History of Centennial Christian Church

 

The Reverend William Bullard was the key force behind the founding of Centennial Christian Church. Reverend Bullard was the son of Dr. Chester Bullard, who founded the Snowville Christian Church in 1833. As the minister of Radford Christian Church during the 1890’s, Reverend Bullard also conducted services in the original one-room school building in our community. After a number of residents had accepted Christ as their Savior, a congregation was organized, whereupon, it was established within the National Brotherhood of The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is one of the oldest religious bodies having origin on American soil. The founding date is 1809. The churches are congregationally governed.

 

To the best of our knowledge the families and extended families who lived in the community at that time were the Alberts, Ekisses, Hughes, and McCoys. Reverend Bullard became the instrumental force in guiding the small but foresighted congregation in the planning for and erection of an appropriate house of worship; hence, the construction was begun by that dedicated congregation in the spring of 1898.

 

The land on which the church was built was donated by Moses and Lucetta Burton McCoy. The deed to the property was written January 29, 1900, and signed by I.C. Otey, Justice of the Peace. It was recorded in the Montgomery County Courthouse on May 11, 1900 under the name of “Mount Carmel, On the Waters of New River, Dry Branch, Virginia.” (This was the mailing address at that time; later a post office was established in McCoy.) The deed also states in part “… shall be of quiet possession and no encumbrances…”.

 

The carpenter foreman for the building was Mr. Stone of Snowville. He was afforded free room and board, a week at a time, in the homes of various families. His crew of voluntary workmen was comprised of men of the community – labor free. These men performed the arduous task of cutting the trees in the nearby mountains, hauling the logs across the rugged terrain, sawing them into lumber, and at the building site, planing the weather boarding and hewing the sills by hand. The women cooked the food for lunches and sent it by the children to the workmen. It is most interesting to note that in the autumn of 1898, a wagon-load of apple butter, molasses, vegetables, grain, etc. was donated by the residents, hauled to Snowville and presented to Mr. Stone to help pay for his carpentry services.

 

It is quite apparent that the construction work on our church was an all-participating community effort; every person having given of his or her talents, services and labors in an enthusiastic extension of genuine Christian dedication in order that they might carry forward God’s work here on earth.

 

It was not convenient, for various reasons, to hold Dedication Ceremonies of the new church building until May 12, 1901. On this momentous and joyous occasion, the Reverend Cephus Shelburne delivered the dedicatoral sermon. He was a native of Montgomery County and at that time was minister of the First Christian Church in Roanoke, Virginia. The picnic lunch for the occasion was spread on the grounds of the school building. There was no musical instrument in the new building. A receipt of payment was in evidence that an organ was purchased in 1907. In 1909, the Centennial Anniversary of the founding of The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in America was commemorated in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Therefore, in that year, the congregation of Mount Carmel Christian Church chose to change the church’s name to Centennial Christian Church. This change is confirmed by the recorded fact found in our state office at church headquarters, Richmond; this office has been in continuous existence since 1875. The official record states that an offering was “contributed for Home Missions in the name of Centennial Christian Church in 1909.”

 

During the following years new families moved into McCoy, others married and established residences here; hence, a growing community. Consequently, an increase in Centennial’s membership was realized. In 1920, a membership of seventy-six (76) was reported in the Christian Church’s National Yearbook. In 1927 during the ministry of the Reverend H. B. Worley a noteworthy building improvement was achieved. Four Sunday School classrooms, a vestibule, bell tower and portico were added to the front of the original building. This completed new addition was dedicated by special services, followed by a celebration of fellowship. Also, during this time a coal furnace was installed and new sheet metal roofing was placed. Reverend Worley returned to Centennial as minister for several years in the 1930’s.

 

The Reverend J. D. Calloway served as minister from 1928 to 1932. During his ministry, the electrical lighting system was installed. A new piano was purchased to replace the original organ which had been in continuous use for over twenty years. A seven-room parsonage was built on donated land and was dedicated in 1942 with religious rites. The Reverend Grady Ferguson was the first resident minister. He served in World War II as Chaplain, and returned to Centennial for full-time ministry. During this time the church basement was added and used for young peoples’ activities, Christian Endeavor banquets, and a piano was purchased through the efforts of the young people. In 1949, during the ministry of the Reverend J. E. Hardy (who served the longest period as pastor), the interior of the building was renovated with new walls, ceiling, floor, carpet, and pews. A handmade communion table was donated. The beautiful stained-glass window was also dedicated at this time in memory of Moses McCoy (1829-1909) who had donated the land on which the church was built.

 

The Reverend L.E. Moseley served as minister from 1962 to 1972, during which time a Fellowship hall with kitchen was constructed on additional land purchased. The Sunday School rooms were paneled or painted, the coal furnace converted to oil, two rest rooms added, new carpet, piano, and electric organ purchased, and an office/study was built. In 1970, a picnic shelter was completed near the Fellowship Hall. During the ministry of Reverend Robert L. Bohannon from 1977 to 1981, a pastor’s study and two rest rooms were added to the Fellowship Hall. After that time several improvements were made to the church property including a baptistry which was added to the sanctuary in 1983.

 

In 1983, former member Kenneth Albert, who lived in the Arlington, Virginia area, bequeathed to our church slightly more than $110,000. That same year, the Long Range Planning Committee was established which would eventually make recommendations to the congregation as to how this gift would be used. Between 1983 and 1991 the committee struggled with many possibilities of renovation or new construction of a worship facility. During the period of 1981 to 1989 Centennial experienced many changes in our ministerial leadership. Reverend Rhodes Artz served as our full-time interim minister from 1981 to 1982. In 1982, the Reverend Richard Cline was called as our full-time minister, serving us until 1988. Part-time interim ministers Reverend Rufus Spence, Reverend Clayton Tinnell, and Reverend J. C. Kessee provided us with capable leadership between the years of 1988-89. In 1989, Reverend Gordon Lee was called to be our full-time minister.

 

The process of building a new church actually began in 1991 with core drilling samples on the site of the present church building. In 1993, the congregation made the final decision to build a new structure rather than renovate the old church. At our Homecoming celebration in August of 1994, a ground-breaking ceremony was held for our new structure. Finally, in February 1996, the congregation authorized the trustees to sign for a loan of up to $350,000.

 

Sunday, March 15, 1996, was the final worship service in the building that had served our congregation for nearly a century. The congregation began worshiping in the Fellowship Hall the following Sunday. In April, 1996, the construction crews began the process of razing the old church. The church was razed, piled on the lower part of the lot and burned on several evenings. In May of that same year construction began on our new worship facility. The total cost of the new facility when completed exceeded $650,000, and the final loan amount was approximately $280,000.

 

At last on March 8, 1997, the membership made the pilgrimage back to the “top of the hill” to our new home of worship…exactly 51 weeks from the last worship service in the old building. The formal dedication service was May 18, 1997, with representation from our national church, Dr. Lester D. Palmer, and from our regional church, Reverend Marilyn R. Taylor.

 

Between 1997 and the present time various improvements and/or additions have been made to the property, such as additional Sunday School classroom space, landscaping, cemetery fencing, and installation of a flag pole and marker honoring our veterans.