Signal's smallest church focusing on growth

Signal's smallest church focusing on growth

June 6th, 2012 by Emily Crisman in Community Signal mountain

Bishop of the Diocese of the Central States of the Reformed Episcopal Church the Rev. Daniel Morse, right, visits with St. Andrews vicar Walter Ruby. Bishop Morse, whose Diocese includes eight churches, encouraged members to build a solid congregation of the faithful as opposed to a burdensome sanctuary. Contributed photo

With just four members, St. Andrews Reform Church is Signal Mountain's smallest congregation. The church acquired a new building next to the Mountain Opry a little over a year ago that can accommodate 25-30 people, and it now aims to grow its congregation to fill the new space.

"It's much more like a home," said St. Andrews' newest member and church secretary Bruce Palmer of the new building, which features heat and air conditioning, comfortable pews and a steeple built by vicar Walter Ruby. "We may be the only church in Tennessee with oriental rugs on the floor."

The church was recently visited by the Rev. Daniel Morse, bishop of the Diocese of the Central States of the Reformed Episcopal Church, whose diocese includes much of the Southeast. He encouraged members to build a solid congregation as opposed to a large sanctuary that could pose a financial burden.

Palmer said the church wants to attract new members as well as bring back "lost sheep," or members who no longer attend services. He recently mailed a newsletter, the "Lost Sheep Gazette," to 35-40 of these former members.

"I like small churches," said Palmer as to what drew him to join St. Andrews. "Where I come from, 800 people and a brass band is a football game."

Some of the mountain's larger churches have more than 1,000 members, including Signal Mountain Presbyterian (1,300) and Signal Mountain United Methodist Church (1,070).

St. Andrews was started in 2006, when its nine members met at the MACC. The congregation has since met in St. Timothy's chapel and an old antique store on Highway 127 before settling into its current location.

Believing all things necessary to salvation are found in the Bible, minus outside influences and papal alteration, the Reformed Episcopal Church is a return to the Church of England prior to the reign of Henry VIII.

Palmer said St. Andrews alternates scripture-based homilies with discussion among attendees.

"There's an exchange of information aside from the traditional service," he said. "We sit and talk for about an hour. It's very intimate."

Palmer said the church is currently looking for an organist, and when one is found the St. Andrews congregation will resume singing hymns. He said he would also like to start an adult Bible study class.

St. Andrews Reform Church is at 2307 Fairmount Pike. Services are held each Sunday at 11 a.m. Contact Bruce Palmer at 886-9132.