Who We Are
United Presbyterian Church was created in 1965 when Beattie Memorial and Whitnel Presbyterian Churches joined. We are a member of the Presbyterian Church, (USA)
United Presbyterian Church History
In the mid-1960’s, consideration was given to merging Beattie Memorial Presbyterian Church organized November 30, 1924, and Whitnel Presbyterian Church, organized October 9, 1949. Both churches voted to request the Presbytery to merge the churches at some point reasonably close to each and in a growing section of the community. Surveys were conducted in the Lower Creek area to study the feasibility of establishing a new Presbyterian church in that section of Lenoir. Some 89 persons expressed interest in membership. A site was purchased on Pennell Street and both congregations acted to convey their property and other assets to the new church when organized. These assets amounted to approximately $50,000.00. These funds were committed to building the first unit of the church. Meeting in the Caldwell County Agricultural Building on Sunday, June 13, 1965, the new church was officially organized under the direction of Concord Presbytery. The church was given the temporary name “Pennell Avenue Presbyterian Church.” Enrollment following the merger was 80.
The Reverend J.S. Johnson was called as the first “supply pastor.” The 80-member congregation met in the rooms of the present manse for Sunday school and in the basement of the manse for morning Worship Services while construction was completed on the new facility. During this time, discussion was directed upon selection of a new church name. Some of the suggestions were “Covenant” and “John Knox.” However, the congregation felt the joining and uniting of their two church’s signified the strength of this new church; thus, the new church was named United Presbyterian Church. Other supply pastors were the Reverends Clyde Plexico, J.N. Hassell, H. S. Bridgman and Thompson B. Sonthalt.
The Reverend Bill Ansell was called as the new church’s first pastor, May 8, 1966. The Reverend Ansell served three years and under his leadership the new church building was designed by Harold W. Hartley and Zane F. Thompson. March 1969 saw the first vision completed when the new building was dedicated.
In a congregational meeting on September 7, 1969, a call was issued to the Reverend George Woodsides Alexander, Jr. to become United’s second pastor. During Reverend Alexander’s twelve years at United, over 100 new members were received into the congregation bringing the membership total to 180. During this period the church became self-supporting, receiving its last financial support from Concord Presbytery in 1974. Church members began work to convert the unused ten acres into a recreation area for community and church use. In September 1979, the congregation voted to convert the Fellowship Hall into a sanctuary for the sole purpose of worship. Thirty-two memorials and honorariums were received for the new church pews. Among other memorials donated over the years have been a baby grand piano, hand bells, a baptismal fount, paraments, an eternal flame, and many other meaningful memorial donations that have enhanced our worship of God.
March 1982 ushered in our third minister, the Reverend George Sinclair, Jr. In a thanksgiving service Sunday, February 19, 1983, the 18-year-old mortgage on the building and grounds of United was burned, and the congregation rejoiced and celebrated the retirement of its debt. The actual burning of the documents was done by Rev. George Sinclair, two trustees, M.W. Robinson and Willard Church, and former pastor George W. Alexander. Following the Sunday Morning Worship, a reception in celebration of the note burning was hosted by the Women of the Church.
Under the direction of George Sinclair, the church fulfilled its need for a fellowship facility. A spacious pavilion was planned and dedicated May 27, 1983, and our members enjoyed our first outdoor church supper. This facility has been used for ice cream socials, Bible School exercises, joint area church gatherings, Sunrise Services, and much more. Two softball fields and a walking trail were added while George Sinclair was minister. Dr. George Sinclair served eight years. His wife Paula served as Secretary for several years.
Gwen Gibson became church secretary May 1990. She reached her twenty-fifth anniversary in 2015.
July 1, 1990 through April 21, 1991 our stated supply pastors were Dr. R. Paul Kercher and Dr. William S. McLean.
In 1991, Reverend David Kennedy became United’s fourth pastor. He served two years, leaving in 1993.
The Reverend Ellen Woodworth served as our Interim pastor for fifteen months, November 7, 1993 – January 29, 1995.
In February 1995, our current minister, the Reverend Stephen M. Austin, came to United as the church’s fifth minister. Under his leadership, a major vision which the church had begun planning in 1989 came to completion: the Christian Life Center. A building fund was started in 1989, and the final dedication was held on October 6, 1996. The Christian Life Center is fulfilling our church’s extended ministry by serving as a place for many activities such as special programs, socials, wedding receptions, family reunions and other events. It has indeed become a major asset for United Presbyterian Church.
During the next years, other programs have made United a strong force in the community. Cub Pack #259 met here for a while and Girl Scouts use our facility regularly. In 1996, our Mom’s Morning Out Program was begun with one class of three children meeting three times per week. It expanded to three classes meeting five days per week and served forty-two children in the 1999-2000 school year. During this time the pre-school classrooms and church playground were completely renovated with new equipment. Due to economic changes in the county causing a smaller enrollment, this program was closed June 2015. Many organizations, groups, and other churches have made use of our fine facilities over the years. Our church will continue to offer these for use as an extended way of ministering in the community.
