“… Come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths.” Isaiah 2:3 (KJV)
On Sunday morning, April 20, 1958, 77 First Christian Church of Knoxville members were commissioned to begin a new church during a special service. First Christian’s sacrificial minister, the Rev. Thomas J. Mattingly, blessed the mission church and performed the service of commission at 10:45 a.m. The departing families probably represented over one-fourth of his members, but he saw the need to spread the Word of Christ.
Deeply moved by the experience, those who chose to begin the new church departed. Many of them had grown up in First Christian and left the church with the mixed feelings of regret at leaving their mother church tempered by the invigorating spiritual challenge of extending the influence of the church into Fountain City.
The group immediately drove to Smithwood Grammar School for an 11:15 a.m. service held in the school’s gymnasium, which had been chosen as a temporary meeting place. Edgar C. Gentry presided and the retired pastor emeritus of First Christian Church, Dr. Harry R. Cooke, preached the sermon, titled “The Promise of Power.” After the benediction, the congregation departed, inspired and committed to build the new church.
Dr. Cooke was soon chosen as the first pastor, and the officers of the official board were nominated and duly elected. The board chair was Edgar C. Gentry, the vice chair was John Welmers, the secretary was Richard Tumblin and the treasurer was John T. Fenton.
The other officers and board members of the new church included:
Elders H.O. Correll, Edgar C. Gentry, G.C. McHarris, John F. Miller Jr., J.C. Tumblin, John Welmers and J.A. Wood.
Deacons Ruth Bowen, Hollis Clifton, Dorothy Correll, E.E. Davis, J.R. Davis Jr., John Fenton, J.W. Fowler, J.E. Hendrix, Fred Henry, Harold House, Pauline House, David Miller, J.E. Schumaker, W.L. Tillery, Richard Tumblin, Charles VanHook, Hubert Wallace, Kate Welmers and David Wright.
Trustees Edgar C. Gentry, John Welmers and J.A. Wood.
Church school officers John F. Miller, superintendent; Richard E. Tumblin, secretary, and John F. Fenton, treasurer.
John C. Evans, a devoted long-time member of First Christian Church, had bequeathed the sum of $30,000 to his church with the expressed proviso that the fund be used to “assist the building of a new church in Knox County” and that John Welmers should head the committee to facilitate the will.
Mr. Welmers and his organizing committee spent several months planning for the future of the young church with exemplary assistance from the Board of Church Extension, Disciples of Christ, in Indianapolis, Indiana.
In May 1958, a 2.76-acre tract of land on Tazewell Pike was purchased for $19,000 as a site for the new church building. Included was a historic 10-room home temporarily usable as a meeting place, the former residence of Sol M. George, president of the S.H. George and Sons Department Store on Gay Street. The house was remodeled by C.V. Decker Construction Company and used for worship until the permanent sanctuary and classrooms could be planned and built.
By September 1958, the congregation numbered 144 with about 75 participating members and 70 registered for church school. When the proposed budget for the 1959-1960 year was announced, the current operational expenses were projected at $13,640 and missions and benevolences at $3,410 for a total projection of $17,050. The church felt deservedly proud that it had budgeted in excess of a tithe toward others outside the church walls in its first budget.
Many milestones had been met and the ground-breaking ceremonies were held on Easter Sunday, April 17, 1960. Perhaps the congregation’s enthusiastic spirit can be best conveyed by quoting the litany to which the people responded, “We break this ground today!”
That a church may rise here which will be pleasing to our Lord and will fulfill the dreams of our people. That a church may rise here in which the ancient gospel of her Lord shall be proclaimed. That a church may rise here where little children shall learn to love their Lord and grow in the beauty of Christian grace and character. That a church may rise here where through the years countless youth shall come and worship, pause to pray and rise to serve. That a church may rise here where the Word of God shall be read and studied such that it should become the Living Word. That a church may rise here where multitudes shall seek first the Kingdom of God and shall then dedicate themselves to evangelizing the whole of life. That a church may rise here where Christ is so lifted up that our homes will be more Christlike, our family’s creative centers of Christian influence and where the Sacraments be so administered that all life shall become a sacrament.
C.V. Decker Construction Co. was selected to build the new church with Barber and McMurry as the architects. The fellowship hall, 12 classrooms, the kitchen and the office, a total of 10,000 square feet, were completed by January 1961, and a series of Services of Dedication were scheduled on four successive Sundays (January 15-February 5, 1961).
Over the next 15 years, Northside grew to 160 participating members. The church and Sunday School program grew, together with its outreach into the community. In January 1975, a commemorative service heralded the mortgage burning. John Farr, George Bailey and Herman Parker performed the ceremony to celebrate the occasion.
Since 2004, the Rev. Frits Haverkamp has led the congregation toward greater spiritual depth and assisted it in reaching out to the community in various ecumenical projects such as the Fountain City Ministry Center, Family Promise, The Carpenters and numerous mission trips.
The church feels that knowing its history is essential to knowing who it is and this knowledge will help it to hear who God is calling it to be today. It knows that its Christian calling challenges it to take bold fresh steps of faith into the future and looks forward to many more years of service to our local community and to the wider Community of Christ.
On Sunday, Sept. 9, Northside Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will celebrate its 60th anniversary. Celebrants are invited to the 10:50 a.m. worship service followed by a luncheon in the fellowship hall. Those attending the luncheon should RSVP by Aug. 31 to firstname.lastname@example.org or by texting/calling 865-256-3754.
Info: Betty Ezell, 865-389-4522; Michele Green 865-256-3574; or the Rev. Frits Haverkamp, 865-687-0475.