Not many eyes were dry in the congregation. No, the minister hadn’t just delivered a hellfire and brimstone sermon. Instead, folks were gathered to grieve their loss, and it was one that cut to the quick of each person’s heart.
First Christian Church not more than a month ago celebrated the 100th anniversary of being located at the corner of Gay Street and Fifth Avenue. It’s that church with the giant columns that passersby can see from Interstate 40. On Sunday, June 21, the members held their last church service in that structure.
For 30 years, which is a relatively short time in comparison to some members of the church, Amy and I were members of FCC. It was after being adopted into that family that we began our own. The memories of that church are many.
I remember the day that Lacey was christened at FCC. She squalled with full voice throughout the service while my mother and Amy’s mother and Papa stood with us. Not long after, Dallas, too, was christened. It was a fitting place for my children to first be introduced to the love of God and those who call themselves Christians.
Doug Meister came to First Christian Church, and before long, we became best friends. Somehow, we gee-hawed well enough. After a few years in Knoxville, Doug moved to accept a position with a church in Louisville, KY, but we are still close. If I call or he does, we fall into the same easy rhythm that our friendship has always held, and it’s as if we saw each other daily.
I was a terrible athlete…no, I wasn’t even good enough to be called and athlete, but FCC gave me the first chance to participate in softball on a men’s team. In fact, I played first base and didn’t commit too many errors. The teasing was brutal, and my best buddy Doug commented that I was the only person he’d ever seen turn a homerun into a triple. After those games, several of us would retreat to Roger’s Place for hotdogs and beer. As a group, we licked our wounds in defeat of exaggerated our heroics in victory.
Christmases were special at FCC. For years, “Uncle Tim” told children the story of Christ’s birth, and our family was chosen a couple of times to light a candle on the Advent wreath. The youth decorated the sanctuary with garland, wreaths, and Chrismons. Christmas Eve services made the holiday even more special to folks.
Nothing compares to memories of Lacey’s wedding at First Christian Church. The service was breathtaking in the beautiful old sanctuary. What better place could there be for me to walk my little girl down the aisle than the in the place where our family had grown in our love of God and for each other? To this day, I can close my eyes and see each moment of the wedding, and I especially love the photo of Lacey standing outside close to the historic tree in the front lawn.
A few years ago, the membership began to dwindle, mostly due to deaths and families moving. The old building began eating more and more cash as roofs were repaired, HVAC systems were replaced, and wall plaster was reapplied. At that time, the recommendation came to move, but many life-long members weren’t ready to take that step.
Now, the remaining congregation knows it must leave. Doing will be difficult at best. They feel a sense of abandoning the building, its history, and the souls that poured so much into the energy of First Christian Church. So, they mourn the loss of an old friend and familiar place.

Still, the wonderful message of Christianity is resurrection. In this case, First Christian Church has its new life in a church at 3801 Basswood Road. That’s in the West Haven community. The congregation’s rebirth began with a Neighborhood block party this past Saturday. The doors to the new location of FCC swing wide open to those in the neighborhood and all others who seek a loving, caring church. Maybe you should give them a trial visit.


My grandson Madden came to Knoxville during the Memorial Day weekend. He pulled off his shirt on Friday evening, and his shoulders and arms were fiery. It was the boy’s first ever taste of sunburn.
His parents have been good at slathering him up with sun screen, but this time, Madden and a pack of little boys were too involved in outdoor activities to remember to apply the stuff. I know how easily that happens as a kid.
In Ball Camp, a group of boys spent a great deal of time together during the summer months. We’d play games of baseball or tackle football. No one ever took out time to coat himself with Coppertone. Instead, boys relied on a thick coating of dirt to protect their skin from the sun.
Jim and I managed to get a yearly sunburn as we weeded the strawberries. We’d also turn red as we took hand clippers and cut every weed around the foundation of the house and several flower gardens. Later in life, we mowed the yard and toasted ourselves as we either cut the grass or raked it up in piles.
We also managed to bake ourselves on vacations. A week in the mountains each year did the trick. As soon as we’d finish breakfast, it was off to the river. There we stayed all day and swam, dove, and played. By the end of the first day, shoulders and legs sizzled. Our first trip to the beach came when Jim and I were ten. Cousin Charlie’s family also traveled with us to Treasure Island, Florida. Playing in waves and searching for shells took our full attention. Not until we tried to rest in the evening did the scarlet that covered our backs, legs and love-handle hand out plenty of pain.
In high school, I scorched myself on two painfully memorable occasions. At the end of the last half-day of school, I traveled with Bill Burns and others to Big Ridge Park. We spread out towels and sat on the grass. The others passed a bottle around and took some of the contents. I didn’t want to seem uncool, so I also partook. I spread a thick coat of baby oil on my skin and felt secure in thinking I’d protected myself from a sunburn. What I later discovered was that spreading the stuff on me was about the same thing as dropping a piece of meat into an iron skillet containing a glob of Crisco. I was fried to a crisp.
I spent the afternoon of my 18th birthday working a Burger King. My jobs there included mowing and plowing the back plot of grass, changing spark plugs in my boss’s car, and, on that day, mopping the red plastic shingles that covered the roof of the building. That evening, the candles on the cake at the surprise birthday party put off only a fraction of the heat that came from my burned back, scalp, , and neck.
Those were glorious times, all too painful, but glorious all the same. These days, however, I have a standing appointment with the doctor to scour my skin for precancerous and cancerous spots. A few years ago, the doctor discovered a spot that contained squamous cells. That led to another appointment where the doctor sliced my neck and dug her way to China as she removed anything that might lead to worse conditions. My hair has thinned enough so that my scalp burns after short periods in the sun, and just recently, the doctor found another place on the side of my head that contains squamous cells. In June, I will have part of my hair shaved away so that the doctor can once again dig. This time I’ve asked for something to keep me from feeling so squeamish.
What we do as unsuspecting children and young adults sometimes comes back to bite us in the butts. Years of exposure to the sun then has led to some uncomfortable times now. I love the outdoors as
much as any person. Now, I wear plenty of sunscreen and a hat. I’m through with inviting skin cancer to a free lunch. Make sure you protect your babies and yourself against the harmful rays of the sun. I suppose it’s true that no tan is worth the misery that comes from fear about melanoma. Lather up!