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These Storied Walls

Modern Church

Emphasis on the youth program continued into 1955. Rev. Hamilton Witter led a Youth Activity Week during the summer, which was followed by a Youth Revival. The Methodist Youth Fellowship continued to hold regular evening meetings. Jerry Crainshaw, President of the M. Y. F., reported that the Youth raised money for the Building Fund, sent a girl to church camp, had a Youth Banquet, and organized a new group for Older Youth. Mid-week services continued under the pastoral leadership of Rev. Paul A. Bruton, who succeeded Rev. M. C. Ellerbe, and membership increased. By the spring of 1956, the congregation began planning dedication services for Homecoming Sunday, 27 May 1956. Rev. Kennerly and Rev. Bruton led the service, at which C. W. Murph, who had served as treasurer of the Building Fund, burned the note, and C. J. Scott, chairman of the building committee, presented the church for dedication. The congregation then moved outside for a picnic dinner on the grounds.

Rev. Bruton reported 42 new members in 1956. By the end of the year, attendance at the Sunday Evening worship services was averaging about 80 persons, and Rev. Bruton was planning a Spring Revival, visitation and training campaigns for the coming year. By April, the Visitation Plan was underway and involved the entire membership. Rev. Bruton reported that he had already made 410 pastoral visits to home and hospital rooms. Average attendance at morning worship services averaged 220 persons, with 77 members at Sunday evening services, and 27 attending the mid-week prayer services. Parsonage renovation had been completed with all debts paid, and repairs were beginning on the Recreation Building. The W. S. C. S. had organized two new circles, one of them serving girls from ten to fourteen years of age. The Spring Revival was planned to begin on Easter Sunday, with Reverend Kenneth D. Crouse of Canton as guest minister.

The Committee on Evangelism, led by Chairman W. R. Rodgers, continued its visitation program, resulting in 24 new adult members. The attendance at quarterly communion services increased so much that Reverend Bruton recorded the necessity to secure "the services of some retired minister each time." Miss Patricia Croy was hired as Director of Christian Education, and began working with the M. Y. F. in retreats and programs. After Miss Croy’s marriage, Miss Evelyn Luther became D.C.E. Two ministerial students from Duke assisted in the summer activities of Youth Activities Week; two weekend retreats at Camp Spencer were well attended and Vacation Bible School again reached attendance records.

Rev. Bruton was justly proud of the five Boy Scouts from Mt. Olivet's Troop 34 who were working towards the God and Country Award under his direction. The scouting program had been so successful that the men of the church were considering sponsoring an Explorer Post for the older boys of the community. Thus, Rev. Bruton left a vital, growing program for Rev. Joseph M. Taylor, Jr. For the first time, the budget exceeded $20,000.00, and there were discussions about an Educational Building to relieve the crowded Church School quarters. A Building Fund for the proposed construction began in 1960, with Rev. Taylor reporting that this was going slowly so as to secure the broad support of the congregation for the project.

At a Special Quarterly Conference on 10 December 1962, The Board recommended adoption of plans submitted by the Building Committee. The Board also submitted plans for financing the construction, to be the most ambitious building program undertaken by the congregation in its history. A Finance Committee was appointed consisting of Ray Allen, H. J. Goodman, Lewis Jenkins, W. L. Harris, Rickard Rodgers, E. R. Lackey, and Rev. Taylor. The proposals were presented in a Church Conference during the regular worship hour on Sunday, 20 January 1963. L. W. Jenkins, representing the Commission on Education, stressed the need for additional classrooms, and W. L. Harris outlined the proposed building, noting that the estimated cost was $50,000.00 for some 5,000 square feet of space. Richard E. Swaringen detailed the financial plans, asking for authority to begin work on the building when $15,000.00 was on hand. The congregation voted 89 to 5 to proceed with the construction and enthusiastically supported the project. Rev. Taylor praised the efforts of the "ladies of the Church in securing stain[ed] glass windows for the Sanctuary."

Rev. Albert W. Wellons replaced Rev. Taylor in the fall of 1963. Rev. Wellons worked with the Church Secretary, Miss Helen Crisco, to edit a weekly Messenger that was mailed to every family in the Church each Thursday. By the May 1964 Quarterly Conference, $10,000.00 had been raised for the building fund, making the total on hand $17,054.00. A plan was developed to raise another $15,000.00 for the building fund while the construction was underway. A construction contract of $68,494.00 was awarded on 15 June 1964 at which time the balance in the building fund stood at $20,000.00.

