A Brief History of Kallam Grove

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Original Kallam Grove Building (1884 – 1938)

More than one group of American Christians has used the term “Christian Church.” Each is different; therefore we proudly rehearse the history of Kallam Grove Christian Church.

The roots of Kallam Grove Christian Church in Rockingham County lie in the ministries of James O’Kelly of the South and Elias Smith of the North. O’Kelly was an Irishman born in Orange County, North Carolina who served as a Presiding Elder in the Methodist Church from 1779 until 1792. He left Methodism, not because of their doctrines, which he retained, but because of the autocratic control of the church by Bishop Francis Asbury. O’Kelly’s strong opposition to slavery, his insistence on lay representation to all conferences, and his general commitment to what he, considered “republican” philosophy of church government, reflecting the civil government of the new United States of America.

The “mother church” was “Lebanon” in Virginia, doubtless the inspiration for the name “New Lebanon” in our community. By 1802, O’Kelly was using the term “Christian Church.” O’Kelly died October 26, 1826 in Chatham County, North Carolina.

With a minimum of organization, individual Christian churches were formed. In North Carolina the most were in Rockingham County, Randolph County, Alamance County, and Chatham County. By 1820 an organization did emerge called “United General Conference of Christians” which adopted six principles of belief:

  • Christ is the only head of the Church
  • The Bible is the sufficient rule of faith and practice
  • Christian character is the only measurement for membership
  • The right of private judgment, interpretation of scripture, and liberty of conscience are supremely defended
  • The name “Christian” is the only name to be given to the churches
  • There is a United Conference of Christians whose ministry is on behalf of all mankind

These closely parallel the founding document of Kallam Grove Christian Church — a document framed and displayed in the Fellowship Hall.

Throughout the 19th century the Christian Church movement was closely identified with the “Second Great Awakening.” This was a non-denominational, revivalist movement. It was characterized by “preaching and singing”, conversions of adults who had no previous religious experience, a democratic spirit, freedom of conscience, and primacy of Holy Scripture in matters of doctrine. The result was formation of thousands of churches in a number of denominations including the Christian Churches. The founding of Kallam Grove is a local manifestation of this phenomenal religious awakening.

Founded on land purchased by James Kallam in 1863, Kallam Grove Christian Church was organized in 1884 following a “brush arbor revival” by Rev. Mamie Moon, an evangelist from Mt. Bethel Church. The new church was immediately connected to Mt. Bethel and New Lebanon churches, forming a “three-point circuit” that remained intact for a century. The Christian churches of Rockingham County have been an important dimension of the cultural and religious history and moral impact on the entire region.

The Christian Churches, unlike some, never considered knowledge or education as “a dangerous thing” that might lead to loss of faith. Elon College was established by the Christian Church in 1889 in a community re-named Elon College in 1891. The Christian Church was one of the first to ordain women. Melissa Terrill was ordained in 1867. Thousands of Negroes joined Christian Churches, some slave and some free. The North Carolina Colored Christian Conference was organized in 1866-67.

A significant historical development occurred in 1874 at the General Convention. The Convention adopted a “Manifesto” which asserted that “the Christian Church movement defines true unity as based not on doctrine or polity, but on Christian spirit and character. We are ready to be in unity with any body of Christians upon the basis of those great doctrines which underlie the religion of Christ and to submit all minor matters to the individual conscience.” This should be re-examined and re-affirmed in every generation at Kallam Grove.

The Christian Church merged in 1921 with the New England Congregationalists, forming the “Congregational Christian” Church. In 1957, the Congregational Christian Church merged with the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form The United Church of Christ. Once again, the earlier Christian Church commitment to “liberty of conscience” prevailed as an anchor doctrine of the new United Church of Christ.

Local “UCC” churches always held title to their own properties and preserved the right to dis-associate themselves with the denomination at will. Kallam Grove exercised that right and withdrew from the “UCC” in 1994 and associated with the Evangelical Covenant Church. The Evangelical Covenant denomination is a global church of Swedish origins whose American roots lay in the upper Midwest. There are six in North Carolina. To avoid violating its charter and heritage, Kallam Grove today is identified as “Kallam Grove Christian Church, an Evangelical Covenant Congregation.” The “EC” church recognizes the ordination of all Protestant Evangelical clergy and assures Kallam Grove the right to call a pastor depending upon the judgment of the Search Committee and congregational vote of the local church. (Two-thirds majority of active members are required for a call.)

Kallam Grove Today

Kallam Grove Christian Church today is a growing church with 146 active and 23 inactive members. Attendance averages over 100 at worship. Fifty-one have joined since late 2009. New members are recommended to the congregation by the pastor, the Deaconesses, and the Deacons. All Christian baptism is recognized. Members baptized in all other Christian denominations are received by transfer of letter. Following a profession of faith, members are baptized by pouring, sprinkling, or immersion. Infants are baptized by sprinkling if parents want their children to be christened.

We are a governmental democracy with a congregational meeting four times a year when every member has a right to vote in the Quarterly Conferences. The Board of Deacons is the Executive Body for “spiritual and temporal matters” under the quarterly conference except for constitutional rights and responsibilities reserved for the Board and committees. All boards and committee chairs report to the Church Council any recommendations they have for Quarterly Conference and an agenda is prepared by the QC presiding officer, the Church Lay Leader. The Board of Deaconesses give the pastor guidance in worship and the administration of sacraments.

If you are looking for a new church home, we offer to you our most cordial invitation and welcome. Upon worshiping with us, our pastor and/or one of our Deacons will be in touch with you. Our pastor is committed to personal pastoral care and wishes to be considered always “on call.” Every member is a minister and will “be here for you” if you come among us! Seek what God’s guidance is for your spiritual journey!