Throughout its 100 years of service to the rural community of Jonesborough, Chestnut Grove Union Church has seen a number of pastors and denominations walk through its doors.
The variety of preachers who stepped up to the pulpit week after week share some similarities with the circuit riders, a group of preachers who would travel by horseback to preach at various churches in areas of low populations.
Rather than join any particular denomination, the church’s initial leaders decided to adopt the word “union” into their church to signify the various groups that utilized the place of worship, according to its current pastor, Dr. Kenneth Gaskin.
On Sunday, Chestnut Grove has invited the public to attend a special 100th anniversary celebration, highlighting the church’s history in the community. Beginning at 11 a.m., the anniversary celebration will feature special music, a service and a dedication for a time capsule that will be buried on the property.
Gaskin is the 10th full-time pastor who has served Chestnut Grove since it began. After pastoring several other churches in Johnson City, Gaskin joined Chestnut Grove 11 years ago after briefly flirting with retirement.
“I was supposed to retire in 2000, but sitting on the front porch wasn’t exciting for me, so I just went back out and have enjoyed my time at Chestnut Grove,” he said.
According to several documents supplied by a church historian, Chestnut Grove was built on land donated by Reece Stone and dedicated in the summer of 1912.
In addition to the initial church building, a schoolhouse was also built on the property. It was torn down in 1945.
Over the last 100 years, the church has undergone a series of renovations, most notably in the mid-1940s, the 1970s and in 2004. In keeping with the continued growth of both the church and the area, Chestnut Grove is undergoing construction that will extend the seating in the sanctuary and add more restrooms.
Gaskin said the renovations signify that there’s still work to be done by the church within the community.
“The community has just grown up around us here. There’s a tremendous potential,” he said.
Looking back over the 100 years of history surrounding the church, Gaskin said the community around the little rural church has continued to grow and holds a variety of opportunities for the future of the church.
“You think about it, it’s gone through 100 years. It’s gone through a Depression ... but they’ve hung in there, really faithfully. You talk about the economy being bad now, but God’s economy is stable, and we’re holding to his promise in times like this and that’s why we’re able to add on and build and make plans for the future,” he said.