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Associate Reformed

Presbyterian Church

A Centennial History

Horses, mules and bicycles were the standard modes of “fast” travel around town when Spartanburg Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church was organized in 1905. Its founding men typically sported mustaches and galluses, its founding women long dresses and high-laced shoes. They got all their news and information from the local paper and by word of mouth—no CNN, Weather Channel, Internet news feeds or even radio.

Despite awesome changes in travel, dress, communications and lifestyles, church members today embrace the same historic creed and mores as their forebears. The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church has a history spanning more than two centuries, rooted in the Protestant Reformation (hence the term “Reformed”) and the Church of Scotland.

In February 1902, Dr. William Barkley Lindsay and Rev. Boyce Hemphill Grier visited Spartanburg, South Carolina. Dr. Lindsay at that time was a Presbyterian pastor in Woodruff and Wellford; Rev. Grier was pastor of Bethel Church in Ora. The two ministers arranged for a service to be held March 16 in the Spartanburg Business College, which had rooms in the Cleveland Building on Magnolia Street. Dr. Lindsay conducted the service. Unfavorable weather resulted in a low attendance of only 18 worshipers. Two weeks later, 35 people attended the second service. After this, the Magnolia Street School building was used as a place of worship. Dr. Lindsay preached twice a month to the new congregation until the end of the year, when Synod sent him to take charge of a mission church in Memphis, Tennessee.

From 1903 to 1905, the congregation was served by supply preachers. Rev. J.P. Martin of the United Presbyterian Church and Dr. John Walter Good each served for several months. Dr. Good, at the time a student at Erskine Theological Seminary, went on to become a college professor, department head and campus minister. He also wrote two books: Studies in the Milton Tradition (1915) and The Jesus of Our Fathers (1923).

These men were followed by Rev. Thomas Wylie Hayes, who pastored the Spartanburg congregation for about two years. During this time, there was no formal organization.

In early Summer 1905, Second Presbytery assigned Dr. Arthur Jones Ranson to Spartanburg. Dr. Ranson and his wife Kate had four children, one of whom, Arthur Jones Ranson Jr., was born in Spartanburg and himself would become a Presbyterian minister.

As a result of Dr. Ranson’s labors, a request was made for an official organization of the new congregation. This was effected September 12, 1905, in the YMCA building on Magnolia Street. Rev. B.H. Grier, one of the men who had initiated the work three years earlier, preached on that day. At the organizational meeting following the sermon, 21 individuals were entered into the record as charter members: Mrs. Lilla Neel Vernon, Mrs. Mattie B. Neel, Mrs. Mary J. Martin, Mrs. B.K. Hardin, Mrs. A.J. Ranson, Miss Mary Ranson, Miss Catherine Jones, Miss Eula May Caskey, Miss Nannie J. Coan, Miss Edith Martin, W.F. Patrick, W.D. Wright, Mrs. Mary S. Black, Mrs. Lula E. Turner, Miss Fannie Morrow, Sam Orr Black, Hugh S. Black, Eugene Purdy, John T. Compton, W. Ernest Turner and Mrs. W.L. Bryson. D.C. Smith was elected as elder.

The charter event concluded with communion and a prayer of thanksgiving by Rev. J.W. Shell, pastor of Bethel Methodist Church in downtown Spartanburg.

Five new members were added in the coming months, and a lot was purchased at the corner of Main and Advent streets for the establishment of a brick church building. Construction began in Autumn 1908 and the church was completed during the winter at a cost of approximately $10,000. The first service in the new facility was a prayer meeting March 3, 1909. On April 4, the formal opening day, three services were held. Dr. James Strong Moffat preached in the morning, Dr. Gilbert Gordon Parkinson in the afternoon and Dr. J.H. Pressly in the evening. Dr. Moffat was president of Erskine College (1907-21). Dr. Parkinson had recently begun what would become a half-century career as professor of church history, homiletics and pastoral theology at Erskine; the ARP General Synod’s Sesquicentennial History, published in 1951, estimated that “perhaps 90 per cent of all those who man the pulpits of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church look back at the time when they sat at his feet.” Dr. Pressly appears to have been James Hearst Pressly, a member of a long family line of ministers who would go on to serve in Statesville, North Carolina, for more than 50 years; Pressly Memorial ARP Church in Statesville was named for him.

Early in 1910, Dr. Ranson went to India as a missionary. Dr. William Hemphill Millen supplied the pulpit until the end of the year. Millen was a veteran ARP minister known throughout Synod as “the apostle to the country church”; Spartanburg was the only non-rural church he served during his 52 years as a pastor.

Dr. William Allan Macaulay, at the time a recent Erskine Seminary graduate, served the Spartanburg Church from 1911 to 1916. During his tenure, the church construction debt was paid. Dr. Moffatt preached at the April 27, 1913, dedicatory service. By that time, 113 members had been received into the church; 42 had been given letters of transfer to other churches, leaving a membership of 71.

