On September 15, 1957, a group of six (6) people met at 1438 St. Anne Street in Detroit, Michigan and organized the Union Grace Missionary Baptist Church.
They had successfully served as a prayer band for four months, under the leadership of the late Rev. Donnie Lee Hayes. Rev. Hayes then moved the prayer band from the St. Anne address to 4607 Lovett St. The new address was now large enough to accommodate an organ that the members desired. Pastor Hayes went to purchase the organ at Wurlitzer Organ Company and when the sales representative asked for a name to go on the bill, Pastor Hayes reluctantly said Union Grove (a name suggested by one of the members). However, the sales rep thought he said Union Grace and commented, ‘oh what a beautiful name, Union Grace’. After hearing the mistake, Rev. and Mrs. Hayes loved the name and knew it must have come from God. They presented the name “Union Grace” to the congregation and the members liked it, too, because they felt they were united by the grace of God.
Rev. Hayes became very ill and was no longer able to serve as pastor and called Rev. Major Edward Smith. Rev. Smith accepted God’s call to Union Grace Missionary Baptist Church on April 23, 1961. At that time the church only had three members, a challenge that did not go unnoticed by Pastor Smith. Rev. Smith reorganized the church in 1961 keeping only the name Union Grace Missionary Baptist Church.
In 1963 Union Grace moved from Lovett Street to 7729 - 12th Street (now known as Rosa Parks Blvd.) On July 23, 1967, the Twelfth Street Riot began and was known as one of the worst riots in United States history. In this predominately African American neighborhood, 43 people were killed, 342 were injured, and 1,400 buildings were burned. Fires destroyed buildings directly to the north and south of Union Grace. Yet God allowed Union Grace to remain untouched in order to continue its mission – winning souls for Christ.
In the time that he has led the Union Grace, Bishop Smith has established many small groups, ministries and new programs, to advance God’s kingdom. The Outreach Ministry evangelizes and serves the community; the Tutorial Ministry, helps improve student’s educational performance; the Pastor’s Honor Roll which awards students for receiving above average grades. The Drama and Dance Ministries evangelizes and worships through the arts. He also established a 501©3 Community Development Corporation (UGCDC) to help build the city of Detroit through economic growth. (The entire list of small groups and ministries that Union Grace serves is too numerous to mention here, but can be found under the Small Groups tab.)
Through Bishop Reginald E. Smith’s leadership, Union Grace experienced phenomenal growth. With no more space to grow, the church had to move to a larger facility. On December 31, 2007 Union Grace celebrated its first Cross-over service, signifying “A New Level, A New Beginning” in a newly renovated $1.2 million facility located at 2550. W. Grand Blvd.
God has given Union Grace a new Vision that Pastor Smith has clearly laid out to the congregation. Realizing that it will take years to accomplish, Pastor Smith continues to establish the necessary ministries to help carry out God’s vision.
Always seeking new ways to spread God’s relevant word, Bishop Smith hosted a weekly T.V. broadcast called “Keeping It Real” in which over a million viewers tuned in. In June of 2012 he led the expansion of Union Grace to its second location in Warren, Michigan.
Bishop Smith continues to lead Gods people by His Word and through His grace into new places of promise.
Rev. & Mrs. Hayes
It was during this time that Pastor Major E. Smith gave genesis to an organization known as “PEACE” (People Engaged Against Crime Everywhere). Its motto: “I AM my brother’s keeper” and its goal was “to unite every man, woman, and child against crime”. Shortly after the riot, the church acquired the property to the north and south, spanning an entire city block.The mission of the church, to win souls for Christ, required educating the Christian.
Understanding the importance of raising children in the service of God, Rev. Smith allowed the vision of his late mother, Vollie Jordan to emerge into the Nursery and Children’s ministry which trained children in worship from the cradle to 12 years old. The Youth Dept. was also established to facilitate understanding of worship and training in the Word of God. Equally as important to Pastor Major E. Smith was the development of the Christian as evangelist, thus the Sunday School, Baptist Training Union (BTU), weekly Bible classes and the annual Vacation Bible School were developed as year-round educational programs that included classes for all ages.
Under Rev. Major E. Smith the church cultivated local, statewide and national affiliations with the Virginia Park Citizens Service Corporation and Investment Association, the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity, Detroit Council of Churches, Metropolitan District Council of Christian Education (MEDCCE), Metropolitan Sunday School, Wolverine State Convention, Baptist Training Union Congress and the National Baptist Convention. Rev. Major Edward Smith served Union Grace for thirty-six years. In his service to God, he licensed and ordained twenty-two (22) preachers and ordained thirty (30) deacons. His service to the community were noted with many citations and awards from the President of the United States, the Governor of the State, the Mayor, the Detroit City Council, Council of Baptist Pastors and other local community organizations.On January 19, 1997 God called Rev., Dr. Major Edward Smith home to rest.On April 19, 1998 the Lord blessed Union Grace with its third pastor, Rev. Reginald E. Smith.
On February 21, 1999 Rev. Smith licensed the first female minister of Union Grace – Rev. Efia Mawusi.