Too often I see church buildings whose cornerstones are gone. In some cases they may have been reinstalled at the congregation’s new home. But often, I fear, they have become lost. Worst yet is when later owners of the building have defaced the stone because it does not bear their name.
Thus I was pleased on my bike ride Saturday to see that three Methodist cornerstones remain in the wall of a church building that is now the home of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church. The church is located at 3117 34th Street North in Birmingham’s Collegeville neighborhood. Collegeville is an historically African American neighborhood, most famous as the home of Bethel Baptist Church. It was served by the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth in the 1950s and 60s and is part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument.
I assume that the three stones represent three successive buildings for the same congregation. The first two bear the name Scott Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church and the third Douglassville United Methodist Church. Given its location and the fact that the congregation was a member of the (northern) Methodist Episcopal Church, rather than the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, I assume this was established as an African American church. The cornerstones of African American churches in Birmingham typically have multiple names inscribed on them and these are no exceptions. The 1905 cornerstone, however, is the first that I have seen to have later ministers’ names scratched into it in addition to the original inscription.