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Phillip Hines, pastor of Hartselle Church of Christ, laughs and jokes around the construction site. Hartselle Church of Christ is currently expanding.
Daily photos by Emily Saunders
Phillip Hines, pastor of Hartselle Church of Christ, laughs and jokes around the construction site. Hartselle Church of Christ is currently expanding.

From humble beginnings
Hartselle church undergoes $3.6 million expansion

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — When minister Phillip Hines looks at expansion plans for Hartselle Church of Christ, he’s looking at the apex of what will be the highest point in Hartselle.

What could be more appropriate? The church has been meeting at one of the city’s highest elevations since 1947.

When the church’s sanctuary and fellowship hall open in November or December, a dream the congregation had about seven years ago will be reality.

From humble beginnings good things have come. That’s the story of Hartselle Church of Christ, said Hines.

“We’re still very humble, but we’re stepping out on a leap of faith,” he said, explaining the church’s $3.6 million expansion.

Maneul Palma works on a rafter in part of the Hartselle Church of Christ expansion.
Maneul Palma works on a rafter in part of the Hartselle Church of Christ expansion.
The decision to construct a new sanctuary and fellowship hall arose out of needs that go back about seven years.

Because of a lack of space, there have been times when the church met at the high school cafeteria. The membership, which has an average attendance of about 400, has outgrown the sanctuary the church opened Aug. 27, 1972.

“We wanted something flexible and something we could grow with,” Hines said.

The new fellowship hall includes a kitchenette and shower and will seat about 400. The church plans to use the old hall for overflow.

Hines said the church added the shower should the building ever be used for an emergency shelter.

The new sanctuary’s central area will seat about 650, but moving walls on the east and west sides will allow seating for 1,000.

When expansion talk began, there were brief discussions about moving to a new location because the church was locked in on all sides.

Parking issue

“There was the parking issue,” Hines said. “We knew we had to get additional property if we wanted to do this.”

The church acquired three parcels.

Hines said talk about moving was brief because of the church’s nickname, the title of a 1984 church history by Lista Martin, A Light on a Hill.”

“I think we quickly realized that Hartselle Church of Christ shouldn’t be anywhere other than here,” said Hines, who became the church’s pastor Sept. 1, 1980.

The church hasn’t made a definite decision, but Hines said he wants to use the current sanctuary for classrooms and start a pre-school program.

“Our people are behind this 100 percent,” he said, of the expansion. “The church has been debt free for some time, but this is a big challenge, and we’re walking by faith.”

Hartselle Church of Christ

Hartselle Church of Christ, which started in 1920, hasn’t always been on the hill.

In Lista Martin’s history of the church, there is a letter from a charter member that reads: “Brethren J. Petty Ezell and John T. Lewis erected a tent near the center of town and preached two consecutive weeks. ... As a result of their labor, we, a Church of Christ, was duly organized.”

Between July and September 1920, the church worshipped in the front room of a home until M.D. and Eugenia Clemons deeded land “for a Church of Christ” to Ezell and J.L. Schnable, who were church trustees. The property was at Rock and Hammitt streets.

The church’s humble beginning involved a white, wood building the congregation used from October 1920 until November 1947.

The first site, Martin wrote, was “inconvenient, with little, if any parking space, even for wagons. The only heat in winter months came from a coal-burning stove.”

In 1934, Ezell, the church’s founder, who was born in 1885, died in a bus accident while traveling in Tennessee.

The church moved to its present location in 1947 and worshiped in a new, modern, brick facility. The congregation constructed a second sanctuary on the site in 1960 and a third in 1972.

Deangelo McDaniel

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