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Growing by Grace
Reidsville Christian Church looks back on 100 years

Growing by Grace

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It took 25 years for the project to come together. The Disciples of Christ wanted to start a Reidsville church in 1886, but finding a pastor was the hard part.

“(A) strong appeal came to our Board urging that we undertake the establishment of a church in the important town of Reidsville,” Ben H. Melton, State Secretary of the Disciples of Christ, wrote in a 1902 letter.

A minister from Virginia, J.P. Hawley, came and preached five times in the Reidsville opera house before leaving. In 1908, W. Graham Walker came to town, but left without setting up any type of lasting group.

The foundations of what would become Reidsville Christian Church didn’t take root until 1912, when an Iowa evangelist named Carl Organ set up a revival in the Rockingham town of Spray. The revival meeting spread to Reidsville with the help of a Johnson Bible College student named Henry F. Bulger, who stayed around to become the church’s first pastor. The group met in the old town hall on Market Street, the Primitive Baptist Church on South Scales and then finally settled in a building on the corner of North Scales and Carter streets.

On Sept. 16, Reidsville Christian Church celebrated their 100th anniversary with a service of reflection and honors from city officials.

“In 1963, I received a call from Brother Harold Gentry, stating the need for a minister for the Reidsville North Scales Street Church of Christ,” said Lewis Styons, pastor at Reidsville from 1963 to 1974. “At that time, the church in Reidsville was going through a very difficult time. Reidsville Christian has more than doubled in size since we were here.”

Former pastor Robert Forrest, who served at the church from 1975 to 1994, wasn’t able to make the service, but his three daughters came and shared their thoughts on growing up at Reidsville Christian.

“My memories first were of a beautiful old church, with a friendly and welcoming congregation,” Donna Forrester Carter said. “We had a pretty small youth group then, nothing like now.”

Carter remembered that everyone called her father “Pastor Bob”. It was during Forrester’s tenure that the church went through the biggest transition in its history, moving from Scales Street to a 13.7 acre parcel of land on South Park Drive in 1992. Previously known as North Scales Street Church of Christ, the congregation adopted the name Reidsville Christian Church.

“We were landlocked (on Scales Street),” current pastor Shannon Newsome explained to the Reidsville Review. “We rented a parking lot, we had no room to expand, so we looked at other places.”

Pastor Forrester would retire before the relocation actually took place. Newsome, who was serving at the time as youth minister, took over as senior pastor in 1994. By 1996, the church had paid off all the debt associated with the new parcel of land and officially moved in 2003, holding the first service in the new building Nov. 21 of that year.

“I think both the church and I have grown,” Newsome said. “This was the first church I ever preached at and they’ve allowed me to grow. With any young minister, there’s a lot you don’t learn in seminary.”

From the original revival attendees to the current 500 to 600 that come in the church doors on a monthly basis, from a tent to more than 15 acres of land, it’s clear growth is a constant for the church. Donna Forrester Carter told those in attendance that “Pastor Bob”, when asked, said the hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” highlighted how he felt about Reidsville Christian Church and what God was doing. Former music director Mark Fessler, who worked at the church with Forrester from 1974 to 1978, expanded on that a bit.

“God has blessed this church through those willing to make changes through the years,” Fessler said.

 

Marking “Reidsville Christian Church Day”

Church members past and present were honored at the service Sunday when Reidsville mayor James Festerman presented Newsome with a certificate of recognition. The Reidsville town council had voted to make Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012 “Reidsville Christian Church Day” in the town.

“This church has a rich history and a rich legacy in our town,” Festerman said.

In addition, former N.C. House Rep. Nelson Cole presented the church with a North Carolina flag that had been flown over the capital building in Raleigh. Those who served in the military or had family in the armed forces were asked to stand, as the flag was dedicated in their honor.

“It’s a great family,” Newsome told the Reidsville Review about the church. “As great as our history is, I think the greatest chapter has yet to be written.”  

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