Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church
136 East Main Street
Abingdon, Virginia 24210
Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church and the Ebbing Spring Presbyterian Church, now the Glade Spring Church, are first mentioned, officially, in the records of Hanover Presbytery, as extending a call to Parson James Campbell at a meeting of the Presbytery at Rockfish Presbyterian Church (just east of Afton) in Nelson County Virginia on April 8, 1772. The parson apparently never filled the call, as his death the following September 7th is recorded in the Presbytery minutes of October, 1772. Parson Charles Cummings, called by these churches January 5, 1773, accepted the following June 2, 1773 at the meeting of Hanover Presbytery held in the Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church near Fishersville.
The Sinking Spring Cemetery marks the site of the first church building bearing the Sinking Spring name. Built as a front-log structure in the early 1700's, it was supplanted by a larger building sometime in the 1780's. This continued as the church site until 1831-1833 when the third building was built on Main Street and which building has now become the Barter Theater. Later it was sold to "The Sons of Temperance" and was called "Temperance Hall" for many years. Still later it was turned over to the town and has gradually changed into its present state of usefulness both as Barter Theatre. In 1837 the church divided in the "new school - old school" controversy, part remaining at the Barter location and part moving out. The new school group moved and built Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church at the present location. Rev. James S. McChain was pastor of the new School Denomination which moved. The group that moved built the fourth church structure at what is the present location of this church and dedicated it in 1851. This was the Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church. Built on the lines of the Greek rectangular plan of so many of the Presbyterian churches now found in the Valley of Virginia, it had a lovely, tall steeple over the front entrance. The two churches, weakened by the split of 1837 and the woes of war in 1861-65, were reunited here in a service held April 9, 1865, the same day of the surrender of General Lee to Grant at Appomattox. The Reverend James McChain, a "Yankee" preacher from upstate New York, pastor here from 1843-1869, saw both the new building here in 1851 and the reunification of the church before his death in 1869. Following the death of his first wife and first son after his arriving in Abingdon, Reverend McChain married Jane Cummings Gibson, who was the the granddaughter of Rev. Charles Cummings. After the war from 1865, the church seems to have prospered steadily and grown with the years. A manse was built about 1878-80 at 133 Valley, but has since been sold and renovated into a law office. The fifth and present sanctuary was dedicated here on the same site of the 1851 structure on December 21, 1890. The wing to the west housing Sunday School, office, and fellowship hall was dedicated December 1, 1929 during the pastorate of Dr. J..G. Patton, Sr.
In 1972 the church on the corner of Main Street and Pecan Street was refurbished. Another Renovation was completed in 2004. The cabin built by Parson Cummings as his home, about two miles north of town on Route 19 and given to the Church by the Arthur Cummings family in 1968, was moved in 1971 to the Sinking Spring Cemetery. It is probably is the oldest church relic in this whole region from Roanoke to the Mississippi. It lives as a rugged reminder of the faith and courage of a hearty stock of people.
The Bicentennial Year was celebrated beginning on April 8, 1972 on a very cold, windy, snowy day in the Sinking Creek Cemetery with a prayer service on the site of the first church, near the graves of Parson Cummings, the founding pastor; the Reverend James McChain, the pastor of the reconciliation; and the founding saints. The year's activities concluded with worship services on January 7, 1973, honoring the call to Parson Cummings, and on June 3, 1973, honoring his acceptance.
In 1997 and 1998, the 225th anniversary of the church's founding was celebrated with a logo announcing the 225th anniversary on the front of the bulletin, beginning in July 1997. Special recognition of the occasion was noted in the bulletin of October 5, 1997.
Pastors of Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church
- Charles Cummings
- Stephen Bowell
- Rev. Gallagher
- Thomas Ogden
- David R. Preston
- William Preston
- Stephen Taylor
- James McChain
- Rev. Edward J. Barnett
- Rev. P.D. Stephenson
- Rev. T.A. Wharton
- R.V. Lancaster, D.D.
- W.M. Crowe, D.D.
- Jason L. McMillan, D.D.
- Rev. Wesley Baker
- Walter M. Walsh
- J.G. Patton, D.D.
- Francis J. Brooke, D.D.
- Samuel S. Daughtry, D.D.
- W.T. Manson, D.D.
- Richard F. Taylor, D.D.
- Rev. Dodie Rossell, Assistant Minister
- J.M. Heltzel, D.D., Interim
- Dr. Robert N. Lominack, Jr.
- Rev. Robert Tolar, Jr.
- Rev. Beth Yarborough (Interim)
- Rev. Elizabeth Patrick (Temporary Supply Pastor)
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