The dedication service program listed the following church leaders in 1913:

Treasurer: J.D. Andrews

Elders: J.D. Andrews, J.E. Castles, J.R. Delvin

Deacons: L.K. Brice, R.W. Castles, J.T. Wright, W.L. Roseborough, T.C. Lester

Ushers for 1913: Lowery Blakely, Hugh Black, Watt Castles, Luther Brice

Sabbath School: W.A. Macaulay, superintendent; J.D. Andrews, assistant superintendent; Mrs. I.E. Harris, secretary/treasurer

Teachers: Mrs. H.R. Black, Mrs. J.A. Brice, Miss Lalla Martin, W.T. Hipp, J.D. Andrews, J.R. Delvin, assistant J.W. Murray

Dr. Macaulay left in 1916 to answer a call to service at the Greenville Church. Rev. J. Rogers Hooten served from 1917 to 1919. This was during World War I, when economic conditions were difficult for many Americans. For a time, the Hooten family had to use the church basement for their living quarters.

Rev. Samuel Walter Haddon, an Antreville, South Carolina, native who had served as an ARP minister for almost 40 years, was sent to Spartanburg by Synod and served until 1921. After his departure because of ill health, Dr. Mark Brown Grier, grandson of a 19th-Century Erskine College president, supplied the pulpit during the summer of that year.

In January 1922, Dr. Gilbert Lawson Kerr was sent to the church as stated supply. In 1926, the congregation became self-supporting and Kerr formally was called and installed August 26, 1926. During his pastorate, a parsonage was built on Gadsden Court. Dr. Kerr, who for a time was on the boards of directors of Erskine College and Bonclarken, resigned from Spartanburg in 1930.

Dr. David Gardiner Phillips, a veteran minister and long-time Catawba Presbytery clerk, was asked by the Home Mission Board to take up the work in Spartanburg. He served for two years, until his retirement. The Sesquicentennial History characterized Dr. Phillips as “the backbone of orthodoxy and conservatism.” During his final year in the pulpit he presided as Synod moderator.

Rev. Ebenezer Gettys, a missionary at home on furlough from the Punjab in India (now Pakistan), supplied the pulpit for several months. Rev. Forrest William Sherrill, a 1932 Erskine Seminary graduate, supplied during the Synodical year 1933-34. Rev. Sherrill went on to serve churches in the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee and Mississippi; he also taught school during World War II.

In 1934, it became necessary to ask help from the Home Board again. At the May meeting of Synod, Rev. James Renwick Kennedy was assigned to the work. A Chester, South Carolina, native and graduate of Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, Rev. Kennedy had just turned 24 when he began his pastorate here. The church again became self-supporting and extended a formal call to Rev. Kennedy in May 1936. He served until August 1940, resigning to accept a pastorate in Whiteville, North Carolina. During this time, a new manse was acquired on Poplar Street.

During Autumn 1940, the church extended a call to Rev. Francis Torbit White. A native of Blackstock, South Carolina, he was a son of Rev. John Alexander White, an ARP minister and one-time Synod moderator. The younger White was an Army sergeant during World War I, then studied at Erskine and Princeton seminaries. Before coming to Spartanburg, he served at Second ARP Church in Gastonia, North Carolina, for 18 years. Rev. White began work here January 1, 1941, serving until his retirement in 1967. He also was the bill clerk of Synod for a number of years. During his time at Spartanburg, the church grew steadily; its 1950 membership was 144. The Sesquicentennial History recorded: “He is a good and rich preacher, and does many things and does them well.”

Rev. Harry Clifford White, a native of Hickory Grove, South Carolina, began his pastorate here in 1968. The next year, the church was relocated to its present campus at 1801 Skylyn Drive. Subsequently, a new manse was purchased on Winfield Drive. Rev. White served the congregation until his death January 5, 1995.

Rev. White also was an Army and National Guard chaplain, retiring in 1986 with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. During his pastoral career, he was moderator of First, Second and Catawba presbyteries. He was instrumental in establishing the Spartanburg ARP Manor for senior citizens; after his death, the facility appropriately was renamed the Harry C. White Manor.

Rev. James Coad Jr. supplied the congregation for a year after the death of Rev. H.C. White. A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Rev. Coad is both a Navy and Army veteran who, after graduating from Columbia Seminary in Georgia in 1957, served churches in Georgia and Arkansas and was a missionary in Mexico for five years. After his retirement in 1991, he continued to supply churches in the Carolinas. He was Synod moderator in 1997.

In June 1996, Rev. Peter Anthony Waid began his pastorate at the Spartanburg Church. A native of Smithfield, North Carolina, who grew up in the Japanese mission field where his parents worked, Rev. Waid is a grad-uate of Covenant College and Erskine Seminary. Married to the former Anne Elizabeth Coad, daughter of Rev. James Coad Jr., he taught school and coached before entering the ministry. Rev. Waid, who previously served churches in Bessemer City, North Carolina, and Augusta, Georgia, continues as pastor of the Spartanburg Church today. He also has been active in the leadership of Second Presbytery, recently completing a term as Presbytery moderator.

The church’s year-long centennial celebration was prefaced by a major sanctuary refurbishing project and has included the hosting of Second Presbytery and Second Presbyterial meetings. Spartanburg Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church observed its annual homecoming Sunday with a special centennial service and related events September 11, 2005.

Compiler’s Note: This brief historical outline is based on ARP Synod records and on the writings of Miss Agnes Coleman, a long-time member of Spartanburg ARP Church. The church history is a work in progress. Revised, expanded editions hopefully will be forthcoming. Readers who have information and stories to share about the church, its members and its Kingdom service are asked to contact the church office.—Dan Harmon, Session clerk, September 2005

Skylyn Drive

Presbyterian Church