Our beautiful new sanctuary may have been dedicated on September 11, 1977, but it was baptized on September 12, 1979 by an unwelcome visitor named Frederic. The strong Category Three hurricane did extensive damage to the roof, and services were again held in the chapel until it was repaired.
The 1980s saw continued growth for Spring Hill. The church and the greater Baptist community benefited from Dr. Gunnells’ able leadership. He served as President of the Alabama Baptist Convention from 1979-1981, and in 1985 was elected Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The ‘80s brought noteworthy additions to our church staff as well. Newlywed Terry Richey came as Minister to Youth in February, 1983. He left Spring Hill in 1989, but thankfully saw the error of his ways and returned to us in August 1992. And in April of 1986, an extraordinarily talented 32-year-old named Randy Grim, the father of two adorable toddlers, joined our staff as Minister of Music. He quickly threw his energies and artistic vision into a fledgling production entitled This Is Christmas. 2010 will mark its 25th anniversary, and thanks to Randy’s unwavering dedication, tens of thousands of people have experienced in reverential beauty the true meaning of Christmas.
And still we grew. Much-needed classroom space was added when the Preschool Building was completed in 1987. We began a television ministry in 1994, capturing for posterity many memorable worship experiences and the occasional napping choir member. In August of that year, Nell Gulley retired after 21 years as Children’s Minister. Pat Lee, who had previously been on staff in other capacities, returned in 1998 and ably served in that critical position until January 2009.
In 1997, the Activities Center was completed and Bobby Butler joined our staff as Recreation Minister. This building was conceived not only as a facility for church members, but also as an important vehicle for outreach. That vision has been realized in countless ways over the years, but never more so that after Hurricane Katrina. For over a year after the storm, volunteers from all over the United States used our facility as a base as they ministered to people devastated by the storm.
In 1999, as we approached the end of the century, our church also saw the end of two extraordinary ministries. Dr. Gunnells retired after 27 years at Spring Hill Baptist Church; Tom Carter retired after 25. That fall we also welcomed our third minister in the church’s 50-year history. Terry Ellis was an eloquent 41-year-old Kentuckian with a pretty wife, two young children, a doctorate in New Testament Greek … and a Harley. The times, they were a’changin.
In addition to his obvious gifts as a teacher (he has authored a number of Sunday School commentaries for Lifeway that have been used thought the Southern Baptist Convention), Dr. Ellis had a passion for hands-on missions. He instituted yearly mission trips to Brazil and Mexico, among other destination. His efforts were enthusiastically embraced by the congregation, which in the last ten years has spent over $250,000 sending individuals on mission trips.
Our church continued its efforts to touch the local community as well. The astounding creativity of our membership was on full display when hundreds of church members participated in producing “Marketplace A. D.” in 2004 and 2007. This program allowed our children to experience the Bible in new and tangible ways.
Spring Hill Baptist Church has come a long way since that first gathering in Gwendolyn Condit’s living room. As we contemplate this anniversary, however, we cannot take these last 60 years for granted. It took hard work and faith to get us to this point. It will take more hard work and faith if we are to survive.
The only thing that can hold any church together is love; love for each other and love for God. It’s that love that compels us to put aside the countless things that divide us so we can focus on the one thing we have in common: our knowledge that the God of the Universe loves us, and that we are surrounded by a world that doesn’t know it.
The size and the look of Spring Hill Baptist Church may have changed considerably in the last 60 years, but her calling has not. Let us rededicate ourselves to letting the Good News of Christ shine from this hill and from our lives.