Church History

Rusk church History

This history of the church of Christ in Rusk is a compilation of previous histories written in past church directories plus my own research and interviews of current members who came to the church at various times.  The directory in 1969 was written by Mrs. Ritchie and in 1990 Mrs. Mack Mccrary helped Don Crawford fill in the one written by Mrs. Ritchie.

I’d like to give special thanks to Beauford and Faye Wright who gave me so much information and without whom I would not have been able to accurately put things together about the history from the late 50’s to early 80’s.  I’d also like to thank Mary Nell Zehren, Kay Gresham, Wanda Norman, Keith Sunday, Mike Birdwell, Carol Byrd and Lynn Padgeant for their contributions as well. 

The story of the church in Rusk continues.  I have been blessed to be here for the past 7 plus years and look forward to many more.  This is not a final work and if you would like to add more please let me know.

 

  • According to “The History of the churches of Christ in Texas, 1824-1950” by Dr. Stephen Daniel Eckstein, there was a church of Christ in Rusk, Texas before 1860.  He also says there was a man named Samuel Henderson who left his home in Rusk and held revival meetings in Polk County in the summer of 1867 converting many people.  Sometime between the last of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century there ceased to be a church of Christ in Rusk.  According to the Texas State Historical Commission there were four churches in Rusk, Texas in 1890. Three have been identified as First Presbyterian, First Baptist and First Methodist.  I have been unable to identify the fourth at this time.  It is possible that the fourth one was the church of Christ but that has not been confirmed.
  • Dr. C.G and Cora Lovelace moved to Rusk in 1932 and there was no church of Christ in the city of Rusk.  They visited area churches for five years.
  • In 1937 the Lovelace’s asked Sister Lovelace’s home church in Madisonville to sponsor tent meetings in Rusk.  Dr. Lovelace was a dentist and according to Mrs. Ritchie was a good Bible teacher.  Evidently they had contacts in area churches because when they asked for help churches responded and helped them reach out to their friends and neighbors with the truth of Jesus Christ.
  • Sometime around 1938 Dr. Lovelace and Melvin Earl Davidson, who was a store keeper at the State Hospital, rented a small one room building on the square to meet in.
  • About 1940, Dr. Lovelace and Brother Davidson bought a building on the highway, near the signal light and the church met there for some time.
  • In the late 40’s, the Lufkin church sent Brother Luther Blackmon to serve as local minister.  He was instrumental in selling the property on the highway, purchasing the lot on South Main, and erecting the first unit of the present building (the part of the building behind the baptistery).  While the new meeting house was under construction, worship services were conducted in the Court House. 
  • The opening of the original building of the Rusk church of Christ on South Main Street was on Sunday January 8, 1950 in the afternoon.
  • In 1952 Rusk reached its highest population of 6,600. During this time the State Hospital expanded and the church grew.
  • In the late 50’s Don Bryant came over from Center where he had a store and an Insurance Business.  He drove over every week for close to 6 years preaching and teaching on Sundays and Wednesdays.  The first Vacation Bible School was held in June of 1958.  There were 90-100 kids each day.  In the summer the church had big Vacation Bible Schools and many people were brought to the Lord as a result. Mike and Susan Birdwell and Carol Byrd remember well Don’s big voice and how he could sing “Father Abraham” so loud that you could hear it in the courthouse.  It seems at the outset of the church in Rusk “Children’s Ministry” has been a priority of the church.  That tradition continues today with Pioneer Club, Children’s Church and Vacation Bible School.
  • The original baptistery in the original building on Main Street was made out of copper and needed to be replaced.  Eris Ritchie was the preacher then and his wife, Mrs. Ritchie designed the baptistery and Beauford Wright built it. 
  • In the summer of 1966 the baptistery was put in place of 2 classrooms and the middle part of the existing auditorium along with the side classrooms was built.  Beauford Wright over saw the building of it and did much of the labor.
  • Joyce Stanley was the first person baptized in the baptistery.
  • In 1976 the Joy Bus ministry was started and buses continued to run after the weekly Joy Bus to pick up many kids for VBS until the late 80’s.  It was through this ministry that Lynn Padgeant and her family came to the church.  Lynn was baptized in 1978 and it was due to the friendships and guidance of Faye and Beauford Wright and Annie Mae Sunday whom Lynn hired out at the State Railroad.
  • Since the 1970’s the Rusk church has financially supported the Yellow House Christian Student Center on the campus of Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, Texas.  Many of our graduating seniors have found a home there through their college years and have been blessed to go on missions and grow tremendously spiritually.
  • In the early 1980’s a food pantry was started and to this day it exists to help people who are in dire need.  We have members here today who gave their lives to Jesus Christ in part to being helped out of the food pantry.  Benevolence has been one of the staples of this church family and it is recognized by the community.
  • In 1981 the glass doors on the side and the bathrooms were added on along with the front of the existing building.
  • As the church continued to grow in the early 1990’s the leaders realized they needed more space.  In February 1993, a new wing was built onto the existing building and was being used by February 21, 1993.
  • In 2000, the Annex was built as a place for youth activities, community outreach and congregational fellowships.  For nine years a group of senior citizens has met every weekday from 7-9 in the morning to walk and drink coffee together sharing fond memories.  Since 2005 the Annex has housed the majority of our kid’s and teenager Bible Classes.  Many community groups have used the Annex for their meetings and programs.  The Annex has also served as a Red Cross Disaster Shelter during 4 different hurricanes.  The Annex has also served as a distribution center for clothes, coats for kids, and school supplies.  It will now serve as a temporary setting for our worship assemblies until the new building is finished. 
  • Since 1998 over 100 people have been baptized here at the building in Rusk not to mention the ones who were baptized at church camp.  The first one to be baptized in the current baptistery was Joyce Stanley in 1966 and as of this writing the last one was Jacob Crowley on March 30, 2011.

