History of Woodland Christian Church
In August 1801, a distinctly American religious movement saw its birth in the Cane Ridge Revival in Bourbon County, Kentucky. The Leaders of the movement, Barton Warren Stone of the Kentucky “Christians,” Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander of the West Virginia “Disciples” had their roots in the Scottish Presbyterian Church. As the movement grew, a large number of people began calling themselves Christians or Disciples of Christ. In 1832, the two groups were officially brought together at Hill Street Christian Church (which would become the present day Central Christian Church in Lexington with a handshake between Stone of the Christians and “Raccoon” John Smith of the Disciples. The movement to this day is called The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
In May 1908, another revival would bring about the birth of Woodland Christian Church. Charles Reign Scoville, a renowned evangelist, led a revival at Broadway Christian Church. The attendance and response was so great that it was moved to
the Woodland Auditorium in what is now Woodland Park, across the street from the present church building. Many who attended the revival wanted to begin a new congregation on the city’s east side. In all, 106 people decided to become charter members of the new congregation.
The first worship service of Woodland Christian Church was held at the Woodland Auditorium on May 24, 1908. The present site of the church was purchased a month later and a frame church building was constructed. The building was dedicated on November 20, 1908. Professor B. C. Deweese, a faculty member at the College of the Bible (now Lexington Theological Seminary) agreed to be the acting minister until Charles F. Powell was called as pastor later in 1908.
Powell resigned in 1910 citing health reasons and he was succeeded by Richard W. Wallace (1911-1915) and E. T. Edmonds (1916-1921).
In 1912, the men of the congregation had outgrown the space they were allotted and an annex was built onto the rear of the church.
Prior to 1920, controversies arose among the Christian Churches. Many churches, including Broadway Christian Church, separated from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) preferring to support mission work independently rather than through a centralized organization. Controversy also arose over the teachings of the faculty of the College of the Bible. Woodland remained within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and has carried out a tradition of outreach both within the structures of the church and within the community.
In 1922, Hayes Farish became pastor of the congregation and would serve for 35 years. During his tenure, the congregation became the site of a community training school for teachers of religious education and the first daily Vacation Bible School in Lexington. The church grew from 200 members in 1922 to 500 member in 1956.
The cornerstone for the present building was laid on October 29, 1922. Realizing a dream that had been proposed in 1920, the first Sunday school classes were held in the red brick building on February 17, 1924. The first worship service in the new
Sanctuary was held on March 30. The building was officially dedicated on April 5, 1925. In January of 1946, the debt was retired and a Note Burning Ceremony was held.
Indicative of Farish’s and Woodland’s commitment to diversity and dialogue, the new structure was shared with the congregation of Temple Adath Israel from 1924 to 1926. The congregation was involved in many ministries including fighting poverty, racism, and intolerance on many levels. Woodland was active in the work of the Kentucky Council of Churches and in the Cane Ridge Preservation and Restoration project. From its early days the church supported “Living Link Missionaries” including Mrs. Vera Carpenter and Dr. Keene Watson.
In 1960, the Gulbranson pipe organ was installed in the Sanctuary and work began on remodeling and repairs to the Sanctuary. On November 20, 1960, the remodeled Sanctuary, several memorial gifts and the new organ were dedicated. The property across Kentucky Avenue was purchased in 1966 and is now one of the church’s parking lots. Since then the properties between the church and Oldham Avenue have been purchased as well.
Though women had been stalwart workers and supporters of Woodland from its beginnings, it wasn’t until December of 1977 that three women, Emily Ball, Gladys Scheer, and Bertha Wilhoit, were elected as elders. Since then women have filled many of the positions within the church including that of interim pastor 1996-1997, Catherine Barton. The early activities of the women were coordinated through the Ladies Aid Society (which became a part of the Christian Women’s Board of Missions), the Women’s Christian Missionary Society and the Daughters of Woodland. The present-day Christian Women’s Fellowship has continued the strong work of the women of the congregation.
The congregation is involved in numerous outreach projects including the HOPE Center, God’s Pantry, Mother-to-Mother, Habitat for Humanity and many of the ministries of the regional and general church.
Throughout its history the congregation has supported the ministry of Lexington Theological Seminary (known from 1865 to 1965 as the College of the Bible). Many students have served in a number of capacities on the staff of the congregation. A number of Timothies and Priscillas of Woodland have gone into the ministry. Among them were Joe Huner, Hal Hunter, Wilbur Wallace, Homer Gamboe, Joe Riley, Terrell Riley, James Riley, Lewis Riley, Theophilus Carroll, E. Tipton Carroll, Jr., Paul Gray, Nancy Jo Kemper, Malcolm Warford, Julie Schmitt Metzger, and Janet Anderson.
Much of the information in this piece is gleaned from “Woodland’s First Fifty Years” by Fan Lee Dalzell, “Woodland’s Diamond Jubilee: A History” by Hallie Perkins and “Woodland’s Christian Church 1983-1998: Prepared for the 90th Anniversary” by James Trader. More history is held there than can possibly be rendered here.
James Trader, Historian
Woodland Christian Church
For more information on church history, visit Woodland Memories, a series of historical moments in the life of our congregation.
Listed below are past Pastors of Woodland Christian Church