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1898 - Holiness Revival in Walker County
In the year 1898, Rev. Charlie D. Tillman, a Methodist, was preaching in Atlanta, Georgia. John W. Randolph of Jasper attended this Atlanta meeting. Upon hearing Rev. Tillman preach messages on holiness, Mr. Randolph, being a Baptist, inquired of Rev. Tillman if any Baptist had the experience of entire sanctification and preached it. Rev. Tillman referred Mr. Randolph to Rev. Ransom M. Guy of Meridian, Mississippi. John Randolph wrote to Rev. Guy and arranged for him to conduct a brush arbor revival in West Jasper beginning on the night of June 10, 1898. This revival produced the first preaching of its kind in Walker County, Alabama.
History relates that on the first Sunday of the brush arbor meeting it came a slow rain but the people were so interested they sat in the rain and listened. Rev. Guy said, "If you can take the rain so can I," and he preached with the rain running down his face dripping onto his clothing. Soon the revival spirit began to bear fruit, and people were saved and sanctified. One of these was Miss Willie Thompson, a teenager who had been sick. Willie was saved and sanctified and became a mighty prayer warrior. Rev. Guy said she was the greatest power in prayer he had ever met. Such conviction would come upon the people that they would hurriedly weep their way to the altar under the power of the Holy Spirit. As a result of this new joy experienced, their behavior was a mystery to observers who believed them to be having “fits” as they shouted under the power of the Spirit. No matter what, the people would always come away from the meetings with a shine on their faces praising the Lord. A second revival began later the same year on September 3. These meetings would move from place to place in Walker County with Rev. Guy traveling back and forth to Mississippi until a great number were saved. In 1903 a Holiness Band was organized and obtained land from the Jasper Land Company for the purposes of holding revival on the north side of 19th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.
1907 - Organizing a Church
Rev. R. M. Guy moved to Walker County and organized a Holiness Church of Christ in 1907 with 12 charter members.
Rev. C.C. and Mrs. Artie Butler
Mr. and Mrs. Sam R. Day
Mr. W.G. and Mrs. Mary Jackson
Rev. Carl H. and Mrs. Hattie Lancaster
Mr. John W. and Mrs. Viola Randolph
Several of these were members of the Holiness Band. The organization of the new church took place in a vacant white frame store at the intersection of 11th Avenue and Bankhead Highway near the southeast corner of the current Westside Baptist Church.
In October of 1908, Rev. R.M. Guy of the Jasper Holiness Church of Christ and Rev. John A. Manasco of the Nauvoo Church traveled to the meeting at Pilot Point, Texas. Here the Holiness Church of Christ merged with the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene. “Pentecostal” was dropped at the 1919 General Assembly in Nashville to avoid confusion with rising Pentecostalism.
1908 - Finding a Home
Shortly after the return of Rev. Guy from the General Assembly at Pilot Point, the church moved from its place of organization to an upper room on Third Avenue between 19th and 20th streets. This room had been used as a courtroom while a new court house was built after the previous one had burned five times. Here Jasper Nazarenes worshipped until after the Alabama District Assembly was organized in a vacant room on 20th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues by General Superintendent Hiram F. Reynolds. The Alabama District at this time comprised of Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. Rev. Carl H. Lancaster of Jasper was elected the first District Superintendent.
In April 1909, "Uncle Bud" Robinson held a ten day revival in Jasper which accomplished much and a significant number of believers were saved and sanctified. District Superintendent Lancaster wrote to General Superintendent Reynolds on April 30, 1909, telling of "Uncle Bud" Robinson's revival and stating that finances were a real hindrance; however, he was asking God to "stir the people so the work can move on."
As the church continued to grow, a permanent location was desired. Not long after the first District Assembly, Chairman of the Board of Trustees John Randolph spoke with L.B. Musgrove to acquire land. Mr. Musgrove told Mr. Randolph to select any place in West Jasper that was owned by the Jasper Land Company and build on it. It was the promise of Mr. Musgrove that he would see that the deed to the land would be given for that purpose.
A board meeting was called to draw plans and buy material to build a proper church building. Only two were present at this meeting: John Randolph and W.G. Jackson. Though disappointment of so few at the board meeting, Randolph and Jackson decided to go forward because of the great need of a church building. The two agreed upon a plan and the material was ordered from the Manchester Lumber Company. The building was started with mostly free labor.
1910 - The White Frame Church
While the building of the church was in progress, Rev. Allie and Emma Irick began a revival in Jasper in the fall of 1910 under a brush arbor on 10th Avenue. Revival was going at night and building was being done in the daytime. The framework of the church was quickly up and covered. The floor was laid and the north end was weather boarded. Nearly half of the building was completed when the services were moved from the arbor to the building, and the hilltop was full of people. A mighty revival prevailed and more than fifty new members were added to the church. The last Sunday of the meeting there was a Hallelujah March around the church, and shouts of praise and rejoicing were heard downtown. Great Grace was upon Jasper First Church of the Nazarene. It finally had a place it could call home.
Dr. Phineas F. Bresee presided over the 1912 District Assembly in this building - his only assembly in Alabama. A literary school was also started in this church. It met the standards and approval of the State of Alabama to teach up to the 8th grade. The school continued to operate until it outgrew the church building. It was then that the Jasper City Schools System built the West Jasper School Building and the students of Jasper First’s Literary School were transferred to the West Jasper School which thrives still today.
