DR. LEONARD E. TERRELL, a native of Mississippi, a former professor in the School of Religion at Virginia State College in Petersburg, VA, and former President of Storer College, pastored Union from April 1963 through 1973, when he retired. Rev. Terrell was a great educator, counselor, preacher, and pastor. He led Union to join the American Baptist Convention, USA., Inc., the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention and established a credit union.  Dr. Terrell also led the church through a renovation and restoration project following a fire in 1971. Under the pastorate of Rev. Dr. Ollie B. Wells, Sr., the church elected Rev. Dr. Leonard E. Terrell, Pastor Emeritus in 1978. Dr. Terrell was called from labor to reward in August 1988.

Our faithful and loving Rev. Raymond Bryant, who had served under every pastor of Union as Associate Minister and had served the church well in the interim between pastors, was called home from labor to reward in May 1979.

REV. DR. OLLIE B. WELLS, SR., a native of Richmond, Virginia was called as the pastor of Union Baptist Church in 1975. An active spiritual leader, Rev. Wells’ talents and services were extended to the community at large, where he served as an officer or member of numerous organizations. Rev. Wells produced “In the Sanctuary,” a Radio Outreach Ministry on W.W.R.L. 1600 AM radio. Under his leadership, Union completed a $3.5 million renovation project in April 1990. In an effort to reduce the building mortgage, he instituted the “Growing Together, Building in Faith” stewardship campaign. The goal was to raise $500,000 over a three year period. Under his leadership a Soup Kitchen was established, which continues to feed homeless and destitute people each week. Also, legal and social services were provided, free of charge to those in need. During his tenure as pastor he was responsible for the reorganization of the churches’ groups into ministries; instituting tithing as the Biblical basis of supporting the church, instituting a Women’s and Men’s Ministry, a Married Couples’ Ministry and setting up a Deacons’ Family Visitation Ministry.  Reverend Wells made history at Union Baptist Church in 1993 when eight women were ordained to the Deacons’ Ministry. Due to illness, Pastor Wells went on disability in June 2004. On Sunday, December 14, 2004, Reverend Wells preached for the first time since he went on disability. Following the service, he answered his final call and went home to be with the Lord.

While we were without a pastor following Rev. Wells’ death, Deacon Charles Cook - Chairman of the Deacons’ Ministry, was ably assisted by our Associate Ministers and all of the Officers and Members of Union Baptist Church. In addition, Rev. Dr. Betty A. Spencer and Rev. Claretha P. Moore both served the church well in the position of Executive Minister.

On December 15, 2007 the call to pastor the UNION BAPTIST CHURCH was extended to REV. ANTONIO DARNELL ANDERSON .   He graciously accepted, and took the pulpit on December 16, 2007.  On Sunday, April 27, 2008 we joyfully installed the REV. ANTONIO DARNELL ANDERSON of Philadelphia, PA as our 7th Pastor.  Rev. Anderson sought to uphold the “Spirit of Excellence” that Union has maintained here in the village of Harlem. In addition to the aforementioned ministries under former pastoral leadership, he has brought a new light and energy.  In continuing to cultivate the creativity here at Union a formal Drama ministry has been formed, a 20/30 ministry has been started, a Young Adult Choir has been reinstituted, a Transportation ministry has been formed for persons who require assistance getting to and from Church and to assist our parents and children, Rev. Anderson also reinstituted the nursery.  Upon his arrival, Rev. Anderson assisted in the remodeling of the Pastor’s suite and spearheaded the Chapel Renovation project.  Rev. Anderson served as our Pastor until December 2012.

On Sunday, October 15, 2017 the Union Baptist Church Family was blessed to install the REV. BRIAN D. SCOTT of Houston, TX as our 8th Pastor.  In the short time that Reverend Scott has been here, he has shown himself to be “…A man after God’s own heart…..”    He has faithfully involved himself in the day to day life of the church.  Recognizing that as Disciples of Christ, we are instructed to “Study to shew ourselves approved unto God, workers that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” Reverend Scott has diligently taught and preached the Word of God week after week.  He has also readily provided pastoral care to the congregation and the neighborhood. Rev. Scott has already led us in two Churchwide Fasts and two periods during which we had 6:00 am Prayer Services on Wednesdays.

On those occasions when we were without a pastor, Deacon Charles Cook - Chairman of the Deacons’ Ministry, was assisted by our Executive Minister – Rev. Claretha P. Moore, our Associate Ministers and all of the Officers and Members of our Church Family.  During these periods of transition the Lord continued to bless us as a Church Family.

                                   Our pastors and their sons and daughters in the ministry are:

                                                        Dr. George H. Sims, Sr.

Rev. George H. Sims, Jr.                Rev. Lloyd Springer             Rev. James R. Moore

Rev. Isham Fleming                        Rev. John J. Sass                       Rev. Alester Skinner                   

Rev. Oliver J. Brooks                      Rev. Epsor                                 Rev. Daniel

Rev. Abraham Brown                     Rev. Luther Borden                   Rev. Pendarvis

Rev. George Daniels                       Rev. Houston Crutchfield          Rev. Alexander Trent        

Rev. James Hairston                       Rev. Walter S. Penn                   Rev. J.B. Crocker

Rev. Jackson Jones                         Rev. Randolph Higginson          Rev. Giles Hairston

Rev. John Joseph


Reverend Leonard E. Terrell

Rev. Curtis L. Whitney                                                                              Rev. Albert J. Holman


Reverend Dr. Ollie B. Wells, Sr.

                      Rev. Raymond Wilson                        Rev. Dr. Suzan D. Johnson-Cook 

                     Rev. Louis C. Williams                       Rev. Bobbie McDaniel

                     Rev. Charles Eatman                           Rev. Dorothy Williams

                     Rev. Claretha P. Moore


Reverend Antonio D. Anderson

Minister Keynon Jackson


Reverend Brian D. Scott

Minister Isaiah Hayes


Union has always been very involved in Missions. In 1922, Emma Butler and Rebecca Brice, both members of Union Baptist, were friends. Rebecca was the head of the Missions Society in Union and Emma was a missionary in Liberia. One of Emma’s students was a beautiful little girl, Sundee. Sundee had been born in Arthington, Liberia and was a member of the Gola tribe. Emma and Sundee’s paths crossed at the Suehn Mission. With the support of Union, Emma Butler eventually adopted Sundee and sent her to the United States. Once in America, Sundee completed her education and eventually became an active missionary, following in her adopted mother’s footsteps. After marrying Rev. Rufus Prunty in 1961, Rev, and Mrs. Prunty returned to the missions field in Liberia to give back a portion of what had been given to them. After going back and forth between Liberia and the United States, because of the Liberian civil war that began in 1988, the Pruntys returned to New York and the Union Baptist Church. Mrs. Sundee Prunty was called from labor to reward in November 2016, while Rev. Rufus Prunty was called from labor to reward in April 1998.

Union Baptist Church has always enjoyed a wonderful fellowship with our sister churches in the community and all over the state of New York.  Our church has always been blessed with outstanding leadership since its organization 120 years ago and we are certain that God in His infinite wisdom has guided and will continue to guide our leaders’ footsteps to not only continue in that direction, but also to make us, “One In the Spirit, Seeking a More Excellent Way.”







To Know Christ

And Make

Him Known