First Christian Church celebrates 100 years on Main Street
By Staff Reports
The building that is home to First Christian Church on Main Street, better known by locals as ‘the church with the red doors,’ is nearing its 100th birthday. Church members will celebrate the occasion with an open house May 15 from 2-4 p.m. A church service will be held that morning at 10 a.m. and the public is invited to attend.
According the church literature, the church got its start in the 1870s when a Sunday School movement that challenged people to learn about the source of their faith swept across America. This caused Sunday school groups in 1872-73 to begin meeting in private homes in Hartselle. First Christian Church was started by members of such groups and evangelists of the times.
The church was formally organized in 1881 following a series of revival services conducted by Rev. C.K. Marshall. At that time, church members met in a framed building on North Milner Street on land donated by A.A. Oden. The world-famous religious hymn, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, was written in Hartselle in 1887 by Professor A.J. Showalter, who at that time, was conducting singing school in the church building.
The present building on East Main Street, under construction from 1914-21, is made of native sandstone donated to the church by Robert Sobottka. The stones were taken from a quarry near Tanner Heights and brought to the construction site by horse and wagon. Each stone was chipped, shaped and laid in place by stonemason Ernest Jackson. The present building was opened and dedicated May 14, 1922.
Longtime church member Luanne Stephenson grew up at First Christian and said she is proud to be a part of the church family.
“Our family has deep roots in the church, and my grandparents were there when the plans were made for the current building,” Stephenson said. “I am so inspired by the vision the members had and their dedication to see it completed after seven years. When you think of the stones being brought in by wagon, and each one chipped and laid by one stone mason, it’s a testimony to their labor of love for the Lord.”
Mitzi Pouncey began attending First Christian Church in 1953 when her family moved to Hartselle from Cullman.
“I think when you are young you go to church to spend time with friends and enjoy activities. As you become older and start experiencing difficulties and tragedies in your life you realize your church is your anchor and support system,” Pouncey said. “I think our church is a beautiful building and every time I am in the building, I think of all the faithful people who have worked so hard over the many years to not only maintain the building but have made it possible for church family to continue. I remember learning from Miss Ethel Patillo, Miss Lizzie Reed Penn and Mrs. Claudine Sample, my Sunday School teachers for many years. I know our building isn’t “the church” but you can’t help but feel reverence and peace when you sit in that sanctuary and look at the stained-glass windows, the old pews and the beautiful wood ceiling.”
Members of First Christian invite the community to the open house event May 15 to celebrate 100 years of worshipping at the church with the red doors.