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University Church of Christ History

Our Inception

The event which led to the beginning of the congregation which ultimately became University Church of Christ was a "tent meeting" in the Crichton community held by area members in the summer of 1946. Purvis Nichols did the preaching in this effort; and a short time afterward, twenty-six members of the church of Christ began meeting in the Crichton Odd-Fellows Hall. For a period of two years, services were conducted on Sunday afternoons with E.D. Mancill and G.E. Mears teaching and preaching. In 1947, the church incorporated for the purpose of constructing its first building at 306 Union Avenue in the Crichton community in what was then the northwest side of Mobile. Assemblies were held at this site for sixteen years with C.F. Cauthen, Raymond Rucker, W.R. Wharton, and C.C. Arquitt serving as preachers.

Our Relocation

In October of 1963, the decision was made in a general business meeting of the church to sell the Union Avenue property and purchase ten acres of land at 5651 Zeigler Boulevard. This purchase would locate the site of the church near the developing subdivision of Alpine Hills, some four miles further west in the city and also very near the newly founded University of South Alabama. It was the hope of the church to develop a ministry for the students at the University and to construct a student center as a focal point for that work. The sale of the Union Avenue building required an interim meeting place until the new building could be constructed. So, for a period of several months, assemblies were held in the Community Center on Forrest Dell Road. Finally, after much hard work and sacrificial giving, the Union Avenue congregation began meeting as the Alpine Hills Church of Christ at its new location in 1964. C.C. Arquitt served as the minister for the church during this critical period of transition until moving from Mobile to another ministry in 1967.

Our Ministers, Elders and Deacons

On September 5, 1967, K.W. Franklin, who had served previously in Mobile as the minister for the Pleasant Valley Church of Christ, returned to the area to work with the Alpine Hills congregation. At this time, all of the area churches were having to adjust to the shut-down of Brookley Air Force Base, one of the city's primary employers. The Alpine Hills church lost a full one-third of its membership and at least a third of its financial support, a set-back which troubled the church for several years. In January of 1970, the congregation appointed its first elders, Robert Brolund and Morris Burleson. Later in the same year, James Harrison, Jack Clark, and John Taylor were selected to serve as deacons. In the years to follow, others who would serve as elders were John Taylor, Raymond Purifoy, Richard Lincoln, George Jacobs, Vernon Newbill, Tony Douglas, Virgil Fetner, Bob Luse, and for a brief period, Ray Robinson and Marshall Underwood. Men who have also served as deacons were Wayne Busey, W.A. Hill, Ed Pitchford, Foy Taff, Richard Lincoln, Larry Livingston, George Jacobs, C.F. Godwin, Harold Jones, Vernon Newbill, Tony Douglas, Virgil Fetner, Kenny Brannan, Jerre Bryant, Bob Luse, Mark Humphrey, Mac Otts, Bubba Bullington, Terry Harbin, Ward Sandlin, Chuck Shaffer, Paul Dueitt, Vince Formica, Carey Lancaster, Ross Fetner, Howard Hancock, Brook Wallace, John Figgins, Flint Johnson, Greg Howard, and Richard Halstead. Current elders are Vernon Newbill, Richard Jay, and Shane Nolen. Those presently serving as deacons are Randall Wright, Richard Halstead, Clint Duncan, Al Newbill, Jason McCutcheon, and Adam Morrow. In January of 1971, Marshall Underwood and his wife, Sandra, moved to Mobile for Marshall to attend graduate school at the University of South Alabama. Having recently graduated from the Alabama Christian School of Religion, Marshall wanted to pursue a degree in counseling before beginning full-time ministry. However, having begun to work part-time with the youth at Alpine Hills upon his arrival in Mobile in January, Marshall was asked to begin working with the church as its full-time preacher in August of 1971 which he did from that time until January 2015. Corrine Taylor, Carolyn Jacobs, Coriene Shaffer and Judy Luse have served as church secretaries with Judy filling this role from 1993 until the present. In the past, Ed Harris and Wayne Busey served as treasurers. Since then, Jack Clark has served as the treasurer for 42+ years.   Following Marshall Underwood’s retirement, Jeremy, Brittani, Rylee, Jackson, and Layton Sigle moved from Texas to Mobile where Jeremy became the full time pulpit minister. For several years Ben Fetner volunteered his time to work with our youth. Since then, after finishing at Harding University, Rob and Andrea Hayes moved to Mobile where Rob accepted the position of full time youth minister. God has blessed this church with outstanding leadership and members for many years.  