Ground was broken for the new facility on Sunday, 21 June 1964. By the 26 March 1965 Quarterly Conference, the building was completed at a cost of $68,233.42. The addition provided room for eight classes, a study for the pastor and a church office. All groups in the church participated in efforts to retire the building indebtedness. The widow, children, and grandchildren of C. J. Goodman joined together to make an $8,000.00 gift to the fund in memory of the life and service of Mr. Goodman.

With I. Pressley Rutledge as minister, a decision was made by the Board to air-condition the church, pave the grounds, and install a water system for the church. Mr. C. M. King estimated the total expense at $30,000.00, the congregation granted its approval, and by the spring of 1969 air conditioning and paving were a reality. Mrs. C. L. Mauldin, choir director for ten years, resigned in May 1969 and Mr. Ed Fink was hired as Director of the Children, Youth and Adult Choirs; Mrs. F. Worth Beaver continued as church organist. In November, Claudia Gray was hired as temporary organist to replace Mrs. Beaver. In 1970, colored bulletins were used on a trial basis and Christmas Cards depicting the Church were printed. Rev. Lewis Gibbs began a six-year ministry in 1973. After a presentation by Rickard Rodgers, Sr., the Board agreed to sponsor a first Sunday broadcast over radio station WGTL during the last quarter of 1973. Church leaders began to sound out the congregation about a new Memorial Hall, with space for meetings, receptions and church suppers. Mr. W. L. Harris, Chairman of the Building Fund, recommended that construction not begin until 25% of the proposed cost of $50,000.00 was on hand, and an additional 15% of the cost pledged. That substantial goal was met a year later and construction was slated to begin in mid-October 1975.

The new building was completed by the October 1976 Charge Conference, and the old portion of the building became home for the active Scout troop and the Youth. A dedicatory service for Memorial Hall was held 11 March 1979, at 4:30 in the afternoon. Both Bishop L. Scott Allen and D. S. Earle R. Haire participated in the service. Bishop Allen accepted the presentation of the building from Joel E. Johnson, Chairman of the Administrative Board, declaring it set apart to "God's glory and the service of men."

Rev. Gibbs described the Youth Program, under the leadership of Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Barrett, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Davis, and Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Honeycutt, Jr., as "alive and vibrant." An exchange program in July of 1976 allowed the group to spend one week in Belmont, Mississippi, and then a week as hosts to the Belmont youngsters, a period of growth and fellowship. A Youth Choir was also reorganized at that time.

1977 was a landmark year in Mt. Olivet, as the result of the conference-sponsored Third World Exchange. During the summer of 1977, Reverend Gibbs and his family exchanged pulpits with Reverend Misheck Kanake from Miathene Circuit, Meru, Kenya. Accompanied by his wife, Jennifer, and son Jonathan, the Kanake family quickly found a place in the hearts of Mt. Olivet families, and ties were formed which led to a mission effort in Kenya which continues to this day.

Richard B. Jarrett was named to the Mt. Olivet charge at the 1979 Annual Conference and arrived on June 19th of that year to a newly renovated parsonage. He found a strong Boy Scout program already in place and immediately began working with some ten young men in the God and Church program. Troop 34 received the Bishop's Award of Excellence in 1981, honoring the numerous church and community service projects carried out. The music program at Mt. Olivet continued to be exceptional. Beautiful Christmas and Easter Cantatas were presented during 1980 and 1981, with the choir making several guest appearances, including a visit to Groce United Methodist Church in Asheville where former pastor Lewis Gibbs was serving. In April 1980, the new Allen 603 electronic organ was the center of an unforgettable musical evening as its range and beauty was demonstrated for the church and community by the special talents of American Concert Organist Carlo Curley.

