THE HISTORY OF SAINT PAUL CHURCH
During the winter months of 1995, the majority of the congregation of a local United Methodist Church slowly began to leave the church after a time of disagreement with the hierarchy of the United Methodist Conference concerning pastoral assignment. In June of 1995, David Thomas and Rita Beal were visiting when they commented that there were enough people who had left the United Methodist Church to begin a new independent church. After this conversation, David called on another former church member, Curtis Roberts, and discussed the situation. It was decided to call a meeting for the following Sunday. On Sunday, June 8, 1995, the group met at Carol’s Sunrise Café and discussed the formation of a new church. After a scripture reading from Ephesians 2:19-22, and much deliberation, it was decided that the church would be an independent congregation of Methodist people, in which the administration of the church would be solely led by the local church. The group decided on the name, Saint Paul Free-Will Methodist Church. A group of three people, Coy McCarter, Curtis Roberts, and David Thomas, were called upon to find a location for Sunday services, and a collection of $45 was taken up (after which $35 was paid to the café for the meeting room, and $10 was left to start up a treasury).The people attending this meeting were David Thomas, Carl and Rita Beal, Louise Hodge, Coy and Vernette McCarter, Curtis and Lois Roberts, Marge Kapanowski, Al and Brenda Libbrecht, and Rick, Denise and Kim O’Bryant.
The first service was held on Sunday June 25, 1995 at Holly Hills Funeral Home by the Reverend Agnes Gilbertson, of the Pittman Center circuit of the United Methodist Church. Rev. Gilbertson was to later serve as the assistant pastor of Saint Paul Church. After this service a business meeting was held to decide the leadership of the church. It was voted that, for the time-being, a trustee group, composed of one member of each family, would serve as an administrative board in which all decisions would be brought before the congregation for a vote.
In August of 1995, the Reverend George W. Ott, Jr. was voted to serve as an interim pastor. He was later to become the regular pastor for the fledgling congregation. Due to the drawbacks of meeting in a funeral home, the church decided to move the location of Sunday services to the auditorium of Harrison-Chilhowee Baptist Academy in Seymour in September of 1995. The school charged the church a fee of $50 per Sunday for the use of their facilities. It was hoped that a permanent location would be found soon, but due to monetary limitations, that was thought to be a long time away. Then suddenly, much to the surprise of the congregation, the Lord blessed us with a great opportunity. The Seymour Church of Christ was doing well until 1995. Due to the absence of a pastor, the fact that many families had moved away, and that a small handful of members wanted to unite with other congregations, the remaining members decided to close their church and sell the building (once known as Trundle’s Crossroads Methodist Church). One of the remaining members was a real estate agent, and she listed the property for sale. Upon hearing about this, the trustee board of Saint Paul Church met with the trustee board of Seymour Church of Christ and agreed to the purchase. The cost of the property was set at $50,000. The amount of $5,000 would be paid as a down payment, and the balance paid over a 15-year period to the East Tennessee Christian Services Group, a benevolence organization of the Church of Christ denomination. The congregation of Saint Paul Church held their first service in the new church building on Sunday, May 5, 1996; less than a year after their formation. By this time, the name, “Free-Will Methodist” was dropped so the church would be “nondenominational”.
On Sunday, June 23, 1996, the church held a dedication service followed by a covered dish luncheon, and celebrated their first anniversary.
In the spring of 1998, books were given by Paulette H. Prince to begin a library for the church. Since then, many more have been donated to the Paul Hodge Memorial Library. In 1999, a collection of theological books was donated by the former members of the Shields Mountain Methodist Church; these books were the collection of the late Rev. Ralph Cline; who had served that church for over 30 years.
CHARTER MEMBERS OF SAINT PAUL CHURCH
Coy McCarter *, Vernette McCarter*, David R. Thomas, Benny R. Thomas*, Carolyn H. Thomas, Bryan S. Thomas *, Carl Beal *, Rita Beal, Paulette H. Prince, Louise L. Hodge*, Jerry Kapanowski*, Marge Kapanowski *, Rick O’Bryant, Denise O’Bryant, Kimberly O’Bryant, Alan Roberts, Kim Roberts, Curtis B. Roberts*, Lois Roberts*, Steve Roberts, Cathy Roberts, Al Libbrecht, Brenda Libbrecht, Brandon Libbrecht, George W. Ott, Jr., Maggie Ott, Bethany Ott, Bridgett Ott, Roy McClain*, Gloria McClain, David Jenkins, Becky Jenkins