United’s Adult and Children’s Choirs were directed by Rita White, Caryl Burns, Lynn Riddle, and Candace Triplett. A Hand bell Choir was formed in 1981. For several years Candace served as both pianist and director until 1999. At that time, Keith Smith took the director’s job with Candace still serving as organist and pianist. They provided a valuable and beautiful ministry through the music program. Keith Smith left in 2002. Candace Triplett has served our music program at United for twenty-two years.
Since its organization, United has continued to support both Presbyterian missions and local causes. In addition to regular contributions to the Presbytery of Western North Carolina and Theological Education Fund, we annually receive five seasonal offerings: One Great Hour of Sharing, Pentecost, Peacemaking, Thanksgiving Offering to Grandfather Mountain Home for Children and Christmas Joy. (These offerings serve retired Presbyterian ministers and their dependents, international and national emergency relief aid, and youth in need.) Our local church mission has included: our Mom’s Morning Out Program, Yokefellow Christian Ministry, Caldwell County Hospice, the Shelter Home of Caldwell County, Caldwell Friends, the Soup Kitchen, Habitat for Humanity, Barium Springs and Grandfather Mountain Homes for Children, Communities in School, Helping Hands Clinic, Robin’s Nest, Fairview Presbyterian Church’s “Pay It Forward” Pantry, “Souper Bowl” of Caring, and Koinonia Apartments for the elderly. The youth group went to Florida for the five years on mission trips. The youth took two trips to Grand Teton National Park. New Bibles and Hymnals were donated for use in the sanctuary.
Fellowship groups over the years were young parents group, senior’s “Vintage” Group, and “Seekers” group for all who seek fellowship and fun.
The City of Lenoir, expanded the Greenway in Lower Creek to follow United’s property boundary following the creek. This led to some people referring to United as the church on the Greenway.
In 2008, member Bobbie Curtis expressed a wish for a bell carillon for the church property to sound across the valley. The Session approved and funds were donated through 2011. The bell carillon was dedicated in January of 2012. Funds were later donated to provide landscaping around the tower in 2015.
We at United Presbyterian Church will continue to look for ways to improve and grow for God’s glory. Current and future project ideas include: Heart’s Light Ministry “outreach to people with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their families through worship, music and recreation,” Heart’s Fire Ministry “outdoor chapel and fire pit,” an exercise station adjacent to the Greenway for meditation and preparation, and a columbarium.
Melvin Austin, Pauline Craig, Patsy Hollander and Rick Laney have continued to be members of United for 50 years.
Mr. & Mrs. Claude Austin Miss Barbara Johnson
Mr. & Mrs. Melvin Austin Miss Lydia Johnson
Mr. & Mrs. Grady Barlowe Master John Johnson
Mr. & Mrs. Virgil Bradshaw Mrs. Bessie Keller
Mrs. E.W. Bryant Mr. & Mrs. Erwin Lee King
Wayne Bryant Mrs. Ben Laney
Mr. & Mrs. Willard F. Church Richard Laney
Mrs. Sarah Church (Winterstein) Mrs. Steele Lutz
Mrs. Mary Sue Church (Brooks) Mrs. Kay Austin May
Mr. & Mrs. Clarence McLoud William Luther McLoud
Mr. & Mrs. Carroll Coffey Mr. & Mrs. Roger Nelson
Miss Antha Correll Mrs. Cathy Nelson (Hornbuckle)
Miss Artie Correll Steven Nelson
Mrs. Dolph Correll Mr. & Mrs. Burl Palmer
Mrs. Howard Craig Mrs. Mary Ann Greene Patterson
Miss Carolyn Culler Mrs. Jeff M. Rash
Gary Culler Mrs. Dan Robinson
Mrs. Patsy Barlow Curtis Mr. & Mrs. Joe Robinson
Mr. & Mrs. Leo Danieley Mr. & Mrs. M.W. Robinson
Mr. & Mrs. W.L. Davis Jeffrey Robinson
Mrs. Mack Greene (Ruth) Miss Doris Seagle
John D. Greene Mr. & Mrs. Rufus Smith
Mrs. Janice Greene Mrs. Linda Smith (Baucom)
Louis Greene Mrs. Atwell Suddreth
David Greene Mrs. Judy Suddreth (Plucker)
Mr. & Mrs. Ralph D. Greene Miss Rebecca Suddreth
Mrs. W. Enzor Greene Michael Suddreth
Mr. & Mrs. F. Edwin Hollander Michael Suddreth
Mrs. Cynthia Hollander Hicks Mr. & Mrs. W.J. Welch
Mrs. Bill Holman W.J. Welch
Mr. & Mrs. Charles W. Holman
Mrs. J.G. Johnson