The Southminster Presbyterian Church of today is the merger of two faithful congregations—Shades Valley Presbyterian Church and Southminster Presbyterian, each with a rich individual history—who found they had a shared vision and calling from God. The congregation is led by the living Spirit and the love of Jesus Christ.
Founding of Shades Valley Presbyterian Church
In 1943, the Home Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church purchased the property in Mountain Brook for a future Presbyterian church. A dedicated group worked quickly to form the church, which was organized on December 5 of that year, with 28 charter members. The name Shades Valley was chosen to reflect the hope that the congregation would serve the entire valley area. In those early years, the congregation saw rapid growth, moving twice to have more space and eventually constructing a church building on Montevallo Road in 1953.
Founding of Southminster Presbyterian Church
Southminster began as a mission project of Shades Valley Presbyterian Church. On June 6, 1957, 63 residents of the Vestavia area met to discuss the formation and by September, Southminster had classes of elders and deacons and received its charter from the Birmingham Presbytery. It was fewer than two years later, with the Rev. William Kryder called as pastor, that the new congregation broke ground on land given by Shades Valley Presbyterian Church on July 15, 1959.
Facing Challenges and Finding Opportunities
By December 2019, the Session of Shades Valley realized that the congregation faced a real challenge in being able to afford to stay in such a large and aging building. The Session began a serious discernment process about financial sustainability and the future of the congregation. Just a few weeks into that process, the COVID-19 pandemic began, and many more challenges needed to be faced. By the summer of 2020, the Session concluded that the ministry in the Montevallo Road location could only be sustained for two or three more years and began exploring other options for their future.
Through a chance, or perhaps divine conversation, an idea was hatched that merging Shade Valley and Southminster congregations would benefit all. By the spring, Southminster’s session began a conversation around a shared mission and ministry with Shades Valley.
A small group of members from each congregation met to tell each other the stories of their respective congregations. They quickly realized they were two congregations with a shared vision and calling. The sessions appointed a merger team to work out details of how this might work. The team worked hard to address any fears head-on and have clear communication. An aggressive timeline of 6 months was adopted, and the work began.
By March of 2022, the merger agreement was adopted by each congregation, and by May, the Presbytery had approved the plan of the union with cheers and applause. Fittingly, the first joint worship service at Southminster was held on Pentecost Sunday, the day of celebration for the gift of the Spirit and the birthday of the church.
Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Building
A Homecoming celebration was held to say goodbye to the sanctuary on Montevallo Road, the beloved space where the congregation had worshiped and served for so long. The celebration welcomed back family, friends, former members, and staff. The last worship service in the sanctuary was held on May 29, 2023.
A Legacy of Love
In the ancient tradition of giving from the “first fruits,” Shades Valley made immediate initial gifts from the proceeds of the property sale to seven long-term mission partners. These gifts, totaling more than one million dollars, reflect the deep values of the congregation and address significant needs identified by our partners in order to have a transformative impact. The following partners received gifts: Stillman College, Firehouse Ministries, Greater Birmingham Ministries, Living River: A Retreat on the Cahaba, Presbyterian Home for Children, IMCK / Good Shepherd Hospital in Congo, and Habitat for Humanity.
The remaining funds from the property sale were entrusted to an endowment at Southminster Presbyterian for capital needs, ministry, and mission beyond the church. The endowment ensures that through long-term giving, Shades Valley’s legacy of love will live on.