Our Church History

The history and heritage of United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church goes back to the late 1800s and is rich with examples of dedicated Christians seeking to grow in their faith and lead others into the knowledge and service of the Lord.


Our story is one of two congregations – West End Baptist Church and First Institutional Baptist Church – with solid strengths that would have allowed each to continue growing on its own. Yet, both churches recognized the greater good that could be achieved by uniting as a larger and stronger combined congregation. We continue to reflect and celebrate their willingness to put God’s will first in their decision to merge.

West End Baptist Church

West End Baptist Church. In 1892, there was only one Baptist church that African Americans could

attend comfortably and conveniently in the town of Winston (now Winston-Salem). Its location in the eastern part of the city was too far away for many families living in other neighborhoods, including the city’s West End area. The Reverend P.H.D. Gore provided a remedy by organizing a Sunday school class that met in his home. As the class progressed and the membership outgrew the meeting space, a decision was made to organize and established a church.


The church moved to a location on Brookstown Avenue around 1895 and continued to prosper. Under the leadership of several ministers, it outgrew its Brookstown Avenue location and moved to a site on Burke Street. The scope of its ministry also expanded and became stronger over the years as a series of illustrious leaders provided guidance. Among them are Reverend Joshua Perry, Reverend Joseph Lewis, Reverend Atkins, Reverend Gradshaw, Reverend Williston, Reverend J.W. Jones, Reverend H. M. Ellis, Reverend C. W. T. Barnes, and Reverend J. J. Scarlett.


In January 1945, Reverend C. W. Ward became pastor of West End and served until 1951. During his pastorate, a pipe organ and stained glass windows were added, and a new parsonage was purchased. Reverend Ward was an excellent organizer of young people, forming a junior choir and several other organizations for youth.


Reverend K.R. Williams (1951-1962) continued the record of strong leadership, enhancing the church facility with the addition of new pews and pulpit furniture, the purchase of a piano and Hammond organ, and the installation of a modern heating plant. The Young Women’s Progressive Club was one of the several organizations formed during his 11 years of providing a dynamic ministry.


Reverend F. D. Terry became pastor of West End in 1963. During his very active two-year ministry,

the church membership increased significantly, a new parsonage was purchased along with other property,

a young adult choir was organized, and a monthly newsletter was published.


Following the resignation of Reverend Terry in March 1965, plans were laid for the possible merger of West End and First Institutional Baptist Churches.

First Institutional Baptist Church

First Institutional Baptist Church. In 1924, an internal dispute arose among members of First Baptist Church in East Winston. A small prayer band began meeting in the home of the pastor, Rev. Edward Gholson. As the number of participants increased, the meeting was moved to Fourteenth Street School. In July 1924, a special meeting for the purpose of organizing a church was held at that location, and the First Institutional Baptist Church was born, with Reverend Gholson as its pastor.


Under his enthusiastic leadership, a church site on Twelve-and-One-Half Street was purchased at a cost of $20,800, of which $7,000 was raised during the first 30 days after organizing. The original building was a frame structure; however, in a short while the structure was enlarged, brick veneer was added, a parsonage was purchased and repaired, and the church continued to make progress. A bus was purchased, the six-point record system Sunday school was instituted, a top notch choir was organized, and the congregation showed consistent growth.


In January 1937, the pastorate of First Institutional was assumed by the Reverend Kenneth R. Williams (who later became pastor of West End). In accepting the pastorate, Reverend Williams inherited a huge debt. Through his effective leadership, the total debts of the church were consolidated into one, 33 members were added, and association and convention representation were obtained for the church. In 1938 a pipe organ was purchased.


During the next 27 years, First Institutional continued to grow under the leadership of a number of dynamic pastors who include the following: Reverend Logan Kearse, Reverend C. B. Byrd, Reverend Fulton O. Bradley, and Reverend R.L. Patterson.


Renovations were made to enhance the church facility, a baptismal pool was added, new office equipment was purchased, church revivals were held and a Baptist Training Union organized. The Reverend J. Donald Ballard became pastor in 1959 and within six years, the church added seventy-eight members and increased its budget from $9,000 to $16,500.

United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church

On August 15, 1965, a unanimous vote united the two congregations. West End Baptist Church (then 73 years old) and First Institutional Baptist Church (then 41 years old) merged their resources and their resolve, creating United Metropolitan Baptist Church. Reverend Ballard was retained as pastor of the newly formed church.


