The Early Years: 1951-1955

The Richmond Church of Christ traces its beginning to April 1, 1951, when a small group of Christians met in a room of the Roark building on the campus of Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College. Dr. Adron Doran preached the first sermon. This group of Christians decided to continue meeting for worship.

For the next three or four years they met in various locations, including a small room in the Glyndon Hotel, the Richmond Armory, and the Red Man’s Lodge. Among those attending these early sessions were Winnie Venable, Fred Wolcott, Charles and Gay Coy, John and Lela Barton, Dr. Noel G. and Stevie Cuff, I. D. Maggard, Arthur and Edna Pigman and Ted Towler. Later, in September of 1952, Tom and Betty Myers became active members of the congregation when Tom joined the faculty at Eastern.

Several area ministers helped with these early services, including Bert Baker, Adron Doran, J. T. Hodgens, Kelly Ellis, W. C. Sawyer, Charles Brown, Franklin Wade, George Fleming, Raymond Muncy, Taylor Lowery, Robert Atkinson, Harding Lowery, Phillip Allen, H. S. Ficklen, Douglas Davis, and Ralph Walker.

Baker CourtThe earliest gospel meeting was held in 1952 with Everette Alexander as the speaker. In 1953 J. E. Acuff of Nashville, Tennessee, was the speaker in a gospel meeting. A. M. Burton of Nashville helped financially to make his attendance possible. Brother Acuff gave his pay to the building fund, as did Dr. Cuff when he preached for the group. Visiting preachers were paid $15 per Sunday.

One Sunday evening in 1953, Dr. Cuff challenged the small group to construct a building in which to meet. The group accepted the challenge and began efforts to secure a site. They located a small lot on Baker Court. Because there was no money to buy the land, I. D. Maggard gave $1000 extra and Dr. Cuff cashed in an insurance policy and gave $500 extra. Thus the lot was purchased. Then the congregation started raising money to construct the building. Sister congregations helped. Dr. Cuff was particularly effective in raising funds from individuals and churches outside the community. Also, I. D. Maggard, a generous businessman, seemed always to come up with extra money when the congregation needed it.

First Full Time Preachers: 1955-1963

Basil Overton was the first full-time preacher for this local group of Christians. It was Basil’s desire to work in a mission area so he came to the congregation and offered to be their full-time preacher. When told that the congregation, then about 14 in number, could not support him, he said he would raise his own support. Basil and with his wife Margie came to Richmond in 1955. He soon became well known and well respected in the community. By the time he left in 1959, the congregation had grown to about 55 in number. Basil also worked faithfully to start and/or strengthen other congregations in the Central Kentucky area.

When Brother Overton left, he helped the congregation find and secure the services of a very capable young preacher to follow in his footsteps, Kenneth Hoover. Kenneth did not disappoint anyone. He was a dynamic and effective preacher. During his tenure as the preacher, the church placed an emphasis on ministering to the students on campus at Eastern and the congregation continued to grow.

Among those who became active members of the church during the time when Basil and Kenneth were preaching were Byno and Mildred Rhodes, Harold and Martha Barton, Lillie and Louise Davis, E. B. and Marie Billingsley, Anna Lee Edwards, Annette Towler, Jody and Alene Tanner, Andy and Ethel Denny, Bert and Ruby Rawlings, Wheeler and Ruby Lynch, Willis and Ellen Moores, Gracie Newman, Dorothy Lovino Ed and Sandra Palmiter and James and Modina Harrison.

A Time of Further Growth: 1963-1971

In addition to the good preaching done by Basil and Kenneth, there were two other important factors that helped the church to grow. First, Eastern became a university during this time, bringing many students, staff and faculty members to the area. Some of them were members of the church. Second, the economy in Richmond and Madison County was excellent, bringing families here to work. Some of them also were members of the church.

Among those who came during this period of time and became church leaders were Odell and Ruth Phillips, Lee and Hannah Gentry, Jim and Gwen McChesney, Chad and Carolyn Middleton, Al and Doris Morris, Titus and Lena Black, Joe and Helen Koger, Mike and Jo Ann Grimes and Ron and Carol Lawson.

Lee Gentry and Odell Phillips were chosen and installed as the first elders of the congregation March 5, 1967. Dr. Doran conducted the installation. Soon thereafter Chad Middleton was chosen to serve as an elder. Later, Al Morris was also named, followed by Jim McChesney, Ron Lawson and Titus Black. The congregation has had deacons since 1970.

