Smithwood steeple renovation honors building’s history

Shannon CareyFeature, Fountain City

The Rev. Jeff Lane, pastor of Smithwood Baptist Church, says everyone asks him about it. The church’s steeple, a highly visible landmark at the corner of Tazewell Pike and Jacksboro Pike, has been surrounded by scaffolding for weeks as it undergoes renovation.

“We love this neighborhood, and we are grateful that our building can be a landmark in this neighborhood,” he said.

General contractor Keith Walker is in charge of the renovation, which started the first week of October. Lane said the project has been in the works for a number of years.

“I’m sure I speak for everyone in our church that we would rather give $50,000 to missions than put it into a steeple,” he said. “But if you saw it before, you could see that some of the wood didn’t look very good, and there was a suspicion of structural problems.”

The Rev. Jeff Lane stands with the Smithwood Baptist Church bell.

The church sanctuary is 100 years old, and the steeple and porch were added in the 1940s. Renovations are using some modern materials that will maintain the historic look and feel of the structure. Interior wood will be replaced, and exterior wood around the bell tower will be replaced with a white PVC material. The spire will have copper shingles, and the spire’s tip, also copper, will remain in place.

He didn’t have a firm timeline for completion since additional repairs were needed.

The church’s bell hasn’t been in the steeple for years. Instead, it’s at the corner of the church near the cemetery. A remote control allows it to be rung from inside the sanctuary.

While the congregation is grateful for the beautiful church building, Lane said it’s not the focus.

“As Christians, we understand that it’s a part of our cultural mandate to do good for our community, but most of all, we’re here because we want people to know God through Christ,” he said. “The definition of a church is not a building. We are a community of people that have been changed by the gospel of Christ, and we want to speak that gospel to others in word and deed.”

He invited everyone to attend two special Christmas worship services: Carols and Classics on Sunday, Dec. 9, and the Christmas Eve service.


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