Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rev. Childress' Rock Churches

There is a story of personal struggle behind the work of Rev. Bob Childress, who built six rock churches near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Carroll, Patrick, and Floyd Counties. Before he led the building of these churches that "brought about dramatic changes to an entire mountain region of people," he had to "overcome the youthful conflicts of whiskey drinking and pistol toting shootouts." At the age of three, he experienced his first drunk, and "until the age of 21, he patronized the company of young mountain men who drank, killed, and were killed in gun and knife fights.

One day he was drawn to the music coming from a church revival meeting, and he "experienced a peace that 'hell-raising' never gave him." The old ways gave way. The first church he built was the Buffalo Mountain Presbyterian Church in 1929. This church, built on the spot where a still once stood and where several killings had taken place, became the "mother" church from which Rev. Childress missionary efforts spread.

In this picture, we were struck by the workmanship in the construction of the rock walls and the stain glass windows. This seemed to be one of the larger churches.

Richard Davids tells the story of Rev. Childress in The Man Who Moved a Mountain (1970)

The Slate Mountain Presbyterian Church, the second rock church, was built in 1932 and was expanded in 1951. Exiting the church, members are greeted with a view of rolling hills and farm buildings, all of which serve as reminders of the roots of the founders of the congregation.

In the 30's, Rev. Childress organized the Willis Presbyterian Church, but the Willis church, the sixth, wasn't built until 1954. This is now Grace Baptist Church.

The other three churches were built in the 1940's from earlier, existing churches. That is, the existing churches were "rock-faced" in the years noted below:

Bluemont Presbyterian Church, built in 1919, rock-faced in 1945-46.

The Dinwiddie Presbyterian Church, rock-faced in 1948.

Mayberry Presbyterian Church, built in 1925, rock-faced in 1948.

Kate photographed this lily in front of the Mayberry Church. A nice way to end our tour of Rev. Childress' Rock Churches.

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