Local Church History (as told from the local church publication entitled "More Precious Than Gold", 1938-1980 - Reverand R.J. Anderson, author.)
Word was received at the Shelby Street Church of God in Bristol, Tennessee that there was a great desire for the Pentecostal message in Abingdon, VA. Under the leadership of the people of the Shelby Street Church, and of Pastor R.C. Cook, help was sent to Abingdon.
The Church of God in Abingdon was set in order on Sunday night, May 15, 1938.
The first known meeting was held at the home of Trigg Wright. From this meeting, buildings were secured and the message began to spread through the community. The Oddfellow lodge on Pecan Street was a familiar meeting place. Such men as J.R. Burchett, Marvin Porter, Charlie Burchett and J.L. Dorman conducted the meetings. J.L. Dorman was our Overseer. J.H. Walker was the General Overseer (Headquarters in Cleveland, TN), and under the leadership and guidance of these men, property was purchased for the Church of God at Abingdon.
From the subdivision of Mrs. A.H. Cumbow (lots No. 20-21-22, South of Highway No. 11, East of the corporate limits of Abingdon), property was purchased in Washington County, VA as per Deed, dated August 8, 1938. Deed book No 172 (page 308) as recorded in the Clerk's office of Washington County, VA. At this time, the corporate limits of Abingdon ran East and West, adjacent to the present Cumbo China.
A conference was held by the local congregation on the 20th day of March, 1940 to secure a loan of $1,500 for the purpose of erecting a church. The trustees were J.T. Orfield, George Morrison, J.R. Hill, Clayton Thomas and James Thomas. On May 16, 1939, Marvin Porter Sr. began a revival in a 40 foot circle tent, at the site of the proposed church building. The revival lasted for two weeks. Much untold value of the proposed church came out of this revival.
The church was blessed by the messages brought forth by Rev. Porter, as the membership took on added courage. As he delivered the words of Jesus to them, this young preacher stood and declared the council of God. He told the congregation how to obtain salvation for their souls, peace for their minds and healing for thier bodys.
After the church was set in order, Rev. J.R. Burchett was the pastor and the clerk was Mrs. J.E. Saunders. Upon the approval of the General Trustees of the church, and the General Overseer, Rev. J.H. Walker, the loan was secured.
Whereas in and between the church officials and the Bristol Builders Supply Co. of Bristol, VA, a building known as the Church of God at Abingdon was under construction.
Times were not so good and money was hard to come by. Many individuals donated materials and labor for this great effort.
The blocks for the building were hand made, two at a time on the spot. Much of the timbers were hand hewn and hand sawed. The timbers did not measure in inches, but rather in feet.
While the construction of the Abingdon church was taking place, in other parts of Virginia, other churches were being blessed. Bluefield was in the process of building and the Plasterco church was being set in order.
The district consisted of Bastian, Wytheville, Marion and Bristol. The Bastian church was the district headquarters and Rev. Marvin Poter, Sr. was the District Overseer. Later on, the Bluefield and the Abingdon churches were added to the District.
The Pastors at this time were Garland Smith for the Bluefield church, Hamsel Marsh for the Plasterco church and Rev. J.F. Burkett for the Abingdon church.
In the year 1939, Clayton Thomas was appointed clerk of the Abingdon church and the State Overseer was W.E. Johnson.
J.R. Burkett resided on Park Street while pastoring in Abingdon. Many events happened in the life of this preacher, some of them only eternity will reveal. In years to follow, J.R. Burchett left Abingdon and the pastorialship of the church was left in the hands of Rev. E.P. Burrows. Bro. Burrows accomplished much good for the small church. Following Rev. Burrows was Rev. C.B. Clark. Bro. Clark pastored the church during the dark days of World War II. Upon the termination of Bro. Clark, Rev. Dewey Herron took over the duty as Pastor.
As the years passed, with a new church still in its infancy, the adversary was waiting for the preacher and his small church. Trouble arose very shortly and there was much division in the church. Soon aftwards, in 1946, the membership of the church "split", leaving the people confused and bewildered.
As a result of misunderstanding, and independent work had begun on Nicholas Street in Abingdon. Many of the members of the church followed this work soon after, however, the church ceased to function and was sold.
Meanwhile, back at the Church of God on Highway No. 11, a few good men were standing by. They were discouraged, bewildered and disgusted, but somehow, they knew that God was still with them. They remembered the scripture where Jesus said "upon this rock I will build my church". Then, one day, the good news came. Apreacher was coming to rescue this little flock of sheep without a shepherd.
On Sunday, Dec. 29th, 1946, Rev. Marvin Porter came to rescue the church. In 1935, he had came to Virginia from Missouri. He held meetings in many places. Among those were Fort Chiswell, Poplar Camp, Austinville and Shorts Creek. He was a very young man during this time. Many times he preached for weeks for just what he ate and a place to stay.
When Marvin Porter arrived in Abingdon, he found a church in trouble and almost deserted. The debt of the church was due and there was very little money to pay the bills. He had a great desire to defeat the devil and to work for the Lord. Rev. Porter had the leadership and the wisdom that this almost deserted church needed. He began to survey the possibilities of the church. With such men as Jim Orfield, Clayton Thomas, and David Dollinger, Bro. Porter began the grave tasks of trying to revive the broken spirit of the great Church of God in Abingdon. All this begun with prayer, fasting and unquestionable faith in God, who would not fail his people.
Day by day, you could see progress being developed around the small church. After much work, prayer and patience, some of the original members began to infiltrate the pews of the church.
During the crucial period of the church, there were times when Bro. Porter did not have 10 cents to ride the bus to town. There was no money for groceries or for furniture. But this man never became discouraged, nor did he give up in the time of trouble. God had given him a vision that beyond those black storm clouds, he could see the sun shining. Because of this man's Holy boldness and his desire to see God's work completed, today Abingdon has a beautiful church building. It stands as a memorial to christians. It stands as a lighthouse to the unsaved. It stands to remind us of the Porters, the Walkers, the Boatwrights and the many others who have suffered to pave the way to Christianity. It's doors are open to any and all who seek the God of the universe and those who desire a peace from God for their souls.
In the process of time, Marvin Porter was to leave Abingdon that he might go elsewhere to work for God. So, leaving the church debt-free, and all bills paid, the church was well on the road to recovery. Brother Porter turned over the pastorate to Rev. Stuart B. Fortner which was one of Marvin's converts.
Many good men have come and gone through the years, all of which have added to the of God in Abingdon. Such men as J.R. Burkett, Howard Statem, W.I. Head, Leonard Moran, Marvin Porter, R.C. Collins, John R. Gouge, E.P. Burrow, Clarence Clark and S.B. Fortner stand tall in the history of the church as former pastors.
Many lay ministers have come forward from the pews of the church. Men like Robert Carr, Harold Hayden, R.J. Anderson, and Leonard Bellamy. Through the years, the Abingdon church has always been No. 1 in furnishing leadership for the surrounding area.