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McKENZIE (January 10) — The first worship service in the new sanctuary of the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church-McKenzie was held Sunday, January 10. It was a celebration of a completion of …
McKENZIE (January 10) — The first worship service in the new sanctuary of the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church-McKenzie was held Sunday, January 10. It was a celebration of a completion of a 23-year process, which started with a decision to build an entirely new church facility instead of remodeling the historic downtown Stonewall church.
The church family enjoyed the new facilities during its two morning worship services. The facility was also used for the first funeral on Sunday afternoon to celebrate the life of Ben Thomas Surber, who died after a long illness.
During the Praise Service on Sunday, recently retired pastor Reverend Kevin Wood offered the opening prayer and had the call to worship. Youth Minister Luke Mitchell opened the service and Reverend Michael Qualls offered the day’s message, which included of being builders. He said it takes the same amount of energy to build as destruct.
Jean Hollomon led the Children’s Service. As the young children gathered on the steps below the pulpit, Mrs. Hollomon told the children of the planning, construction and timeline of the building. She also told of the historic stained glass windows in the new sanctuary. Those windows and the pipe organ were in storage for 18 years.
Since the year 2002, worship services have been held in the multi-use Family Life Center.
In 2013, the church family held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new 450-seat sanctuary. The exterior was completed in 2015. The people of the church decided to retire the debt for the cost of the exterior before finishing the interior. That debt for the “shell” was retired in 2019 and construction of the interior commenced in 2020.
Tracy Webb, chairman of the church’s Building Commission, said Lashlee-Rich of Humboldt was the general contractor for the construction of the sanctuary. The facility has ground floor and balcony seating, modern audio-visual equipment, two lecterns, and equipped with the 1953 vintage pipe organ, which was in the former Stonewall sanctuary. It was donated by Fannye Baxter Moore.
Presently, the church’s pulpit is being filled by pastors from the denomination. Reverend Kevin Wood recently retired and the selected interim pastor, Dr. Tony Janner, died from complications of COVID-19 before returning to the church’s pastorship in the interim capacity. Ironically, when the construction began in the early 2000s on the Family Life Center and Sunday School building, the church was under the interim leadership of Reverend Don Caperton. The church was seeking a full-time minister.
History of the Church
The Cumberland Presbyterian Church in McKenzie, Tennessee was organized on July 17, 1867 with the Rev. J. M. Davies and 19 charter members, using the name “Bethlehem congregation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church at McKenzie, Tennessee. In 1872 land was purchased from J. M. McKenzie on Stonewall Street for $400 (1-1/3 acres). The congregation did erect a frame building at the back of the property but met building difficulties and actually worshiped at Bethel College for some years. In 1892, after a five-year building program, the congregation moved into their new building with Gothic architecture, high vaulted slate roof, tall steeple and memorial art-glass windows. The building still stands at 647 Stonewall Street and now houses Bethel University’s Bethel Performing Arts Center where the Renaissance Choir and Theatre have performances.
In 1920 a seven-room brick manse was constructed on the northeast corner of the church property for $8,000 and was used as a pastor’s residence through the years. The original Educational Building with Fellowship Hall named after Fannye Baxter Moore was built in 1960.
This building now houses Bethel University’s Nursing Program.
In 1997 the congregation felt it was time to re-model and enlarge their facilities or build. After much research and with conflicting emotions, the session recommended construction of a new church facility. Approximately 18 acres of land were purchased at 16835 Highland Drive in McKenzie and a new church building was erected. On February 2, 2002 (the birthday of the Cumberland Presbyterian Denomination founded in 1810), the congregation had their final worship service in the old church on Stonewall St. and carried the altar, pulpit, baptismal font, brass cross, candlesticks, altar cloths, offering plates and other items to the new church where everyone gathered for a Service of Communion and a potluck dinner. The stained glass windows and pipe organ was placed in storage to be added to the new sanctuary, built in 2020 and completed in 2021.