“We Are Hunter Street”
The “We Are Hunter Street” service at Samford University on May 17 was a single service for all 4,000 members of Hunter Street Baptist Church. The service was the culmination of months of recommitment to the church’s core values. Photo courtesy of Hunter Street Baptist Church.
“We Are Hunter Street” — it’s a slogan that’s been attached to T-shirts, bumper stickers and magnets. It’s a reminder to the congregation of Hunter Street Baptist Church that their church is about the people, not the physical location.
“Hunter Street Baptist Church is not a building at all. On any given Sunday, you’ll hear Pastor Buddy tell you, ‘It’s not the church, it’s the people.’ And it’s true,” said Mandy Hartley, who has attended Hunter Street for 15 years.
The church celebrated this mindset on Sunday, May 17, when the entire congregation — more than 4,000 people — worshiped together at Samford University’s Pete Hanna Center. Normally, the large congregation is divided into three Sunday morning services. The service was the culmination of an effort that had begun a year and a half before.
“It was fantastic and we all felt unified and all members of one large family that truly loves the Lord and each other,” said Tracy Dismukes, another 15-year member.
In January 2014, Pastor Buddy Gray began preaching about how Hunter Street could be a “real” New Testament church. This was followed in April 2015 by a renewal of church memberships and recommitment to the values that Gray had been preaching. The May service was a celebration of this effort and the words Hunter Street uses to define its purpose: belong, grow, serve, tell and worship.
Gray also spoke at the service about the church’s history, dating back to 1907, as well as a greater faith and future for the congregation. His preaching is one of many reasons people are drawn to Hunter Street’s growing community.
“We like Buddy’s preaching, that he preaches and teaches the Bible and Jesus,” said Todd Humphries, a six-year church member. “It’s a great place to go.”
Hunter Street’s large congregation was on display at the Samford service, but longtime members point to the smaller groups within the church that make it unique. Heather Jones Skaggs, who has attended the church for around a decade, said people frequently call Hunter Street the “smallest big church you’ll ever attend.”
Skaggs volunteers to write scripts for the short videos that run before weekly services. Humphries said he developed several new, close relationships through participation in small groups. Dismukes and her husband have served in the church nursery, led a small group and recently joined a new human trafficking ministry. Their nine-year-old son, Dalton, works with the worship team.
The “We Are Hunter Street” service reinforced the unity of Hunter Street as a whole. The sense of community between 4,000 people, however, has been built in the personal relationships and acts of service that happen in hundreds of small ways every week on the church campus.
“We feel very connected to our church body and love the blessings of the opportunity to serve,” Dismukes said.