Rocky Springs Presbyterian Church – The Church Journey
30 April, 2020
I had the privilege to visit Rocky Springs Presbyterian Church that was founded in 1874. They are a small congregation with a big heart and a bigger purpose: to do their best with what they have to spread God’s love through our community and world.  The church is located in the small unincorporated community of Boyds Creek, located in the rural northwest corner of Sevier County. The church is on the eastern edge of the community, west of the French Broad River. .
In 1874, a Presbyterian congregation formed at the Rocky Springs Academy in the village of Boyds Creek. They met in the academy buildings (no longer in existence) until they built their own church in 1891. Archibald Napoleon Cardwell and his wife Sallie Cardwell gifted the parcel of land for the church to the trustees of the congregation in 1888. The congregation moved, but kept the name “Rocky Springs” to denote the location of their founding. When local carpenter Samuel Ellis finished the building in 1891, it was the first Presbyterian church building constructed in Sevier County. 
The congregation began as part of the Holston Presbytery and transferred to the Knoxville Presbytery in 1910. The minimal historic changes within the 1891 building have retained the original design function of the space. The majority is dedicated to the sanctuary/worship space, which is supplemented by classrooms. All of the original fenestration remains extant, as such, the building retains a high level of design integrity. The church property retains its rural setting, although the traffic flow through the property has changed over time. 
When TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) constructed Douglas Dam in 1940, it brought electrification to the rural community of Boyds Creek and the congregation added electricity and electrical lighting to the church. The majority of the interior lighting dates to that time. In 1959, the congregation undertook a substantial modernization effort and installed interior plumbing with the construction of an interior bathroom, allowing them to abandon the exterior privy.  The final building phase began in 1982 with the construction of the fellowship all on the rear elevation (north) of the historic church building. 
It was a sunny spring day as I drove down a majestic country road. The scenery was rural, comprised of agricultural fields, with patches of more recent residential development. As I crested over a small incline glancing to my left, I saw this stunning white church raised on a hill shining brightly in all its glory. This was not a planned stop, but seeing such a beautiful church I was enticed to pull into the parking lot and spend some time relishing this historical treasure. Rocky Springs Presbyterian Church has been a constant in the Boyd’s Creek Community of Sevierville, Tennessee for centuries and is still moving in God’s love and grace into the future. After taking pictures I spent time praying for the church, its leadership, congregation, and community.
I am dedicating my final thoughts in this story to my friend Brother Billy who is a retired Baptist minister. Brother Billy turns 90 on April 30th. 2020. His love of old hymnals and his knowledge on the stories attached to the writing of the lyrics adds an inspiring new perspective to the old hymns going back hundreds of years.
Music has been an important part of religion from the early years. Music is a powerful thing. It evokes feelings and has the power to bring people together. Music plays an important part in all our lives. It is very difficult to imagine our world without it.
There are thousands of traditionally-styled songs of praise or worship, called “hymns” (from the Greek word hymnos meaning, “song of praise”), were written over hundreds of years. Eventually, these songs were compiled into books called “hymnals,” 
You can find several references in the Bible where the people of God sing. After escaping from the Egyptians and crossing the Red Sea, the people of Israel sang a song to the Lord (Exodus 15:1). The Psalms bear rich testimony that in joy and sorrow, and in praise, the faithful raise their voices in song to God. Hymn singing was practiced by Jesus and his disciples “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Matthew 26:30). There are several verses where God’s people sang in heaven. (Revelations 5:8-9). I can joyfully imagine what a heavenly choir must sound like.
Amazing Grace is a popular hymn published in 1779 with words written in 1772 by the English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton one of the most respected preachers in England of his time. He wrote the words from personal experience. With the message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of sins committed and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God, “Amazing Grace” 
He grew up without any particular religious conviction. His mother taught him to read the Bible and go to services, but she died when Newton was seven years old. His life’s path was formed by a variety of twists and coincidences that were often put into motion by others’ reactions to what they took as his recalcitrant insubordination. 
In 1744 Newton was press-ganged–taken by force into service in the Royal Navy. He was disgraced, relieved of his post, and traded for another man from a passing merchant ship, a slave vessel. In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel off the coast of County Donegal, Ireland, so severely that he called out to God for mercy. All night long Newton tried to keep the ship from going under. And he thought about the state of his life. He knew he had run from God, hurt other people.
This moment marked his spiritual conversion. It didn’t happen overnight, but Newton’s life began to be transformed. He learned to pray. He found friends who shared his faith and could help him understand how it applied to his life. Eventually he gave up his role in the slave trade and stopped sailing for a living. 
Amazing Grace was written years later to illustrate a sermon on New Year’s Day of 1773. It describes his very personal journey out of spiritual blindness into the light of God’s grace. Although it had roots in England, “Amazing Grace” became an integral part of the Christian tapestry in the United States. 
With the National emergency for the COVID-19 virus many places are remaining closed to the public. Because of this reason there will not be any fellowship over the next several weeks. On the homepage of the church website is a picture of Reverend W. Eugene Thomas. This reminds me the void that is left not meeting the leadership of each church. Fellowship was an important part of this journey. I look forward for our world to return to normal fellowship. I also miss the ability to spend time in the church sanctuary. The pictures from inside the church was provided by the church website from Easter of 2019.
Church Website: https://www.rockyspringspresbyterian.com/
Date Visited: 2020 April 17th.
Location: 2656 Boyd’s Creek Hwy. Sevierville, TN.
The one-and-a-half story 1891 main sanctuary building has a continuous brick foundation, is wood frame, clad in weatherboard, and topped by a green metal standing-seam roof. There is an octagonal steeple that contains an enclosed bell tower on the southern end of the roof, which is covered with its original metal roof and surmounted by a metal cross. This Folk Victorian style church is unusual in that it adopted elements of Queen Anne style architecture when most other churches in the region were utilizing Gothic Revival or Romanesque Revival. The continuous brick foundation is white washed and visible. Poured concrete steps with a simple metal railing lead to a centrally located entranceway. The entrance features wood double doors with a four-light transom window above, containing the same streaky sheet stained glass as the windows. 
If you would like to learn more about this church, upcoming events, or listen to a sermon I encourage you to visit the church website listed above.
May our Lord continue to bless this church in Jesus name.
“Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 6:19-20) NIV
Please Pray for all our churches as they continue to face challenges in the year 2020. I hope you find encouragement to pray in this time of pandemic.
May this find you well and happy, God Bless
The pictures from inside the church was provided by the church website from Easter of 2019.
- Rocky Springs Presbyterian Church website, “Home” (2020, April 30) Retrieved from https://www.rockyspringspresbyterian.com/
- National Park Services, “National Register of Historic Places Program” Retrieved: April 30, 2020. https://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/13000953.htm PDF “National Register Of Historic Places Registration Form” received Nov 01, 2013 https://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/13000953.pdf
- Wikipedia (2020, April 30) “Hymn”, Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hymn
- Wikipedia (2020, April 30) “Amazing Grace”, Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazing_Grace