* Saturday, July 27, 2002
Churches with no steeples open doors to diverse people
Members of the Heart and Soul Ministries children's
group, Kids on the Rock, play Bible bingo during a weekly meeting. Steve
Lannom started the church, which is a renovated feed store in Cumberland
Churches are like people -- they come in all shapes and
Not all have a steeple, stained glass windows or a
cornerstone centuries old.
And many churches don't even look like a conventional
house of worship from the exterior -- two cases in point are Heart and
Soul Ministries, an old feed store, and All Saints Old
Catholic Church, located in a strip mall.
Both of these small Montgomery County churches were
seeded in thought and prayer.
Their unusual locations have been transformed into faith
gathering places for their respective congregations.
Places where people feel closer to God and to each
Lisa Dotson, 50, has lived in Clarksville for more than
two decades. She started coming to All Saints two years ago because she
felt lost in the huge congregation where she formerly attended.
"I was looking for a more family-oriented church. Where
I went before got so big and I felt like it was a business," Dotson
Steve Lannom pastors at Heart and Soul Ministries and
the Rev. Michael Nesmith is the priest for All Saints -- both men hold
down full-time secular jobs.
Each man said he felt a calling from God to start a
Following God's lead
Lannom, 47, said he felt compelled to start his church
after he received "a vision while at a revival in Pensacola, Florida in
"The Lord gave me a vision of a playground full of kids
and a food bank to feed those needing help," Lannom said.
At that time he was associate pastor at Clarksville
Church of God of Prophesy.
In October 2001 the generosity of Betsy Farrar allowed
Lannom to lease "an old feed store in Cumberland Heights, an area of
Montgomery County where Lannom had spent his childhood.
"When I was nine years old my parents divorced, and for
all of my life we had an area church that help to feed us and clothe
us," Lannom said.
"I felt convicted that when that building opened up for
us that God wanted back in that area to give back," he added.
The 5,000-square-foot building was gutted with the help
of friends and congregation members.
Leon Stephenson was one of the helpers. Stephenson had
decades of commercial and residential contracting experience.
"It was just a metal building. We had to insulate,
rewire and drywall. There was a lot of work," Stephenson said.
Now Leon and wife, Nell, attend services at Heart and
"Brother Steve does an excellent job. His heart and soul
are in that church. He's one of the best people I know," Stephenson
The first worship services at Heart and Soul were held
Feb. 10 with 62 people present. After six months, Lannom said membership
has risen to 102 people with an average Sunday attendance of 85 to 90
people. And 17 baptisms have been performed.
"We started from rock bottom, but our foundation is
based on the word of God," Lannom said.
"After all the Bible says to go out to the highways and
hedges and compel people to come in, we just want to reach out in love
and announce the salvation message of our Lord," he said.
Hearing a different call
The Rev. Michael Nesmith was raised Roman Catholic, but
as the years went by he became disenchanted with some of the church's
doctrine. He began a quest to find a faith walk where he could grow
"I had been pursuing a call to the priesthood in the
Episcopal Church, but my wife and I kept feeling we were meant for
another direction," Nesmith said.
During their search Michael and Kathy Nesmith came
across the Old Catholic faith.
"It's more like the Episcopal Church than the Roman
Catholic. The theology lends more toward Greek Orthodox. We have Mass,
but our services are more contemporary," Nesmith said.
The Old Catholic Churches began in the 19th century in
Europe over the refusal to accept Papal Infallibility and are not part
of or in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
Michael switched his seminary studies to the Agape
Seminary based in Clearwater, Florida.
He and Kathy decided to use their own money to start All
Saints. They rented a storefront on Franklin Street in 1999. "We were
just easing into it," he said.
The River Center strip mall location has been home to
All Saints for two years in September.
Pews have been purchased. An altar has been built.
Sunday School and Vacation Bible School programs have been developed.
Three years later the church is getting close to funding
itself said Nesmith who is a non-paid pastor.
"I feel my time is God's time and I don't charge for
that. It's a personal decision on my part," Nesmith said.
Membership has grown to about 50 people. Nesmith has
performed 20 baptisms.
"Our priest is there for everybody, anytime we need him.
We feel like a big family," said church member Marcia Pelick.
A feature story in The Leaf-Chronicle about the new All
Saints Church led Pelick to her new church home.
"When I read that story I felt a longing to go to
services. Once I met Father Mike and heard his sermons I knew I was
home," Pelick said.
Both Lannom and Nesmith have stepped out in faith to
follow their faith. Both are humble but emphatic about their callings.
"Does a reverend or pastor have all the answers all the
time? No. You can't have all the answers all the time," Nesmith said,
"But, I can point you to the person (God) who does have the answer."
Ann Wallace can be reached at 245-0287 or by telephone
e-mail at annwallace@the leafchronicle.com.