Lynette Stone Stephens was torn emotionally among those celebrating Concord Original Church of God’s 100th anniversary Sunday afternoon, June 4, at the church’s 801 Loop Road address.
Having grown up in the church, this Village Green resident was fighting back tears remembering her father, the late Elder Roy A. Stone — the church’s longest serving pastor, 34 years, until his death in 2000.
“It’s joyful but it’s painful to be here. … His death was very sudden,” said Stephens, joined by her mother, Dorothy Stone Porter, and two of her five siblings: Roy Stone Jr. and Gloria Stone Johnson. They were among roughly 80 church members, former church members and their family plus visiting pastors at the ceremony.
“He was a marvelous man — the best man I’ve ever known in my life,” Stephens added with emotion.
Elder Stone “was called to preach when he was 16 years old,” Stephens said.
“Everybody I’ve spoken to speaks highly of him, how good and kind he was. Almost kind of like you knew him,” said the Rev. Ruby Winton, current pastor, who has served at COCG since December 2015.
“Under the great leadership of Elder Stone for 34 years, the church flourished and became a cornerstone for the community,” the church’s 100th Anniversary brochure stated.
“The church has stood the test of time and has been led by 10 great pastors over the last century,” the brochure further stated.
Elder Frankie Lenoir, pastor, and the Rev. Author Lenoir, associate pastor, founded the church in 1917.
Next was Elder Burton, followed by Elder Oscar Miller and Elder McDowell before Stone took leadership of the church in the mid-1960s.
Pastors serving exclusively in the 21st century before Winton have been the Rev. Jamel Nesbitt, Elder Ron Nesbitt and Elder Alan Jones.
“Faithful members such as Sister Josie Moulden, Brother Nathaniel Moulden, Sister Annie Lane, Brother James Lane and Sister Margaret Sellers helped cement the small church,” the brochure stated.
The church marked its 100th anniversary with a special service. It was less about pats on the back, snacks, games and sentimentality than the No. 1 priority: serving God through worship and preaching His word.
A two-hour ceremony was highlighted by a sermon from the Rev. Cynthia Smith, pastor of Bible Way Full Gospel Church in Detroit.
Stressing everyone’s need to answer God’s “calling” in their lives, Smith used Sampson as a Biblical example of God’s calling being fulfilled despite Sampson’s human frailties.
Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett addressed the gathering, reading a proclamation declaring “this day, June 4, 2017, as Concord Original Church of God Day in Knox County.
“Churches like this are the bedrock of our community,” Burchett said during a short address. “Congratulations on your 100th year.”
Burchett recalled “the first time I came out here. I believe some vandals had done some damage out here. I remember Sheriff [Jimmy “J.J.”] Jones and I, as we say, ‘put a little money together’ and got some repairs done.
“I’m glad to be back here, especially under these great circumstances,” he added. “I want to thank you all for letting me share a milestone in your all’s life.”
“We’re grateful he’s here with us today,” Winton said about Burchett.