The full-time ministers who followed Basil Overton and Kenneth Hoover during this period of early growth were Vernon Joines, Don Oelze, David Patterson, Gerald Frump, Willard Pyles, Gary Phillips, Larry Bean, and Arthur Peddle.

The Second New Building: 1971-1993

Main St ConstructionBy 1970 the congregation had outgrown the Baker Court building so plans were made to build a larger building on a new site on West Main Street. A building with a seating capacity of 300 with 10 classrooms was constructed, again with the assistance of sister congregations. Members of the congregation spent many hours working at the construction site to save money. The new building was completed toward the end of 1971. Kenneth Hoover was invited to speak at the dedication service that was held January 16, 1972.

The West Main Street location helped the church to gain a permanent identity within the community. Growth was steady during the years that followed and the congregation soon became self-supporting. By the late 70’s the church was able to provide assistance to area small churches that needed help. Several faculty members, students, staff members and their spouses have chosen to continue to live in this area after retirement and have been very helpful to the local church.

A Major Expansion: 1994-2006

The congregation continued to grow and attendance exceeded 200 by the mid 90’s. To meet pressing needs for additional space for educational and fellowship activities, an expansion and remodeling project was begun in 1993 and completed in September of 1994. The elders gave Chad Middleton the task of overseeing the construction and serving as liaison with the builders. Approximately 6,000 square feet was added to the present structure. The auditorium was expanded by 60 seats. Other features added included a large fellowship hall that also converts into four classrooms, a library, a copier room, new offices for the preacher and secretary, nursery and classroom space for toddlers, an outside play area, covered drive thru entrance, new kitchen and restroom facilities and an elevator. The congregation met in an auditorium in the Stratton Building while the expansion and remodeling took place.

Main St CompletedThe preacher for the church just before entering the new building, Arthur Peddle, decided to move to a new location. Soon thereafter Mike Johnson was invited to serve as the preacher. He accepted, and he and his wife and three children moved to Richmond. Thus began a long period of stability and mutual respect, admiration, and satisfaction between Mike and the local church. These years have been a time of unity, spiritual growth, numerical growth and service.

The congregation through its members and preachers has used a variety of means and efforts to reach out to those who are in need of spiritual and/or physical assistance. Examples are worship services each Sunday morning and night, classes for all ages on every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening, on campus classes and fellowship activities for EKU students, a tape ministry which records and distributes sermons and lessons on cassette tape, correspondence courses are offered and graded and the computer and other technological advances are used.

Throughout the decade of the 90’s and until the present time the programs, services, fellowship and outreach activities of the church through the efforts of the elders, preacher, and members have greatly increased. Visitors have been welcomed to the worship services of the congregation. Individuals have been baptized and several Christians have moved to this area and decided to become a part of the congregation.

Over the years some of the earlier elders have relinquished their service and been replaced with other well-qualified and younger elders. In 2000, Jack Hall became the first full-time elder.

The Third New Building

All of these factors have again led to congregational growth to the extent that the facilities became woefully inadequate. Attendance was averaging over 300 at the morning worship service. Classrooms and spaces for fellowship activities were again in need of expansion. Building Outside However, the location was not suited for any further expansion. So in 2000 the church purchased a 34-acre tract of land on Lancaster Road with the idea of building a comprehensive facility to meet present and future needs. Plans for a new building were developed over a period of time. All members were asked for their suggestions and input. But it was not possible for the congregation to secure the funds needed for a new building until the property on Main Street was sold. That sale happened in late 2004, but the congregation was allowed to continue meeting in the building until March of 2005. The church met in the Perkins Building on the Eastern campus during construction of a new building.

Construction began in January of 2005, with the church serving as its own general contractor. The elders asked Owen Barnes to serve as the construction manager, and he devoted more than a year to the project. His service in scheduling the work and serving as a liaison between the church and the contractors was invaluable. The new facility is a 24,000-square foot building with an auditorium that seats 500. The audio-visual system is state of the art, with the capability of projecting both sound and video into each classroom. There are 19 classrooms, library, teacher resource center, kitchen, a large office complex for the preacher and secretary, and a massive foyer that serves as a fellowship hall. There are 200 parking spaces, with plenty of room for expansion.

The new facility was dedicated August 13, 2006. Kenneth Hoover was again the speaker. As time and finances permit additional use of the land will be planned and developed to meet further needs of the congregation. In addition to our preschool we hope in the future to add a fellowship wing, a day-care and elementary school, preacher training school, and retirement homes for members.