he seed for UTC was planted when the Reverend Mary A. Tumpkin, who was holding church services in her living room, captured the attention of renowned motivational speaker Les Brown. Brown insisted on introducing her to his spiritual mentor, the Reverend Dr. Johnnie Colemon of Chicago, Illinois. Rev. Colemon, the founder and then president of the Universal Foundation for Better Living (UFBL), was so impressed with Rev. Tumpkin that she recruited her to serve as the liaison for a Miami-based affiliate of the UFBL.
On Sunday, September 29, 1982, eighty adults and forty-six children chartered the Universal Truth Center for Better Living (UTC). Rev. Colemon performed a spiritual baptism ceremony for the charter members and presided over UTC’s first worship service, which was held in the community center of a housing project in the neighborhood known as Liberty City. On the same day, Rev. Colemon appointed Rev. Mary A. Tumpkin, as UTC’s founding minister.
Rev. Colemon dispatched UFBL-licensed teachers and ministers the Reverend Dr. Helen W. Carry and the Reverend Alberta Ware to Miami to train and assist Rev. Tumpkin with the development of the new church. The first two UFBL-ordained ministers to serve with Rev. Tumpkin at UTC were the Revs. Mary Poitier and Leila (Pete) Ramsingh. In the beginning, Sunday services and classes were held in various community centers and rented spaces including a former funeral home, dance studio, office complex, and hotel ballroom. After multiple relocations, Rev. Tumpkin and UTC’s Board of Directors decided that it was time for the growing congregation to find a permanent home.
The search ended with the acquisition of a 3.5-acre lot located at 21310 N.W. 37th Avenue. On January 2, 1994, 800 supporters participated in the UTC ground-breaking ceremony. Rev. Tumpkin, the Board of Directors, ministerial staff, and congregants raised their shovels, hammers, screwdrivers, and paintbrushes to help erect the $1.5 million facility UTC now occupies and transform it into a proper church home. Today, 20 years later, every wall, doorway, window, paver, and parking stone serves as a reminder of the power of faith, love, and cooperation.
Under Reverend Tumpkin, who also served as the UFBL President from 1995 to 2013, UTC has produced teachers and ministers that have followed Jesus’ admonition to go into the world to preach the Gospel. Members of UTC have left Miami to start churches in New York, the Bahamas, and Jamaica. Others have traveled to start UFBL study groups in Kissimmee and Jacksonville, Florida.
An acclaimed teacher, Bible scholar, and author, Dr. Tumpkin held a Doctorate of Ministry degree from the Florida Center for Theological Studies. She lectured throughout the United States, as well as in England, Canada, South America, and the Caribbean. She was known for her powerful, energetic, and often humorous preaching style and her ability to express the message of Jesus the Christ in a relevant, practical, and accessible way.
Reverend Dr. Mary Tumpkin made her transition in November 2013.