Ruhama Baptist Church

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Ruhama Baptist Church, August 27, 1954

Ruhama Baptist Church (pronounced "ru-HAY-ma") was a Southern Baptist church located at 7901 2nd Avenue South in East Lake. Ruhama was the second Baptist church in Jefferson County, after Canaan Baptist Church in Jonesboro, and the oldest church in what was later surrounded by the city limits of Birmingham.

Ruhama was organized with Hosea Holcombe as pastor, on March 27, 1819, in a log cabin located where Division Avenue is crossed by 77th Street. It was named for the daughter of the prophet Hosea, translated as "mercy and compassion."

In 1834 a schism occurred in the congregation and a rival Primitive Baptist church was formed. This congregation, however, disbanded in 1840.

The nearby East Lake Cemetery was established in 1836. The church constructed a second, larger, building with a steeple in 1858. In 1869, the church agreed to the request of its formerly enslaved members to dismiss them to form Mt Zion Negro Baptist Church. There were 35 persons on the roles of Ruhama who left to form this church. This was the first congregation started by Ruhama.

In 1886 the congregation resolved to build a new Carpenter Gothic church at 7720 2nd Avenue South. The Ruhama Academy school , across the street, was redeveloped in 1887 as the new campus for Howard College, which moved from Marion, Perry County.

Also in 1886, the church assisted in organizing Woodlawn Baptist Church and dismissed members to start this church.

Ruhama dedicated a new sanctuary at 7901 2nd Avenue South under pastor J. C. Stivender on September 5, 1926. It was designed by William Leslie Welton. Ruhama's members included a number of faculty members and students from the college. Commencement ceremonies for Howard were held in the Ruhama sanctuary, and the church provided a stabilizing force for the college throughout its time in East Lake. The relationship between the two institutions changed when Howard College moved to its current campus on Lakeshore Drive in Homewood.

In the latter part of the 20th century, membership dwindled in the congregation from about 3000 in the 1970s. In April 2001, the congregation voted to merge with First Baptist Irondale. The final service was held in the church building on December 2.

Ruhama's "sister church", Greater Emmanuel Temple Holiness Church took over the East Lake campus under a lease-purchase plan. The congregation planned to establish a school with adult education classes, a crisis center, and a senior citizens home in the area.

Ruhama Baptist Church's records are housed in the Special Collections Department of the Samford University Library.



See also