From Small Storefront Meetings to Ala. Megachurch, Beloved Founding Pastor Had Wide Reach

A former banker who turned to ministry and would serve as a pastor in Alabama for more than 20 years passed away last week at age 82.

The Rev. Richard Vigneulle, former head of the Shades Mountain Independent Church in Hoover, died last Thursday according to an announcement from his church. A visitation was held for Vigneulle last Saturday from 4-7 p.m. at Shades Mountain Independent Church, with the funeral taking place Sunday afternoon.

"The celebration service lasted for 2 1/2 hours and was a beautiful tribute to a man whose influence and legacy was felt throughout the community and into the world," Carol Wilkins, media director for Shades Mountain Independent, told The Christian Post. "Many gave testimony to changed lives through the ministry of Dr. Vigneulle. The service was well attended and Dr. Vigneulle's children gave a special tribute to their father with loving memories shared."

Wilkins also directed CP to a Facebook group created in memory of Vigneulle titled "Dick Vigneulle Tributes", that has garnered more than 550 likes in just four days.

"This is a place to share your heart about Dick Vigneulle, Dad, Big Daddy, Great Big Daddy, Pastor Dick . . . Your posts have been such a blessing. If you have already posted, please share here too so we have one spot for everyone to see," reads the group's description.

Vigneulle's became head pastor of Shades Mountain Independent in 1975 and remained in the position until 1995. Under his leadership, the church that began as a small congregation simply worshipping Jesus in the 1960s' at a storefront, blossomed into an influential presence in Hoover.

"Vigneulle (pronounced VIN-yell) helped the Shades Mountain Independent Church in Hoover grow from a handful of people meeting in a storefront in 1969 to more than 2,000 worshipping every Sunday at the time he retired," wrote Greg Garrison of "The church grew and took on a high profile in the city, with preachers such as Jerry Falwell and Tim LaHaye as frequent guests. It supported hundreds of missionaries around the world."

"Our beloved pastor for 25 years, Dick led SMIC with a clear commitment, always acknowledging God's hand in the direction of our church," reads the "Our Story" section of Shades Mountain Independent's website.

"In 1988, Harry Walls came to SMIC in preparation to become Pastor Vigneulle's successor, and in 1995 Dick passed the leadership role to Harry."

As of Tuesday, the home page of Shades Mountain Independent Church's website features an image showing Dick Vigneulle, referring to him as the "beloved founding pastor."