In 1983, Rev. Ben F. Wilson was appointed to serve Mt. Olivet. Sanctuary renovation and installation of a sound system was completed during the first quarter of 1984. A Committee on Worship was formed and first met on January 31, 1984. In April 1984, church secretary Helen Crisco retired and Marlene Horton was selected for the position. Her work began during a flurry of activity centered on the Holy Week Services as Reverend Wilson presented moving services for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. A highlight of the Easter Service was the transformation of a plain wooden cross, crafted by Jack Goodman, with flowers into a symbol of the resurrection and hope of Easter. As part of the bicentennial emphasis, Clarence Horton spoke on the heritage of Mt. Olivet at a special Homecoming Service in May 1984, and presented a short history of the church, "These Storied Walls," to the congregation. A special display highlighting the history of the church was arranged in Memorial Hall by Mrs. Sarah Hough, with old records and photographs, which fascinated many of the newer members. A tea was given for Mrs. Ada Dayvault in October 1984 in honor of her 90th birthday. Reverend Wilson initiated a Hanging of the Greens service in December, at which the meaning of many of the church symbols of the service were explained. The congregation was saddened by the death of organist Claudia Gray Simpson. Church member John Settlemeyer did an outstanding job of providing organ music until Mrs. Kay Bracey was selected as church organist.

The Administrative Board approved a budget for 1985 that exceeded one hundred thousand dollars for the first time in church history. A February 1985 highlight was Mrs. Mayfield Stewart's celebration of her 97th birthday on February 5th, to the best wishes and congratulations of the congregation. The Youth Choir, led by Prebble Henrickson, presented an original and enjoyable evening program on 10 March as the Mount Olivet Christian Supper Club opened for one night only in Memorial Hall. A $450.00 free will offering taken after the show was donated to World Hunger. The United Methodist Men served breakfast to worshippers at the Community Easter Sunrise Service held in Carolina Memorial Park. During the Lenten Season, Rev. Wilson led communion services in church members’ homes. The United Methodist Women invited the congregation to join them in an evening of dining and music at Memorial Hall on 19 May 1985. The "Night of Music", was a resounding success, and a substantial free will offering was designated for CCCM, the Soup Kitchen, UMCOR, and Rev. Misheck Kanake. The Mt. Olivet newsletter, "The Messenger", was selected by the Conference Committee on Communications and Interpretation as Outstanding Newsletter in the Salisbury District in the category of churches from 401 to 1000 members. Reverend Wilson and Secretary Marlene Horton accepted the award during the 1985 Annual Conference at Lake Junaluska.

Beth Crowell, a rising senior at High Point College, was hired to lead a six-week program, planned to appeal to all age groups. Events ranged from traditional Church School classes on Monday evenings to Fun Trips on Friday mornings, and included Community Outreach Program on Tuesday mornings, Craft Evenings on Wednesdays, and Youth Events on Thursday evenings for the older youth. Meanwhile, plans were under way for the second annual Elk Shoals retreat planned for August 1985.

A Cemetery Trust Fund was started in July 1985 with generous gifts from Leon Lackey and his sister, Faye Howard Lackey, in an effort to secure the perpetual upkeep and maintenance of the Mt. Olivet cemetery. In the fall of 1985, a Yamaha grand piano was presented to the church by Mrs. Carolyn Goodman, Mrs. Miriam Litaker, and their families, in memory of H. J. "Jack" Goodman and Ree Velt "Tip" Litaker. Kay Bracey, John Settlemeyer, and Danita Rickard treated the congregation to a sacred concert on 3 November 1985. November 1985 was also memorable for the visit of Bishop Lawi Imathiu of Kenya. Because of the close ties between Mt. Olivet Church and the Misheck Kanake family of Kenya, Bishop Imathiu visited Mt. Olivet on 17 November as a part of his month-long trip to the United States.

A highlight of the first half of 1986 was a fund-raising effort by the church that enabled Rev. Wilson and his wife, Mary, to attend the World Methodist Conference in July. As the five-year pastorate of Rev. Wilson came to a close, the church joined the growing number of congregations considering off-site parsonages. At the December 1987 session of Administrative Board, the Chairpersons of Finance, Council on Ministries, Staff-Parish Relations, and Trustees, recommended that a new parsonage be purchased or constructed. A parsonage search committee consisting of Chair Ron Pare, Max Lackey, Carolyn Fink, Glen Julian, Edgar Honeycutt, and Jeter Lee, located an existing home on Daybreak Ridge Road in Kannapolis and recommended its purchase to the church. At a church conference on 5 June 1988, the congregation voted 59-43 to purchase the parsonage and finance it through church bonds.

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