Next to the sadness of a soul's returning to the world after his or her obedience to the gospel is that of a local body of the Lord's people not officially existing anymore. The lack of a physical record or the lack of people who could verbally recall the life of that body sometimes compounds the sadness. Thankfully, in one instance, the latter is not true of a body of Christians that met in rural Wayne County, West Virginia. That body met at Camp Creek, near East Lynn.
Recently my father, Charles B. Hale, sent me an article that appeared in the Huntington Herald-Dispatch concerning the official record book of this body covering the years from 1920-1950. Mr. Michael Tabor, a grandson of the last evangelist on record, Jasper N. "Bub" Tabor, wrote the article. According to Mr. Tabor in the article entitled "Man Learns More About Family Through a Church Record Book," Mrs. Debbie Campbell found the original and rescued it. "The book was headed for disposal after a 14th Street Fall Festival in Huntington in the late 1990's." Mrs. Campbell made copies of the book. One is now in the Wayne County Public Library, and one is at the KYOVA Genealogical and Historical Society (www.rootsweb.com/~wvkgs) in Guyandotte, of which Mrs. Campbell is a member. The original is to be placed in the Special Collections Archives at Marshall University. After corresponding with Mrs. Campbell via e-mail and contacting my father, we are now in possession of a CD that contains the record. After viewing it and talking extensively with my father, I have learned very much about that body.
Mr. Tabor's family was involved in the body, but our family was also involved in the body to an equal or greater extent. My great-grandparents, Charles Rufus and Ida Belle (Osburn) Hale, were the oldest generation of our family who were members there. My grandparents, Lucien S. and Lina (Miller) Hale, raised their family in that body. Of my father's generation, he, three brothers, and two sisters are either still faithful Christians or remained faithful until death. Dad served as a deacon for two congregations in Wayne County, resigning from the last due to the congregation's not being sound. He also preached on occasion at several small congregations in Wayne County. One brother, Talmadge, was an evangelist from age twenty-six or twenty-seven and was eighty-one when he died. Charles Rufus was a deacon there, as well as Lucien S. and Lucien's son Talmadge. Lucien S. was also appointed elder in the 1930's. I have noticed that those men of my family, who love the Lord, try to serve Him as faithfully as possible.
While going over the records, I observed several things. First, they called themselves "disciples." Each time a business meeting was recorded or the contribution was recorded, "The disciples of Christ met at the Camp Creek church in a business meeting ..." or "The disciples of Christ met Lord's Day morning at ten thirty in communion service ..." was used. Second, each time a business meeting was conducted a chapter in God's Word was read, and a prayer was offered. Third, the financial records show that the body would assist members with financial help for medical expenses, and the body assisted widows and orphans with a contribution. Unfortunately, in the early 1920's it appears that the body made contributions to "state missions" and the Christian Missionary Society. Fourth, the body was not afraid to openly discipline the members if they were in error. In the January 1933 business meeting the following is recorded. "Resolution of this church: Any member or group of members who acts or works against the constituted authority of this church will be considered by the body disorderly and withdraw will be in order. It is understood that the constituted authority of the church is in her elected and ordained officers." On page 145, the following is found: "_____ ordered before the body to confess his wrongs. (Dated May 7, 1933) _____ on the 14th and _____ on the 21st were also called to appear." My father tells me that someone tried to introduce an instrument into the worship of this body, but they were not successful. A piano or organ appeared one day before the Lord's Day services, and the elders' reaction was immediate. The body was informed that if the instrument were not removed, it would be disposed of into the yard. By next Lord's Day, the instrument disappeared, and nothing was said.
My father tells me that the people who made up the body knew God's Word and lived it, even though they were simple country people and sometimes did not have as much formal education as we do today. That is why I believe that body and the Lord's church in America flourished as it did in the early to mid twentieth century. Members of the Lord's body were known as "walking Bibles." My father also tells me that even though it was a rural body of believers, their attendance averaged about one hundred. He also relates that when a revival or gospel meeting (usually two weeks in duration) was held, it was so well attended that the lamps people were carrying made the area "look like fireflies were all over the area."
The main reason that the body did not continue to exist is due in part to Lucien S. and Lina's no longer residing in the community on Tiger Fork. Lina was in ill health, and my father and his siblings convinced them to move to Lavalette near the town of Wayne so that the trip to assist in taking care of Lina was not as long. Sadly, many of the families that resided there were happy to see the body no longer have a presence in the community. Even though Lucien attended the Wayne congregation until he passed on, my father tells me he never moved his membership there.
The building still stands, but another small religious sect is located there. This body of believers apparently went through a process of maturity as time passed, which Christians should do to reach the ultimate goal of heaven. I am glad that I have had the privilege to learn about them and their worship and service to Jehovah God Almighty. It inspires me to be more faithful and diligent in "fighting the good fight," "running the course," and "keeping the faith" as the apostle Paul described our lives in the Lord. 11698 Poser Rd., Foley, AL 36535. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Editor's note: Brother Edward A. Hale is originally from Huntington, WV)
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