Saint Paul Episcopal Church – The Church Journey

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11 March 2020

I had the privilege to visit an historic church once known as Trundle’s Crossroads Methodist Church, established in 1854. Today the church is named Saint Paul Episcopal Church is located in Seymour, Tennessee.  Located in the beautiful foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains between Knoxville to the north, and Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg to the south.  They are a small congregation worshiping in a building with a 166-year history as a place of divine worship.  

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In the early days, the Little River Circuit Quarterly Conference record books are housed at Emory and Henry College, and contain several references to the church at Trundle’s Crossroads. The congregation met as early as November 2, 1854 at the home of Daniel L. Trundle.  As was the custom in those days, a church met in the home of a member in the absence of a church building. At the annual charge conference of New Salem Methodist Episcopal Church in Knox County on June 16, 1855 is found the first reference to the building of a church at Trundle’s Crossroads. The congregation of New Salem was asked to give financial support to the congregation at Trundle’s Crossroads who were constructing a building. [1]

The first pastor was Rev. John Bowman, who rode a horse among the three churches that he pastored (Trundles, Beersheba, and Waylands).  It could be safely assumed that the building was completed by June 2, 1857, as that was when the land was deeded to the church (the deed specifically stating a building being there).  In the early days of the church, before the introduction of electric power to the area, it is known that the church was lighted by a gas lighting system. It is reliably known that the first Sunday school at Trundle’s was formed in May of 1881. It has been believed by many that the Nave was built in 1881, since that is the date on a commemorative plate made by the ladies’ Sunday School Class of 1957, and gives the dates below the picture of the church as 1881-1957. (Nave is the central part of a church building to accommodate most of the congregation). [1]

In 1943, land was excavated from underneath the church building so that a basement could be constructed for use as a fellowship hall and classrooms. This “Undercroft” area was enlarged in later years. Around 1943, exterior walls were updated for the church, which were built from mountain rocks from the Dupont Community of Sevier County. The Vestibule and bell tower were built at this time, greatly enhancing the appearance of the front of the church.

Under the Rev. Frank D. Smith’s pastorate in 1960 and 1961, extra rooms for Sunday school classes were built on to the existing church building. Restrooms and running water (a first for Trundles Church) were installed at that time. Work on this project was done mainly by the men of the church. New pews for the sanctuary were also installed during that time. The pews had brass plaques attached in memory or honor of the people whose donations purchased them. In 1966, the church purchased their first organ, a Hammond spinet model. Little is known about attendance records from the early years of the church. In October of 1911, there were 44 members. In April of 1941, there were 98 members, and in November of 1979, there were 104 members. [1]

 In 1967, the church purchased a tract of land on Chapman Highway in Seymour for the future construction of a new church building. This land was paid for by the small congregation of Trundles, after many years of hard work and fund raising by holding art shows, rummage sales, bake sales, and bazaars. In October of 1980, under Rev. Larry Carroll’s pastorate, the congregation of Trundles made the painful decision to close their church, and reorganize as the Seymour United Methodist Church. Since then the church was owned by The Church of Christ and later in 2005 sold Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee where the name St Paul Episcopal Church was given. [1]

In 2008 with new ownership via Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee, the Nave underwent a major interior renovation with the removal of the drop ceiling. This project revealed the wood plank ceiling original to the 1857 construction. New lighting was also installed at that time. Ron Samples donated a bell that was installed in the bell tower. The bell was originally installed in the Dumplin Valley Baptist Church. The sound of a Church bell ringing through the Sunday morning air was heard coming from St. Paul’s building after a hiatus of over 28 years. [1]

In 2010, the Undercroft area was remodeled and renovated and now contains the church office, Priest’s office, choir rehearsal room, Sacristy, and a large “multi-purpose” room.  In 2011, the old upstairs office was remodeled and a kitchen installed. A massive Rodgers 3 manual electronic organ was installed that year in memory of Ron Samples. The organ is one of the largest electronic organ installations in Sevier County, consisting of the electronic equivalent of 57 ranks of pipes sounding from over 70 speakers. [1]

For well over 100 years, the building housed the congregation of Trundle’s. It can be safely assumed that this group met there many thousands of times for worship, the christening of new-born children, the happiness of weddings, and the sadness of funerals. Untold amounts of people were helped by their benevolence, and touched by their work in the community. Trundle’s Crossroads Methodist Church will be long remembered by many people. [1]

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TRUNDLE’S CROSSROADS CHURCH CEMETERY

On the church ground a Trundles Cemetery is located.  The cemetery was given for the use of the Trundles congregation, who maintained and cared for it until they closed. When the property was sold in 1980, the cemetery was deeded to a group of trustees in the community. The first person buried in the cemetery was Louis Wayland in 1871. A little-known fact is that there is an African-American cemetery just north of the Church cemetery. It has been many years since anyone has been buried in that area. The area was restored by volunteers from the community and Walters State Community College in 2010. [1]

My Journey:

I arrived during the middle of the day. The church was closed at that time. As I walked around the perimeter of the building, I had the desire to sit on the concrete steps that led up to the entrance of the church. I found this to be a peaceful location to pray and meditate. The thought of all the people that ascended the same stairs covering many generations going back to the year 1857, made me feel privileged to be there. I had a printed copy of the prayer list for St Paul Episcopal Church, and the weekly prayer list I received from my church. After praying and spending some time reading my Bible, I felt relaxed and renewed ready for the rest of my day. I appreciate that the church still stands today, providing me the opportunity to rediscover the past. With a cool breeze hitting me in the face, my thoughts switched to contemplating the future, and the challenges we face around this wonderful world we all share.  

