Our History

Oak Ridge United Methodist Church
Written by: Mrs. Edna Linville, Church Historian 1915-2006

Recorded history fails to provide a date for the first Oak Ridge Church, but tradition suggests the first structure was called the Old Union Church and dates back to the Revolutionary War.  This first building was replaced in approximately 1845.  The new church was located on the site of the present cemetery and remained until 1903.  In that year, the wooden structure was moved by D.W. Whitaker and attached to his house.  Until 1925, this three-story church building was used as quarters for boarding students attending Oak Ridge Institute. During that year a new building was built on the site and named Cottrell Memorial--a Methodist Episcopal Church which served much of the Oak Ridge community.

During this same period, a second Methodist Church was organized and constructed a short distance away on Highway 150 West.  It was located on the grounds of the present Oak Ridge Military Academy.  This sanctuary was constructed in mid 1800 but was destroyed by fire in 1914.  Hymnals, pews and the organ were salvaged from the burning building.  A hearty group of people immediately set out to build a new structure on the south side of the road--a Methodist Protestant Church which was completed in 1914 and which today is Linville Chapel.

During the early part of the 20th century, the two churches were often served by the same ministers, though they maintained their separate identities for many years.  Some of the early chaplains to the academy and pastors of the two churches were Rev. Herman Duncan, H.C. Byrum, W.R. Bowland, Kenneth Goodson, James Stokes and Paul Taylor.  The one we remember best is the late Bishop Kenneth Goodson.  This was Ken's first church and he never lost contact with this church and the people of our community.  Dean Dennis Campbell of Duke Divinity School said of Bishop Goodson, "I would say that he was one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century."

During the 1940's, interest began to grow for a new church building to serve the community.  Discussion arose between the two congregations, and under the leadership of Rev. Harley Williams, the congregations voted in favor of a merger.

Around a potbellied stove in Frank Linville's store, the idea arose that a horse show might be organized to help pay for the church.  The Oak Ridge horse Show was born and first held on Easter Monday 1946.  For six consecutive years, the proceeds from the show went to retire the building debt.  When the presiding elder of the district, District Superintendent Dr. W.A. Lambeth, learned that the "horse money" was financing one of his Methodist churches, he forcefully declared that it must be "a consecrated Horse Show."

This new church was located on the same site as our present church.  Frank "Hap" Whitaker supervised the construction with local labor, and the church was dedicated in 1952.

During the 1960's, Oak Ridge joined Morehead Methodist Church and became a two-point charge.  This relationship was well suited for both churches.  Then in 1973, Oak Ridge became a station charge with the pastor serving also as chaplain to the Oak Ridge Military Academy.  In 1963, a parsonage was built, and in 1966, at Educational Building was added.  John "Red" Clodfelter supervised this construction.

An outdoor picnic shelter was added to the church grounds by C.E. Bailes and R.N. "Buster" And Edna Linville, and dedicated in memory of Kathleen D. Bailes, Mattie N. McMillan, Mary Blain M. Whitaker and Jean M. Whitaker.  This and all other church facilities were built on land which was given by Mr. and Mrs. Zack L. Whitaker and Dr. and Mrs. Richard Whitaker.

During the 1970's, the Oak Ridge community was blessed with much growth.  By 1979, it became evident that additional space was needed in the sanctuary and that a fellowship hall would greatly serve the needs of the people.  Under the leadership of the pastor, Dr. Lane C. Hurley, a building committee was selected to formulate construction plans.  Chaired by Mack Peoples, members John "Red" Clodfelter, R.N. "Buster" Linville, Walter Tice, Dink Owen, Larry Lawhorne, Betty Austin, Hubert Atkins and Juanita Browning worked nearly three years in devising building plans which would suit the needs and dreams of the church members.  After working closely with the Duke Endowment office on Church Extension, final plans were adopted in the spring of 1981.  The ground breaking service was held on September 13, 1981.  During the period of construction, Chairman Spencer Sullivan and his construction committee, consisting of Max Kern, Mack Peoples, John "Red" Clodfelter, R.N. "Buster" Linville and Gerald Austin, provided inexhaustible energy.  Also working closely with this committee was the decorating committee, chaired by Lewis Owen with members Susan Mitchell, Liz Tice, Pat Stafford and Edna Linville.  During the construction of this church, our Sunday morning services were held at Linville Chapel and luncheons and covered-dish meals were held in the Academy cafeteria.  Lane Hurley was our minister during this time.

