A History of Unity in Birmingham

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When the Unity movement first reached Birmingham in 1919, it was little more than a study group which met when they could at Birmingham City Hall. In May of 1928, with only 12 members, the Unity study group became an official charter location. Within a year, the Unity congregation grew to around 200 members.

Dr. Catherine Ponder, best selling author and founder of Unity Church Worldwide, an affiliate of Unity Church, obtained her Unity ordination and began her ministry in Birmingham, serving from 1958-1961. She wrote her first book, The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity, while leading the Birmingham congregation.

The initial construction of the 2803 Highland Avenue location was completed in 1973. In the mid 1980s, additional construction was done on the site, creating the administrative offices and lobby.

 

In 1980, Rev. Jerry Bartholow took over the role as lead minister. A year later, he married Rev. Beverly, a classmate from seminary. Beverly transitioned in 1988. In 1989, Jerry married Jane Glass. Jane was the administrative assistant at Unity for more than  20 years, continuing to do so even after Jerry transitioned in 2011.

In January 2022, Rev. Jesse Eugene Herriott was named as the new Spiritual Leader for Unity of Birmingham.

Noteable people and  events from Unity's past

Rev. Gerald "Jerry" Bartholow
& Jane Bartholow

As one of the longest serving ministers at Unity of Birmingham, serving from 1980-2011, Rev. Jerry Bartholow left an indelible impression on the Unity community. He graduated from seminary in 1980 and moved from Atlanta to Birmingham to take the lead minister role at Unity of B'ham. He oversaw the expansion of the 2803 Highland building to include more offices, a bookstore, and a full kitchen in the mid-1980s. He and his wife Jane married in 1989. 

Every person who knew Jane described her as a truly kind and gentle person: a "living saint." She was the administrative assistant for Unity for more than 20 years.

Mr. Barry Hester has compiled a vast collection of Rev. Jerry's sermons on the Unity of Birmingham Classics YouTube Channel. Click the link below to view Rev. Jerry's past sermons.

Dr. Catherine Ponder

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Catherine Thrower took over leadership of Unity of Birmingham in 1956 after Rev. Kathryn Jarvis stepped aside. She was licensed as a Unity minister in 1957, then ordained in 1958. She and her son lived upstairs in the old Unity building at 2803 Highland (later demolished in the early 1970s). She wrote her first book, The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity, while serving Birmingham. She went on to become an international best seller and has written more than a dozen books. 

In 1961, she married Dr. Kelly Ponder and moved to Austin, TX and established Unity of Austin. 

She formed Unity Church Worldwide, with headquarters in Palm Desert, CA. 

She has given seminars worldwide about prosperity and is still an active figure with Unity Church Worldwide.

Her son, Richard, remembers the time they lived in Birmingham as being some of the best times of his life and says he and his mother still feel a special connection with Birmingham. She recently celebrated her 95th birthday and still answers her mail personally.

The Unity Lights

The Unity Lights were the Unity house band under Rev. Jerry.  Listen to a few of their past performances below.

The Ladies of Unity, 1983

The Ladies of Unity used to hold monthly meetings, fundraisers, and various other group events. Below is a copy of their directory and meeting schedule from 1983. 

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Coming Alive, 1987

In 1987, Olan Mills came to Unity and took family photos to use in the church directory. The directory begins with a brief history of Unity, talk of plans for the future, and a bio of Rev. Jerry & Rev. Beverly.

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60th Anniversary Celebration

In May, 1988, Unity of Birmingham celebrated its 60th Anniversary. To commemorate the event, a booklet was produced that included a welcome by Rev. Jerry Bartholow and recounted the history of Unity up to that point. Pictured below are images from that booklet. Click the images for a larger view of the pages.