1913 - When your home is not your own
As time went on repairs became necessary; however, the church had not been given a deed to the land on which they had built. The church once again contacted the president of the Jasper Land Company, L.B. Musgrove, who made the promise of a deed to the church in 1910. When he was asked for a deed to be made he replied, “You have built on the hill that I would not take ten thousand dollars for, and you have built across two lots. I cannot afford to give you this place.” The church was confused - no deed, no money to buy a lot or build again, and no place to go. In despair the church almost gave up, but W.G. Jackson, who had been with the Nazarenes from the beginning, said that he believed the Lord would help the church to have a permanent home in Jasper.
Mr. Jackson went alone to Mr. Musgrove’s office and asked him if there was anywhere in West Jasper suitable for a church that he would give them. He said, “Jackson, several years ago I gave a deed to the Holiness Band for camp meeting and church purposes. Get them to deed that lot back to the Land Company and we will see what we can do. I don’t think it quite right to give two lots to the same group of people.” All the trustees of the Holiness Band willingly signed the paper deeding the camp meeting lot back to the Land Company. A new lot was chosen and a deed was made for a piece of land on the east side of 10th Avenue near 19th Street. Every piece of the old building was taken down and moved to the new site.
Each piece was ready for re-use. Since the church was carrying on a two teacher Literary School, the rebuilt building added some removable partitions and other amenities needed for classes. Soon the “new” building was completed and the church was worshipping in its home again.
1941 - The Red Brick Church
The white frame church had served its purposes well since 1910; however, in the early 1940s Rev. J.G. Wells saw the need to expand. Following roughly the plans furnished by W.G. Jackson, Jasper First built its second home in the same spot that they had worshipped since 1913. Construction began in 1941, and the red brick church was dedicated on March 29, 1942. Upon its competition, the 1942 church was said to be “magnificent” as only the second brick Church of the Nazarene in Alabama. After replacing the parsonage in the 1950s, purchasing adjoining pieces of property with houses for Sunday school purposes, and buying all the land possible for parking, Jasper First was simply outgrowing its own piece of land in West Jasper. As early as 1963, board members of Jasper First foresaw the need for a larger auditorium and more space. When Rev. John Banks came to Jasper First, he saw that it was time to start looking.
1972 - Beacon on a Hill
Rev. Banks found a twenty acre property on 14th Street in north Jasper. Ten acres were sold to a developer on which nineteen homes were built. Plans were drawn by Dr. Don Jernigan of Jernigan, Hawkins, and Harrison. On theremaining ten acres construction began atop a gently rolling hill providing a beautiful site for the sanctuary and Sunday school wing. Original plans for the new building had a children’s wing opposite the current Sunday school wing; however, the budget did not allow for its completion. Dedication of this building took place on January 28, 1973. At the time of construction, the sanctuary was said to seat 650 people making it the largest Church of the Nazarene in the state. In 1976, a parsonage was built at 1600 6th Street in the front yard of the church.
1989 - Family Life Center
Beginning in 1985, Rev. Roy Shuck and the church board began discussions over a Christian Family Life Center for Jasper First. The pastor and the board looked at plans from other churches and visited several. An extensive fund-raiser was launched to help pay for the Family Life Center. The theme was “Not equal giving but equal sacrifice.” Fortinberry and Wisdom were the architects, and Craft-Eidson contracted the job. The building opened under the pastorate of Rev. Shuck; however, it wasn’t dedicated until after Rev. J. Gerald Parmer arrived in 1990. The Family Life Center gave Jasper First a basketball gym, expanded church office facilities, upgraded kitchen facilities, four much needed classrooms, and a youth room.
1996 - The Church is the People
Up to this point in the history of Jasper First, most news had been good news; however, that would change in 1996. Late in the night of Saturday, January 20, members of Jasper First Church of the Nazarene were awakened by phone calls. Rona Barnett was on her way home when she drove through the church parking lot and saw smoke billowing out from the eaves. The church was on fire.
Rona woke-up Pastor Parmer and his family in the parsonage. As they were on their way up the driveway to the church, a fireball shot through the roof from the organ choir room. The cause of the fire was a faulty heating unit in the attic over the choir room. The gas would leak out and fill the sanctuary from the top down. When the bottom of the gas reached the pilot light it flashed the sanctuary; however, it didn't keep burning because of the lack of oxygen. The second time the gas built up, a fireball shot a hole in the roof giving oxygen to fuel the flames.
The news travelled fast, even in the early hours of the morning, and many people rushed to the church. When those there realized that service would begin in little more than five hours, they started setting up the gym as a sanctuary. That Sunday, there weren't separate Sunday school classes. There was one with adults, one with children, and one with teens. It was a hard thing for the church to deal with, but Pastor Parmer kept insisting that the “church” is the body of people, not the building in which they worship.
Exactly one year after the fire, Jasper First marched back into a brand new sanctuary. The cost of reconstruction was minimized by members and carpenters Charles Lollar and Charlie Myers overseeing operations.
Since 1997, Jasper First has made capital improvements in the renovation of the parsonage and the addition of a playground in 2005. In the church year 2007 - 2008, Jasper First Church of the Nazarene received an award for record growth attendance for the Alabama North District. With the current staff, Pastor Greg Story, Pastor Jeremy Pass, and MaLea Grace, great things are in store for Jasper First. This is the complete history of the church as it sees its One-Hundred Tenth birthday.