The 1960’s brought many changes to our country and to Spring Hill Baptist Church. Because of continuing growth, in November 1961 it became necessary to begin holding two morning services. This practice continued for 16 years until the new sanctuary was completed.
In the early 60’s, local Baptists felt the need for a Baptist college in this area. The Alabama Baptist Convention agreed to establish and support the school if the Mobile Baptist community could raise $1.5 million dollars toward the effort. There was great enthusiasm for the project among the local churches, and Spring Hill Baptist Church pledged $52,000 to the Mobile College Campaign. This amount was above regular tithes and offerings. The astounding commitment and generosity this gift represented is clear when you realize that the entire church budget the previous year had been $100,000.
From the beginning, Spring Hill was blessed with talented, dedicated staff members. A young man named Gilbert Lundy served as Minister of Education from 1962 until1968. He played an instrumental role in shepherding the next two campus building projects to successful completion. The combined Fellowship Hall and 2-story Education Building (currently the classroom building parallel to MacGregor) was completed in 1963; the 2-story Education Building (now known as the Library Building) in 1967.
Fifteen years of steady church growth and overcrowding prompted this new construction. In 1964, however, it was announced that one of the major employers in the area, Brookley Field, would close. The five-year phased closing had a devastating impact on the church as well as Mobile. Between 1964 and 1969, the church lost 450 members, including many strong lay leaders, as a direct result.
During the 60s and 70s, the church enjoyed many traditional Baptist activities intended to build a sense of unity and fellowship within the congregation and, most importantly, to deepen its knowledge and commitment to missions and evangelism. These included Dad & Lad Banquets, Baptist Men’s Day Dinners, Men’s Brotherhood, Youth-led revivals, GA Coronations, Training Union, and the much-anticipated annual Anniversary Dinner on the Grounds. A cherished tradition was born in 1972 when we published our first pictorial church directory.
As the 1970’s dawned, the war in Vietnam raged, and the conflict sadly touched the lives of many church families. Roger Breland, our Minister of Music and Youth, enjoyed much success with The Varsity, Spring Hill’s talented youth ensemble, including national television exposure during The America’s Junior Miss Pageant. In 1971 Breland felt lead of God “to organize a group similar to Varsity and to give full time to this type of evangelism.” His efforts were endorsed by the church, which gave him financial support and sound equipment. The award-winning group he formed was called Truth, and it ministered around the world for 30 years.
After 23 years of faithful service, Reverend Clapp left Spring Hill Baptist Church in April 1972 to serve Lakeside Baptist Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dr. Gene Keebler from Mobile College ably served as interim, and in December 1972, the church welcomed its second full time pastor – a visionary 39-year–old with a pretty wife and three young children. His name was Jerry Gunnells. Dr. Gunnells brought a strong sense of focus and energy to the job as well as a strong sense of fiscal responsibility. In 1973 he instituted our “All the Way in One Day” budget program, which the church followed for more than 25 years. In 1975, a great partnership was born when he was joined by a new Minister of Education named Tom Carter.