 

Missions and Ministries:

  • Since the 50’s when the church got on her feet financially, the Rusk church has supported missions around the country and around the world.  In the late 80’s and early 90’s the church supported evangelists in Mexico who planted churches in Mexico.  The church also supported works in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Czechoslovakia.
  • Beginning in 1995 the church supported evangelist Russell Bell who has planted churches and helped churches to grow and mature all over the world but especially in India.  The church was involved with this fruitful work for 10 years.
  • In 2006 the church began supporting Ken Wilson who is the Executive Director of the Sunset International Biblical Institute in Tacoma, Washington.  2 churches have been planted as a result of this work and the church in Puyallup has doubled in size to 170.  About a dozen students have graduated who have become preachers, church planters, and missionaries in the Northwest and in the former Soviet country of Belarus.  The church is still supporting this work today.
  • In 2007 the church began to support Elijah and Kristen Peters who are our missionaries in West Massey which is a large unchurched community in Auckland, New Zealand. 
  • In 2002 the church began doing jail services for Cherokee County Jail every time there was a fifth Sunday in the month.  In 2005 the church began to go every five weeks.  In 2004 we began a Bible Lesson correspondence ministry to teach those incarcerated the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In 2005 we had our first baptism and since then we have baptized over 50 people in the county jail.  Today the Jail Ministry team corresponds with over 1500 inmates around the country.  Many have come to know the Lord through this ministry.
  • On April 1, 2008 CASA or Christians Against Substance Abuse had its first meeting in the Annex. CASA is a 12 step support group that uses the Bible to help men and women break cycles of addiction and give their lives to Jesus Christ.  Today the group meets twice a week and sometimes as many as 15 from outside of the church family attend these great meetings.
  • Pioneer Club which is a Christian scouting club that earns badges or awards for memorizing Scriptures and doing helpful projects began in 2006 and continues strong today with as many as 70 coming on Wednesday night.