Rockdale Christian Church celebrates its first 30 years
By Dale Henry
Rockdale Christian Church is a non-denominational independent New Testament church, dedicated to preaching and teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ using the Bible as its only rule of faith and practice.
This congregation was formed when a small group of believers joined together for the purpose of establishing a congregation of independent Christians. The idea had been brewing for a while, but gathered steam at a revival meeting held at Forest Grove Christian Church where Brother Carl Teel was preaching.
First service in home
First worship service of the fledgling congregation was held at the home of Milford and Dorris Henry on Sunday evening, Oct. 14, 1979, with 28 people present. From that time until this day, regular services were held twice on Sunday, meeting in various locations including the elementary school cafeteria, New Salem Home Demonstration Clubhouse, Rockdale State Bank community room and the Woodmen of the World hall.
Carl Teel, minister in Texarkana, was instrumental in giving guidance and support to the congregation which chose the name Rockdale Christian Church. Bro. Teel was joined by Dr. Melvin Newland, president, and Dr. Ronnie Hanna, vice-president of Dallas Christian College to come preach and dispatch others from DCC to preach each Sunday until the church was able to call its first full-time minister.
32 charter members
Nov. 4, 1979 was designated "membership Sunday" at the elementary school cafeteria where Bro. Teel received 32 charter members of the new congregation. They were Lina A lford, Bill Alford, Elois Alford, Reggie Alford, Beth Alford, Marcia Bastow, Catherine Beasley, Hazel Brandon, Harvey Carver, Willard Carver, Leroy Ellis, Sandra Ellis, Milford Henry, Dorris Henry, Bill Kyle, Clarice Kyle, Larry McAdams, Miranda McAdams, Burford Offield, Hattie Belle Offield, Cleo Pennington, Bessie Robinson, Roy Spence, Carmen Spence, Wayne Stifflemire, Bill Summers, Ann Summers, Henry Tyler, Judy Tyler, Rick Tyler, Mike Zelisko and Becky Zelisko.
One of the first decisions by the congregation was to give 15 percent of its income to missions, a practice that continues.
Sunday School classes were formed, teachers recruited, supplies and hymn books ordered and volunteers organized for every task from preparing communion to cleaning, arranging worship locations, calling, praying and even preaching.
First minister called
The congregation held its first revival Dec. 3-7, 1979 with Bro. Teel preaching. Shortly thereafter, the church called its first minister, Bro. Gary Ansell who began his ministry here Dec. 23, 1979. Bro. Ansell performed the first wedding in the congregation, uniting Ricky Tyler and Jody O'Connor Aug. 23, 1980.
Bro. Ansell continued his ministry until April 24, 1983. He was followed by Michael Bradshaw 1983-85, William Tucker 1986- 87, Tommy Sherry 1987-94, Rick Walles 1994-95, Dr. Mark Cottrell 1996-98, Weldon R. Belew, 1998- 2007, and Harry R. Stevenson, 2007-present.
Elders and deacons
The congregation elected and ordained elders and deacons in January, 1980. Selected as elders were Bill Summers, Henry Tyler, Milford Henry, Burford Offield, Harvey Carver, Otis Ray and Bill Kyle (honorary elder). First deacons were Leroy Ellis and Rick Tyler. These men served as the first church board with the following officers elected by the board: Chairman, Henry Tyler; vice-chairman, Milford Henry; secretary, Leroy Ellis; treasurer, Bill Summers.
Of the original 9 men, 6 are deceased. Leroy Ellis and Milford Henry have been on the board continuously since 1980. Leroy Ellis became an elder in 1993.
Twenty-one men have served Rockdale Christian as deacons. Five were subsequently appointed as elders, 8 have transferred, and one is deceased. Men who served as elders in addition to the original elders include Debs Ledwell, Claude Robinson, Johnny Menges, John Schell, Bill Curry, Leroy Ellis, Dr. Clyde Rush, Doc Farrell, Bill Alford and Theo Telg.
As the congregation grew, so did the need for a building. Plans were formulated for a 4,000- square-foot building and a oneacre site was acquired at Sager and Rockdale Road. Members of Forest Grove Christian Church and other churches and individuals throughout the state gave generously n support of the work here.
Ground-breaking ceremonies were held April 26, 1981. The completed and furnished building was dedicated Feb. 21, 1982. After 2-1/2 years, a decision was made to erect a fellowship hall. Construction on the 5,600-squarefoot building began in February of 1988 and it was completed in November of that year in time for the congregation's Living Nativity Scene. It was a welcomed warm, dry place for the performers and guests alike to enjoy coffee and hot chocolate between performances.
The versatile fellowship hall has been used for fellowship dinners, wedding receptions, anniversary celebrations, family reunions, Fourth of July parties, New Year's Eve gatherings, sweetheart banquets and gospel music events. It has also been a gathering place for bereaved families to enjoy the comforting, caring gifts of food and fellowship provided when a loved one has gone on to await the return of Christ to claim his church.
The congregation today is as active as ever with a focus on sharing Christian love with everyone and especially those in sickbeds, in harm's way overseas, or struggling to make ends meet.
Through the years, Rockdale Christian Church ministers have been active in the Rockdale Ministerial Alliance, have contributed columns in the local newspaper and can be heard on Sunday mornings on the local radio station preaching the gospel according to the Bible.
The women of Rockdale Christian Church have authored two cookbooks. The women's group and Love's Flowers provide a fresh f lower in a bud vase to every patient in Richards Memorial Hospital on a weekly basis, a gesture appreciated by patients and their families.
The group also provides birthday cakes for the MARC Center and Manor Oaks Nursing Home.
RCC members participate with other local congregations on a rotating basis to provide music and devotionals to residents of Manor Oaks Nursing Center, Renaissance Villa, the Assisted Living Group and the Senior Citizens Center.
One of the church's local missions is the awarding of a cash scholarship to be used at an accredited school of higher academic learning, to high school graduates who are members of our congregation. Stacy Mynar was the first recipient, followed by Danielle Hilker, Megan Hilker, Hannah McMillan and Evan Grandstaff.
As further outreach to the youth, RCC has hired a youth minister and has an active youth group. Vacation Bible Schools have been well attended by area youth.