• Laurel Contributor

A Matter of Faith

by Donna Rhodes

The early days of Christianity on the Plateau were marked by strife, but the Methodists and Baptists reached an accommodation that resonates even today, nearly 140 years later.

Well over a century ago Elder F. M. Jordan wrote: “There is a fine valley at the head of the Tennessee River, a fine farming country, thickly settled. The Baptists once held that country pretty generally. But they fell out amongst themselves, and jars, discord, and strife crept in among them, and they excluded some, and some took letters and went to Clayton. And while they were at that, the devil and the Methodists came in and were about to take the country. Some of the brethren came to see me, to get me to go and help them out. So I went. I found the Baptists and the Methodists, each with an organization, worshipping in an old dilapidated meeting-house. I commenced preaching twice a day, and the spirit came upon the people in great power. Soon there were bright professions of faith in Christ, and a time of great rejoicing.”

Squabbling Baptists? The devil and the Methodists? Maybe it wasn’t a kinder, gentler time after all.

But the spiritual growth and transition purported in this letter, written in 1884, coincides with the founding of Highlands, its schools, and churches. On March 12, 1876, “good citizens” formed a Highlands Sunday School which met in the log Law House (today’s Wright Square). Three years later a group of Presbyterians began meeting in the new school house. Six years after that denominations began building their own sanctuaries, no longer relying on town buildings to house them.

Today a wide spectrum of faiths, Protestant, Catholics, Judaism, and others, is represented in a number of sanctuaries and temples in the region.

I am certain Elder Jordan would be quick to take a lighter tone, for the Baptists have settled in and the Methodists aren’t cavorting with a single forked tail.

To learn more about devilishly difficult times and other times, divine, at our heavenly heights, read Ran Shaffner’s “Heart of the Blue Ridge” or visit highlandshistory.com.

The Laurel Magazine

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