By Joe Rector
Palm Sunday was a special time for our family. Instead of going to our regular church, we made the trip to First Christian Church at the corner of Fifth and Gay. A holy time became more so as we stood in front of the church.
Amy and I began attending FCC about 1979. We’d looked for a church family, and those members welcomed us with open arms better than any other place we’d visited. We were sold, and for 30 years, we attended services and Sunday school. Our children were baptized in that church, and the entire congregation became our family.
After 100 years of living and surviving at that location, the church membership had shrunk to the point that closing the doors was the only option. For a while, another church used the building, but eventually, they left.
The remaining tenant was The Point. This new church group had met for some time at the theater in West Town Mall. The chance to move to the FCC building was too good to pass up. This congregation has undertaken some projects with the approval of the landowner to make the church more welcome and accessible to all sorts of folks. The congregation rents rooms to small businesses, especially artists. That program pumped new blood into the old building and helped the Point financially as well.
The smartest woman I know, my wife; sent out a Facebook post to former FCC members to suggest that we meet at the old place to see how it was doing. The reaction was positive and swift. Palm Sunday came, and Amy and I stood outside to greet any of our old friends. We hoped that a couple of folks would show up, but we were amazed that approximately 35 former members joined us. Minister Adam Woldt greeted our group and gave a tour after services.
After our tour, many decided to meet at Marble City Market for lunch. Once again, FCC individuals had a chance to catch up. Marie Leonard still is the perfect southern lady at age 95. Two men who had always been sidekicks, Bill Knight and Ralph Alexander, appeared with their familiar smiles. Wayne and Mary Anne Walls brought their son Adam and his family to share their faith and love for the place that welcomed them when they moved to Knoxville.
A contemporary service is far different from the ones that occurred at FCC. Some old timers would not have cared for the music, but I observed from the balcony where I sat, that the people, young and old, swayed to the beat of the music. Yes, many white-haired people filled the pews, but not a single person made a negative comment. Intern Pastor Adam Moore gave the message for the day. It was informative, passionate, and to the point. I appreciated his ability to accomplish that.
All of us who were members of FCC fought hard to keep that church alive. We knew the surrounding community needed a church like ours. As things turned out, many older members passed, and the congregation didn’t have the numbers or energy to complete a plan. We all give thanks for the arrival of The Point. The members are a mixture of ages, and it was pleasing to hear the sounds that accompany the presence of small children in church.
Our group finished lunch and began the journey home. This might be the last time that we see each other. First Christian Church is in good hands. All who visited send their love and thanks to The Point for loving the old church building and for injecting the life that it so much deserves. What we witnessed on Palm Sunday was the resurrection of that place that means so much. The next Sunday folks returned to their new church homes to celebrate the most important of all resurrections.
A church family is a gift from God. People are always ready to help others. I hope all of you find that in your lives. You might even try The Point to see if it fits your needs. It is located in a building that was built by Christians who loved and cared for it for over 100 years.