Our Missionary Commitment

During the decade of the 1970’s, the congregation was involved fundamentally in three main mission ventures. The first was international and involved support of Arnulfo and Rogelio Santillian, two native Mexican preachers and their efforts in Monterrey, Mexico. By the time that Alpine Hills concluded its support of this work, the congregation in Monterrey had grown to some one hundred members.

The second mission effort of the 70's was more of a stateside work and involved the sponsorship and oversight of a ministry led by Marvin F. Bryant. Marvin, a former minister in the Presbyterian church who had left the church of his up-bringing to become a member of and minister in churches of Christ. For years he had felt that a special outreach to denominational preachers who were looking for a more biblical alternative to their churches was not only needed, but could be very successful. Known as the Restoration Leadership Ministry, this work was undertaken for several years and did indeed prove effective in reaching and helping quite a number of seeking-ministers to find their places in churches of Christ. In fact. one who was assisted was Terry Gunnells, the father of Tim Gunnells, our campus minister from 1994 to 2000. In the early 1980s, oversight of this work was assumed by the Tusculum congregation in Nashville, Tennessee. Its central personality, Marvin Bryant, died in the early 2000’s while on a mission trip in the Ukraine.

The third mission undertaking of the 70’s was the initiation of the ministry to the students attending the University of South Alabama. In 1977 the first full-time campus minister, Mac Otts, was employed to give direction to this mission field at our back door. Under the direction of Mac, who served in this role until 1983, this special ministry began to take hold. Since that time five other men have served as campus ministers. During the thirty years since this work was established, at least 150 students have been baptized, among them more than 15 international students. In addition, another 150 students who were already members of churches of Christ have participated in the ministry as well. Other men who have served as campus minister have been Mark Palmer, Corey Wilson, Barry Hendrick, Tony Wallace and Brian Wallace.

In the 1980’s, the mission focus of the congregations was devoted primarily to sustaining the efforts of the campus ministry and assisting a developing effort in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, along with a similar work in Guyana, South America. The Ronald Skorick family was supported by Alpine Hills for a period of some three years as they sought to establish a church of Christ in the city of Belgrade. Additionally, a native Guyanese preacher, Kenneth Bisnauth, was supported full-time by this congregation as he worked to build-up the church in his South American country and township.

In the early 1990’s, area churches of Christ began to collaborate in the support of an inner city congregation housed in the facility of what was the original church of Christ in Mobile. Along with other concerned congregations, Alpine Hills (now University Church of Christ) has contributed workers and finances to the development of this outreach. To everyone’s delight, this ministry has made wonderful progress with many additions.

In past years, the church here has supported, but not sponsored, a variety of mission and relief efforts, including Gospel Broadcasting Network, Disaster Relief Inc., Agape, and outreach efforts in Guyana, the Philippines, and the Ukraine.    

Currently, we continue to support Jerry Davidson in his Guyana, South America, mission efforts, Demar Elam in his evangelizing the Philippines and Beyond (China), and the Paul Blake missions in Jamaica. The Inner City mission work in Mobile led by Chuck Griffith continues to grow. For many years Billy Lambert through the “Getting T0 Know Your Bible” television program has successfully spread the Gospel message throughout the world. We are so glad to share in the missions of these dedicated men and those who accompany them.

Our Property Improvements

Since the construction of the original building in Alpine Hills in 1964, additions and improvements to the property have been undertaken as circumstances have required. In 1970, an existing building was moved onto the property, providing some 4,000 additional square feet of office and meeting space. In 1983, a 7500 square foot multipurpose addition was made to the main building to provide needed nursery, classroom, and fellowship hall space. In 1995 the original structure was modified and improved by the construction of a spacious entrance/foyer and ladies' dressing room. Interior improvements were also made to the front and rear of the auditorium. These changes were made as a part of the church's commitment to communicate a progressive and inviting spirit to our neighborhood. Most recently, the decision was made to construct new offices that were attached to the main building and to remove the older office building which was in need of extensive and costly repair. The result is a spacious and beautiful office arrangement completed in 2005 and now easily accessible to all. Jack and Mickey Clark were invaluable in the planning and completion of these improvements.

Our Name Change

Also in 1995, the decision was made to change the name of the congregation to better reflect its commitment to campus ministry as well as to the community. Hence, this led to the name change to University Church of Christ in Alpine Hills and the "Investing In Eternity" campaign which had as its goal the raising of $340,000 to enable the construction of the long-dreamed-of Student Center. With the generous help of concerned friends, the student center construction effort was successful, and an attractive, accommodating facility was completed that has been enjoyed since the late 90’s.