Fellowship:

With the National emergency for the COVID-19 virus many places are remaining closed to the public. Because of that there will not be any fellowship over the next several weeks. I arrived during the day when the church was closed. It provided an excellent opportunity for me to spent time in prayer and quiet time in mediation.  

Details:   

Church Website: http://stpaulepiscopalchurch.org/

Date Visited: 11 March 2020 

Location: 1028 Boyds Creek Hwy, Seymour, TN.

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This beautiful church was completed in in 1857, and around 1943 the side walls were upgraded with mountain stone procured locally. The entry has welcoming red double doors that flow into the sanctuary.

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I had no access to the inside of the church this photo provided from the church website [1]

Both sides of the church provide 3 tall windows that allow heavenly light into the worship area.

The back of the church has one door cut into the mountain stone.  In 2016 a Parrish hall was completed that has the ability to serve and seat over 100 people for meals, and offer meeting space for groups and organizations in the Seymour community. 

In 2009, land was purchased behind the church building which allowed the construction of a parking lot and a “green space” which was landscaped and has had picnic tables installed for parish functions.

Around 1943, exterior walls were updated for the church, which were built from mountain rocks from the Dupont Community of Sevier County.

Final Thoughts:

From the beginning of The Church Journey I have encouraged readers of my blog to pray for our churches as they would continue to face challenges during the year. At that time, I did not realize that the first major challenge would be upon us so quickly. Just 2 and half months into the year the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many churches to cancel services. Luckily many were prepared using current technology providing live video broadcast services to their congregation.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the world prayer is one of the most important actions we can do. On Sunday, March 15 President Trump declared the day to be a National Day of Prayer. Throughout our history, the United States has looked to God for strength and protection in times like these. I am thankful that our leaders have recognize the power of prayer, and having faith in the Lord to intervene on our behalf.

On Sunday I was watching Dr. Charles Stanley talk about “The Seven Habits of a Godly Life” It was no surprise that the number one habit is A LIFE of PRAYER. 

Seven Habits of a Godly Life:
1. A life of prayer (Mark 1:35)
2. Trust or faith (Ps. 103:19, prov 3:5)
3. Meditation in the word of God (ps.63:6-8)
4. Obey God (deut. 27:10, 28:1)
5. Dependence upon the Holy Spirit (eph. 5:18)
6. Giving to God and others ( luke 6:38)
7. Forgiving other people (eph 4:30-32)

Dr. Charles Stanley

To summarize what he said; The Scripture says in chapter one of Mark verse 35, “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there”. Simon and his companions searched for Him; “They found Him, and said to Him, ‘Everybody is looking for You.'” And so, that’s sort of typical about the way people operate sometimes. Jesus is doing the most important thing in life and they don’t quite get that. And then again, for example, in the fourth chapter of Luke, and the forty-second verse, “When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place; and the crowds were searching for Him, and came to Him and tried to keep Him from going away from them. [2]

When we talk about a life of prayer, we’re not talking about once in a while. We’re talking about that every day you sense the need, the desire, and the joy, and the awesome power that comes through praying, talking to the Father. Throughout my life I have been guilty of being distracted from spending time in prayer. This is one of the main reasons I have challenged myself with The Church Journey in 2020.

I feel strongly about spending time meditating and praying. Prayer is one of the most important things a Christian can do. It is a time talking personally to the Heavenly Father. It ought to be a habit, something that is recurring in your life. Not just when you get in trouble, when you get in need, but because you love God; because you’re grateful for who He is and what He’s doing in your life.  Prayer life keeps you connected to Almighty God, sensitive to His will and His purpose and His plan for your life.  If you’ll think about it, it’s the most important activity of your life. You’ve need to have a life of prayer.

With our churches closing, kids out of school, restaurants closing, long lines in grocery stores. There is something you can do, I encourage you to pray for our nation, pray to lift each other up during this challenging time. We have a plethora to pray about. We need to pray for those who are sick and their families, for those working a vaccine for COVID-19, for the professionals who are providing medical care, for our churches as they face challenges to provide services, and for our leaders to act with wisdom and courage as they make vital decisions that impact each of our lives. Please lift up in prayer the President and our nation’s coronavirus task force headed by Vice President Mike Pence. 

I only summarized the history for this church. If you would like to learn more about this church and its history.  I encourage you to visit the church website listed above.

May our Lord continue to bless this church in Jesus name.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” – (Mark 1:35). NIV

Please Pray for all our churches as they continue to face challenges in the year 2020.

May this find you well and happy, God Bless.

Picture Gallery:

References:

  1. St Paul Episcopal Church website, “St. Paul History” (2020, March 17) Retrieved from http://stpaulepiscopalchurch.org/history/st-paul-history/
  2. Love, “Charles Stanley – The Seven Habits of a Godly Life” Retrieved from https://sermons.love/charles-stanley/3885-charles-stanley-the-seven-habits-of-a-godly-life.html

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