A light on the hill
Hartselle Church of Christ spreads Lord’s work 100 years
A step of faith that led to the establishment of Hartselle Church of Christ was a protracted tent meeting conducted on a vacant lot in downtown Hartselle 100 years ago.
Plans for the month-long meeting were led by J. Pettey Ezell, minister of Jackson Street Church of Christ, Albany (Decatur) and a group of men from his church,
In a business meeting in June, 1920, they considered using the Hartselle Church of God building for the services but later decided to install a tent across from the L&N Railroad depot.
The services were conducted from mid-June to mid-July, 1920, with Ezell as the main preacher. He was assisted by John T. Lewis from Nashville, Tenn. and C. M. Pullias.
It was through their preaching and leadership that first Church of Christ was organized in Hartselle with 17 charter members on July 17, 1920.
Charter members are listed as follows: Mrs. Kate Morrison, Miss Johnnie Morrison, Mrs. Lena McClanahan, Mrs. Georgie Bryant, Mrs. Della Crutchfield, Miss Marie Crutchfeld, Mrs. Lucy Hartselle, Mrs. Alice Kent, Mr. John L. Schnabel, Mrs. John L. Schnabel, Me. Neill, Mrs. Nell, Mrs. Etta E. Speigle, Miss Mary Edith Speigle, Mr. Sneed, Mrs. Sneed and Mrs. Collins.
The church is celebrating its centennial with special events throughout 2020. A Kickoff & Open House was observed Feb. 1. Homecoming Sunday is slated for March 29 with a special invitation extended to all former ministers, church members and their families. A tent meeting will be conducted on the parking lot on the west side of the church building May 29-31 with services at 6 p.m. The church history will be spotlighted at Depot Days’ Downtown Memory Lanes on Sept. 14 at 6:30 p.m. A Block Party will be featured on Oct. 17 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Super Sunday will be observed Dec. 13 at 10 a.m.
The church’s first services were conducted in Kate B. Morrison’s Boarding House on Hammett Street. Members and visitors sat on cane-bottomed chairs in the living room.
Elizabeth Crutchfield, daughter of Mrs. Lon Crutchfield, recalled that she didn’t want to attend the services with her mother because “the chairs were very uncomfortable and the room very hot.”
The congregation moved into a new frame building at the corner of Rock and Hammett Streets in Oct. 1920. The lot was purchased from M.D and Eugenia Clemons for $850 and the building was constructed with volunteer labor.
The location was inconvenient, with little parking, even for wagons. The building also left much to be desired. A coal burning stove provided heat, one ceiling light provided lighting and there were no classrooms or modern bathrooms. Members used handheld fans as cooling devices.
Despite its misgivings, it served the congregation’s needs for 27 years and apparently had no bearing on the small congregation’s passion to serve and worship God.
The church struggled financially during its formative years. For example, a financial report for 1933 showed a Jan. 1 balance of $50.48. Average monthly offerings for the year were $9.45, leaving a year end balance of $6.93.
A move to build a new church building and relocate was made in April. 1945 when the church purchased a vacant lot at Rodgers and Sparkman Streets for $2,250. A modern brick building, consisting of an auditorium, classrooms and staff offices was constructed on the site and opened in Nov. 1947. The project was led by Hollis Roberson as minister and E.H. Bennett, J. M. Dunaway and H. L. Slate as elders.
Members placed emphasis on reducing church debt in the 1950s. They also did mission work; sent funds to Auburn for special school work; gave to Brookhaven; supported African mission work; held gospel meetings and supported the Greensboro building fund.
Sunday School attendance averaged 125 to 130 people in 1957 while attendance at worship services averaged 150 to 175. Contributions averaged $175 to $190 per Sunday.
Responding to membership growth, the church used $15,000 from its building fund and borrowed additional money to fund the remodeling of its existing church building. The project consisted of three more classrooms, a nursery, two restrooms, a study for the minister, and 70 additional seats in the auditorium. The building was also
given a new look with the removal of the front steps and installation of stained glass front windows.
The church also borrowed $18,000 from Mutual Savings in June 1958 to pay off a $540.59 outstanding loan and hire a contractor to build a minister’s home in West Hartselle. The three-bedroom brick house was completed in September the next year at a cost of $14,275.
A church directory published in 1959 listed Charles B. Stidham as minister, E. H. Bennett, E. O. Creel, H. L. Slate and Dr. Sam Martin as elders and Jimmy H. NeSmith, Grady Nicholson, B. R. Stidham, J. B. Warren and A. T. Woodall as deacons.
A third building program was completed in 1972 with the addition of a glass-enclosed front concourse. Other additions included doubling the seating capacity of the auditorium, installing carpeting, exposed beams, wood paneling, nursery room, two offices, fellowship room, communion preparation room, restrooms and utility closet.
Phillip Hines has served as minister of the church for over 39 years. He assumed the position in Sept. 1980 after serving as minister of Leighton Church of Christ for seven years.
“I was scared at first, being a young preacher serving a large church,” he recalled. “But the folks here treated me and my family like royalty and I have never looked back.”
Hines described his congregation as “a loving, caring, generous body of Christians
that really want to serve the Lord.”
“I know one day my time will be up. I’ll retire and remain a citizen of Hartselle,” he pointed out. “When that happens, my prayer will be that the church remains strong, as a light on the hill, and the transition will be a smooth one.”
Serving on the ministerial staff with Hines are Todd Barrier and Frank Thornton.
Elders are Talmadge Reynolds, Darrell Sims, Alan Walker, Phillip Hines and Lee Hobbs.
Deacons are Phillip Binkley, Tony Ford, Harry Fuller, Ed Monroe , Jim Reeder, Mike Runager, Tim Tanklsey, Cooper Wigginton,Tim Brown, Scott Forsythe, Kerry Hamlett, Tony Parker, Matt Reynolds, B.C. Smith, Terry Thompson, Charles Crawford, Bobby Fox, Jeff Harris, Bradley Phillips, Mark Reynolds, Jimmy Summerford and Don Wear.