But 20 pounds of dynamite, set off by men affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, shattered the church basement, sending bricks and glass flying everywhere.
Tomorrow, the nation's eyes will focus on Birmingham on the the bombing's 50th anniversary, and Philadelphia-born Price, 48, will be front and center.
Price, who grew up in the Southwark housing-project towers in South Philadelphia, has been at the forefront of a yearlong observation of the 1963 civil-rights movement in Birmingham, where he moved to be a pastor in 2002. Before the move, he spent time working as a prosecutor in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.
On Tuesday, Price accompanied surviving family members of the bombing victims to Washington, D.C., where lawmakers awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the girls posthumously.
Price said the killing of the girls, weeks after the March on Washington, shocked the nation and was pivotal in the passage of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
"That caused the country to look at themselves and to see what they wanted to be about," Price told the Daily News. "They did not want to be about terrorism and murder. They wanted this to be a place where children could feel safe."
Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, a poet, playwright and associate professor of urban affairs at Temple University, was too young to understand the bombing when it happened. But she remembers being at church in West Philadelphia that day, she said.
"I was very young, maybe 4 or 5 years old," she said. "I just remember . . . the music stopped and the announcement was made, and people started crying."
Earlier this year, to mark the bombing's 50th anniversary, Williams-Witherspoon and Temple dance professor Kariamu Welsh collaborated to create the play "Countdown to 'Boom': We All Fall Down!" about the tragic events of that day.
Price's wife, Candie Price, an author who also grew up in Philadelphia, said she hadn't been aware of the Birmingham boming until the family moved there in 2002 and Price took over as pastor of the church that was the scene of the tragedy.
That year marked several other events in the civil-rights movement as well: In April, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., arrested for violating a court order against protesting, penned his famous "Letter From a Birmingham Jail." In May, more than 900 children were jailed. Scores more were later arrested, many taken to jail in school buses.
They were the same days that Eugene "Bull" Connor, commissioner of public safety, ordered police dogs and hoses to be used against children.
Although the "horrendous" bombing shocked the world, Price said the church today is also commemorating two black boys killed later that day.
Virgil Ware, 13, was shot in the chest by two white Eagle Scouts as he rode on the handlebars of his brother's bike.
Johnny Roberts, 16, was shot by a white police officer who was responding to boys throwing rocks at a car that had a Confederate flag covering it.
Price recently reflected on his days growing up in the Southwark towers.
"At the time, there were two towers in that part of South Philadelphia, the Southwark Towers and Society Hill Towers," he said. "And I knew we weren't living in Society Hill."
He had a strong family with two parents who encouraged him to strive for education.
"We had a good church background and we had great teachers at Meredith [Elementary] who demanded the best out of us," he said.
After high school, he earned a degree in criminal justice from Temple University and went to work for the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.
"I thought I would one day go to law school and become a career ADA [assistant district attorney] and maybe become the next Roger King [well-known prosecutor]," Price said. "But the Lord had another plan for me."
He felt a personal calling to go become a minister.
When he left the D.A.'s Office in 1998, he was in the Accelerated Rehabilitative Dispositions Unit for first-time offenders.
He brought his Philadelphia experiences to Birmingham with him, he said. Today, he said, part of his ministry are two programs for first-time offenders, deadbeat dads and drug offenders.
Price said he wasn't overwhelmed taking over leadership of the 16th Street Baptist Church, though it is laden with history.
"The church had an urgent need, a spiritual need," when he arrived, he said. "The church had lost her identity as being part of the civil-rights movement and the museum [the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, located across the street]."
He said his role in the church has been bridging the historical and the spiritual.
"A lot of people didn't know the church was an active church," he said.
"The church wanted to be identified as not only an icon of the civil-rights movement, but as a place where God's presence dwelled."
On Twitter: @ValerieRussDN