From Staff Reports
The landscape of the Rock Creek community of Erwin is changing, for an iconic Erwin landmark is no more.
According to information shared by the church, on Oct. 13, Erwin Church of God celebrated its centennial Homecoming. Festivities included music by Larry Pate of the Landmarks Quartet and ministry by former Erwin Church of God pastor, Bishop James Hughes.
The church was founded in 1919 by Rev. Bob Edney, and in the years between the founding and the purchase of the building that housed the church for 90 years, they met wherever they could find a place – members homes, brush arbors and even in the Rock Creek Presbyterian mission, which also housed the Rock Creek School.
On Monday, Nov. 11, demolition began on the former Erwin Church of God building at 799 Rock Creek Road. This building, which originally housed Stokes McKinney’s store, was purchased by the church, which was then known as the Rock Creek Church of God on July 27, 1927.
At that time the building was a small frame building that had provided food and general merchandise to the community for many years. According to the deed, Stokes McKinney transferred the building and property to the Rock Creek Church of God for the sum of $5,000, payable $20 down and $20 every other month till paid. Based on the U.S. inflation rate this would be almost $74,000 in today’s dollars. This was a huge victory for a church that had only existed for eight years, especially since those were the years leading up to the Great Depression. In the years that followed, the building was remodeled and added onto several times until it became the iconic landmark that so many in the community knew and loved.
The building, which sat on a wedge of ground between Rock Creek and Rock Creek Road, suffered from erosion for many years, according to the information from the church. The church leadership worked diligently since the 1980s to shore up the foundation and keep the church standing; however, in 2016 it became apparent that the building was deteriorating faster than the members could repair it.
In July of that year current pastor, Bishop John Edwards, along with the church and Pastor’s Council and Board of Trustees, approached the church to begin a capital campaign to build a new church building on a piece of property that the church has owned since 1976. The plan was to raise funds for two years and then spend a year building, with the goal being to dedicate a new church building in conjunction with the centennial homecoming in 2019.
That was not, however, how it transpired. On the advice of two structural engineers, and with the guidance of then Tennessee Church of God Administrative Bishop Mitch Corder and District Overseer C. Bryant Collins, the church made the difficult decision to evacuate their beloved church home of 90 years.
The final worship service in the “Old Rock Building” was held on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. In that service, Edwards made a promise to the church body that no matter what, the church would continue and he would ensure that there was at least one worship service every week. For 25 weeks the congregation met in businesses and other church buildings, and they never failed to hold Sunday morning and Wednesday evening services.
During this time, with the help and support of local churches and businesses, they were able to build a multi-purpose building by enclosing the “Church of God Pavilion” at 772 Rock Creek Road. Erwin Church of God now meets on Sundays at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. as well as on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. in this new building.
“This is a very emotional time for the Erwin Church of God. Though we are very sad to see the demolition of the beautiful building that was home to the church for 90 years, we are also excited to see what God is going to do next,” Edwards said. “The building is not the church. The church is the people who dedicate themselves to the work of the kingdom every day. God has given a great vision for the future of this church and I am honored to be a part of what He is doing here.”