The name United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church is symbolic and historic. The word United was chosen because it recognized the merger of West End Baptist Church and First Institutional Baptist Church. The name Metropolitan denoted the church’s location near the heart of downtown Winston-Salem. The term Missionary was later added to reflect the character and spirit of the church.


On the second Sunday in June 1966, the congregation broke ground for a new church edifice and on June 9, 1968, the first service was held in the new building. An evangelistic campaign began immediately and over the next 30 years, the congregation grew significantly. In addition, many friends shared in fellowship, communion and support of the church.


United Metropolitan continues to be a work in progress, growing through enhanced facilities, programs, activities and, most importantly, in its ministries beyond the sanctuary and outreach for the Lord.

During the 1980s, a chapel and educational assembly space were added, providing much needed room to accommodate the church’s worship and educational needs until close to the end of the century. At that time, it was obvious that the church’s educational and outreach ministries had exceeded the existing structure. On the fourth Sunday in September 1999, Pastor Ballard and members broke ground for a multi-million-dollar renovation and expansion project, which they chose to refer to as Restoration. The term was selected not only to denote the positive change the project would bring to the church’s physical structure, but also to convey how the undertaking would affect the congregation spiritually. The faith, dedication and commitment of the church would be both challenged and restored. This project included new facilities for education, recreation, fellowship and parking. During the twenty-two-month construction period, services were held at the Sarah Y. Austin Head Start Center.


Special services such as weddings, funerals and baptisms were hosted by First Baptist Church of East Winston. This generous offering laid the foundation for a close connection between the two congregations that remains strong today. Also during construction, the congregation of First Baptist Church at Fifth and Spruce Streets showed its support and commitment to continuing the collaborative and cross-racial worship services that had begun five years prior to the restoration project.


On Sunday, July 22, 2001, the congregation joyfully participated in the Ribbon Cutting and the Initial Re-Entry Service for the expanded and enhanced church facility. A week of services was conducted to launch a yearlong celebration of the completion of the Restoration project.


While the physical structure of United Metropolitan has undergone numerous modifications over the years, the church has enjoyed the stability of having knowledgeable, progressive and visionary pastors at its helm. For more than 41 years, Dr. J. Donald Ballard provided exemplary spiritual guidance, pastoral leadership and exceptional preaching. His 2004 retirement and designation as Pastor Emeritus ushered in an era of new beginnings for United

Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church.


A search committee was assigned the formidable task of identifying a new pastor and on Sunday, May 15, 2005, the committee presented Reverend Prince Raney Rivers to the congregation. Following his sermon, the congregation elected Reverend Rivers as the second Pastor in the history of United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church.


Pastor Rivers, his wife Monica, and the entire congregation continued to expand United Metropolitan’s outreach, service and missions to the glory of God. The church retired $2.8 million in mortgage debt after completing a three-year Lifestyle Capital Stewardship Campaign (“Beyond the Sanctuary”), reflecting its commitment to making

a difference for Christ in the world beyond the walls of the church. A strategic plan was developed and

implemented. It included a focus on Inspiring Excellence in Education and Discipleship, Promoting Thriving Communities of Hope and Health, and Cultivating a Well-Informed Congregation. The church developed vision and mission statements and established a 501-C3 corporation.


In Spring 2017, Rev. Rivers was called to serve as the Senior Pastor of Union Baptist Church in Durham, NC. He left behind a notable legacy of engaging the congregation in service beyond the sanctuary and promoting the development of the community surrounding the church.


In July, 2017, the church selected Rev. Dr. Gregory Headen, retired pastor of Genesis Baptist Church in Greensboro, NC, to serve as Interim Pastor of United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church. Rev. Headen was deeply committed to preaching the word of God and instrumental in helping the church remain focused on and committed to its mission and vision. Rev. Headen served until October 2018, at which time our new Senior Pastor was elected.


A nine-member search committee was formed in spring 2017 with the charge of helping identify the next pastor whom God had called to serve United Metropolitan. For over 12 months, the committee examined hundreds of applications and resumes, visited churches, and interviewed candidates. On Sunday, August 26, 2018, the congregations voted by overwhelming majority to elect Rev. Dr. Alvin T. Armstead, Jr. as the third senior pastor of United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church.


The heritage of faith and hard work that embodies the essence of United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church is continuing to unfold. UMMBC is a body of believers that inspires dedicated Christians to gather together, worship together, and go forth to serve together. We are ever mindful of what God has done – and have no reservations about what God can and will do!


We continue to write the story, “Bearing witness of God’s love for the world.”