HISTORY OF THE AUSTINVILLE CHURCH OF CHRIST
The Austinville Church of Christ came about as a result of a tent meeting held in 1932 on Danville Road S. W. across the street from the present Fire Station No. 5. Tim Walker of Texas was the preacher for the gospel meeting. The tent meeting went on for about 5 weeks, was attended faithfully by many, and resulted in many baptisms into the body of Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).
The church met in different homes, starting with the home of Dexter Walker, on whose property the tent was erected, and who was among those first converted, until the little white church building was built in 1936. The church met in the homes of Dexter Walker, Luther Speegle, Mag Goodwin, The McElvaneys, and Maggie Justice.
The Speegles were good friends with the J.L Craft family. The Crafts knew of the home church meetings and generously donated two lots on State Avenue S.W. to build a meeting house when funding became available. The deed for the two lots on State Avenue was probably the first time the name “Austinville Church of Christ” was used.
In 1936, when funds became sufficient, a 30-foot by 40-foot white frame structure was built; however, the interior was not completed. As more money trickled in, the inside was ceiled and electricity was added. Lighting was adequate and heat was provided by a coal-burning heater. Thus a permanent home for the meeting of the Austinville Church of Christ to meet became available.
During these difficult times there was little money to pay regular pulpit minister. Emmet Byars from Moulton, James Hood, and the first elders, Archie McCay, R.C. McWhorter and Dexter Walker preached at various times.
The first regular pulpit preacher was Charlie Bailey in the early 1940’s. He was followed by T.A. Thompson, Newt Gribble, Joe Gurley, and Harold Lentz.
After the Depression years, the economy improved as World War II and the Korean War brought jobs to the area. The church grew and this necessitated more space. Two classrooms and a baptistry were added to the back of the original frame structure in 1949. The white frame building was also bricked at this time.
As the 1950’s brought new industry to the Tennessee Valley and the membership at Austinville continued to grow, improvements again were necessary to the church property. In 1955 air conditioning was installed. In 1958 two lots north of the original building were bought and a small frame house was moved there to serve as the preacher’s home. A new auditorium was completed in May 1959.
In 1961 a house on Cleveland Avenue was purchased for the preacher’s home. This was enlarged and bricked and served this purpose until 1978. More classroom space was needed so in 1966 a two-story educational annex was added.
As Austinville experienced steady gowth, unlike many churches of the 70’s, crowding bordering on discomfort again called for an enlarged auditorium. On December 12, 1976, the church celebrated the official opening of an enlarged and remodeled space with a seating capacity of nearly 600.
During the summer of 1979, Austinville began an internship or on-the-job training for ministerial students from Freed-Hardeman college and missions efforts were started not only within the United States but also abroad.
In the 1980’s, the church continued to grow in number and good works. Beginning in 1981, classrooms were added between the new auditorium and the original building, and behind the old building. A new lobby and façade were added. In 1985, the property directly behind the church building and next to the alley was purchased and the house remodeled for the new associate minister. In 1986, the original building which had been used for classrooms was again remodeled for a small auditorium. Sadly also in 1986 the congregation suffered the loss of its beloved minister Jackie Fox to cancer.
The land on Danville Road S.W. was also purchased in 1989 as the elders looked to the future.
1990’s and beyond
The church at Austinville has continued to grow in number and works. Many activities to prepare and train the young continue, such as Bible Bowl, Vacation Bible School, and Lads to Leaders. The annual Gospel Singing at Austinville was begun on September 3, 1999 and continues every April to this day.
On June 27, 1999, the Austinville Church of Christ was officially relocated from the State Avenue site to the property on Danville Road which was purchased in 1989. Prior to moving in, the men of the congregation read through the entire Bible, starting at 9 p.m. on June 16, 1999, and concluding at 10 p.m. on June 19, 1999. This shows the church's strong committment to continue always in God's Word.
Elders of the Austinville Church of Christ, 1930’s to Present
R. C. McWhorter
J. C. Pressnell
Woodard B. (Woody) McMeans
H. M. (Doc) Turner
Lamar Gerstman (current)
Jerry Hall (current)
Mike Fuller (current)
Dan Whitson (current)
Tim Hester (current)
Keith Hammonds (current)
Alan Lee (current)
Preachers of the Austinville Church of Christ, 1930’s to Present
Part-time Preachers (1930s):
R. C. McWhorter
Full-time Pulpit Preachers:
T. A. Thompson
Mark N. Posey
Mark N. Posey