The service of dedication and praise of this building was held Sunday, November 18, 1990.  Attending this service were Bishop L. Bevel Jones, III, presiding Bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church; Bishop W. Kenneth Goodson, Retired Bishop of the United Methodist Church; Dr. Lane C. Hurley, minister of Matthews United Methodist Church; other former ministers of this church and many lay friends.

In 1991 a new parsonage was built in Ashton Park on a lot given by Mr. and Mrs. Ken Frazier and Mr. and Mrs. Kit Barker, and constructed by Lamb & Peeples Builders of Oak Ridge.  Rev. Robbie and Carol Moore were the first to occupy the parsonage.  They lived there a few months, and then it became the home of Bryce and Lib Parker.

In June of 1995, the beloved pastor, Bryce Parker and his wife retired from Oak Ridge United Methodist Church after 40 years in the ministry.  Rev. Terry Moore, along with his wife Nancy, and children, Ashley and Andrew, were appointed to the Oak Ridge United Methodist Church.

Many people have helped make the history of Oak Ridge United Methodist Church, and we are thankful for their efforts.  Our present membership is called to serve in a new and different world--influenced by the past but shaped more by the present and the future.  We look backward with appreciation and forward with optimism, confident that we will meet the many challenges that lie before us and will continue to see our church grow and prosper.

The early history of our church has been handed down by people like the late Col. Zack L. Whitaker and the late Mrs. Dore' Kerner Donnell.  Some were written accounts and much by word of mouth.  I have been a part of this history-making since 1927.

Oak Ridge United Methodist Church
A Church for the 21st Century

In her wonderful history of Oak Ridge United Methodist Church, Mrs. Edna Linville concludes with a powerful and visionary statement which captures the essence of the community of faith today:  Our present membership is called to serve in a new and different world--influenced by the past but shaped more by the present and the future.  We look backward with appreciation and forward with optimism, confident that we will meet the many challenges that lie before us and will continue to see our church grow and prosper.

In many ways, this is exactly what the church has set out to do in the years since the completion of Mrs. Linville's church history.      

The mid 1990's brought another stirring of God among the Oak Ridge United Methodist Church family, and once again the church grew.  In June of 1995, Dr. Terry Moore was appointed senior pastor of Oak Ridge United Methodist Church at the time of the retirement of Rev. Bryce Parker.  Dr. Moore's appointment, along with his enthusiasm, vision, and love for the church, coincided with an explosion in housing in the Northwest area of Guilford County.  As a result, the church began to grow dramatically.  In 1994 the church averaged 146 people in worship.  By the end of Dr. Moore's pastoral tenure in June 2001, the church was averaging 417 and had expanded to two Sunday morning worship services.  During this time, the church increased in worship attendance by 164%, making Oak Ridge UMC the fastest growing United Methodist Church in the Greensboro District.

The rise in new homes and new families moving to the Oak Ridge area, also allowed the church the opportunity to expand its discipleship ministries, with the Sunday School program being one of the areas to experience the most dramatic growth.  In 1994 Oak Ridge UMC averaged 67 in Sunday School.  By 2001 that attendance had grown to 190 per Sunday.  In 2000, the church completed a new educational building and office suite, allowing for an expansion of Sunday School classes, Bible studies, children and youth meetings, and other activities.  Once the new building was officially opened, Sunday School attendance increased 20% each year the first two years.

Two vital factors have made the Oak Ridge United Methodist Church a strong and healthy congregation in the 21st century:

  1. The willingness of the longtime community residents and church members to open up their church and welcome the numbers of new residents into this congregation, and
  2. The many gifted and talented people God has brought into the church as a result.

Today Oak Ridge United Methodist Church continues to be a community of faith that offers people a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a place to call home, and an opportunity to put their gifts to work in both becoming and making disciples for Jesus Christ.

[last edited February 5, 2003]

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