A group of dedicated Christians with a desire to reach others for Jesus Christ and striving to do God’s will, first began meeting together in their homes. With 36 present, their first meeting was a Wednesday night service, February 28, 1979, held at the home of Jack and Catherine Judd. A week later, after services at the Ulus and Genevieve Caldwell home, the first business meeting took place with selection of Sunday School officers and a church name: United Free Will Baptist Church. It was agreed to leave the charter open for 3 months. At the end of that time, the church membership was 49.
With the help of Revs. Finis Johnson, James Lee Reed, Clark Stephens, Jesse Dunkin, Harry Beatty, and Manuel Dunkin, the United Church was officially organized on March 28, 1979. The church was accepted into the Cave Springs Association on May 18, 1979.
Rev. Finis Johnson was elected interim pastor, Catherine Judd as church clerk, and Geneva Easter as church treasurer. Trustees elected were Bros. Jim Walker, Carroll Hickman, Jack Judd, Hubert Holman, and Randall Tate. Three deacons were selected: Bros. Tommie Adkisson, Ulus Caldwell, and David Uhlmann.
The Seventh Day Adventist Church building was rented and services were held there for approximately 3 months, with attendance having grown to near 60. In July, the church moved to the American Legion Hall, where it held residence for 5 months.
In July, 1979, two acres of land on Lanton Road was purchased as the site for the church building. During evening services on Sunday, July 29, Bro. Finis Johnson said in his message, “Children, don’t give up. I can see a beautiful church on the hill.” Three days later, August 1, Bro. Johnson went into the hospital; he passed away August 4, 1979. A fund was set up in Bro. Finis’ memory, totaling $814. With this money, the pulpit, altar, and communion table were purchased. At that time, names of everyone who wanted to buy a pew were taken, with 26 families participating. Bro. and Sis. Johnson had no children of their own, and a few years later, upon the death of Mrs. Johnson, their entire estate was left to the United Free Will Baptist Church.
Digging of the basement at 607 Lanton Road began August 18, 1979, with the foundation and basement floor being poured 5 days later. As soon as the concrete had dried, construction began. Building committee members were Ulus Caldwell, Othel Blankenship, and Howard Mofield. During the construction, the ladies served lunch most every day to the workers. The ladies also helped with the building. It was not unusual to see one of them with a saw or hammer in her hand.
Because the Legion Hall was needed for the day, Sunday services on September 23 were held in the far from finished basement. With open window frames and a bare light bulb suspended from the subfloor overhead, God’s presence still filled the room. On October 12, the trusses were put up.
On October 28, 1979, Bro. Jack Littlejohn, from Nashville, TN, was elected pastor. We began having services in the basement December 2, 1979, with 73 for Sunday School, and 83 for Worship Service. On February 2, 1980, the building was complete and services were held in the sanctuary.
On May 3, 1981, the church elected Rev. Glenn Murray as their new pastor. He began his duties on June 7, 1981. There were 56 people present.
In May, 1982, the church voted to build a parsonage. At that Sunday night service, Clyde Joplin stood and said he would like to donate the first $1,000 towards the building. Other members also joined in, each lending the church $1,000 or more, interest-free. Soon, the fund balance showed approximately $14,000. House plans were selected, and in June, the basement was dug. It was built by mostly donated labor. Bro. Glenn, Sis. Rachel, and family moved into the completed home on September 27, 1982. Some of the people whose sacrifice and generosity made the parsonage possible, never asked for nor accepted repayment, but great is their reward in Heaven.
As of March 27, 1983, the original church building was debt-free, and a dedication service was held.
As the church grew, talk began of a new addition. On March 26, 1989, a special offering, totaling $17,000 was given for the project. It was decided to build a 30 foot addition to the West end of the original building. Under the leadership of Bro. Harold and Bro. Gary Braynard, along with many church family members, the addition was in the “dry” for $10,000, all labor being donated, except the concrete work. On November 10, 1989, the 30 ft. addition was finished, and dedicated debt-free, complete with a “note-burning.”
In 1995, Bro. Dennis McGinley began as a part-time Youth Director, and was put on staff full time as Youth Pastor in March, 1998.
The Lord continued to bless the United Church, and on March 30, 1997, we began having two morning worship services to allow room for everyone. On April 1, 1997, the church hired a secretary, and in May of that same year, Rev. Clarence Burton was hired as Associate Pastor, focusing largely on visitation and the nursing home ministry.
As the church family continued to grow, talk of adding on to the building began once again. After much thought and prayer, on Sunday, May 4, 2000 (Mother’s Day), a ground-breaking was held for the addition of new restrooms, classrooms, a kitchen, and a multi-purpose building. The construction had a projected cost of $1,100,000, and Adam’s Construction of West Plains was hired for the job.
In 2005, Rev. Daryl Haney was added to United’s staff as the Minister of Education.
In June of 2007, after serving as pastor of the United Church for 26 years, Rev. Glenn Murray resigned. Rev. Jason Roberts was elected Sr. Pastor.
On July 9, 2008, the church purchased a house and lot adjoining church property, as we prepare for and look forward to future expansion.
On July 12, 2009, the church held a special “Note Burning” service to celebrate the final payment on the Multi-Purpose Building construction. This made the Church once again “Debt-Free”.
In June of 2010, after serving as pastor of the United Church for 3 years, Rev. Jason Roberts resigned as Sr. Pastor.
On November 21, 2010, Rev. Dennis McGinley was elected Senior Pastor.
In January 2011, Rev. Daryl Haney resigned as Minister of Education.
On June 12, 2011, Rev. Ray Paxton was elected Youth Pastor.
Matthew Cromer is the Minister of Education and Outreach and was added to the staff in March of 2014.
God is truly blessing the United Church. With Rev. Dennis McGinley as Senior Pastor and Rev. Ray Paxton as Youth Pastor, we are excited about what God has in store for us as we continue to share the message of Jesus Christ and minister in this community.