HISTORY OF THE SINCLAIR CHURCH OF CHRIST, ARP TEXAS (Revised from speech given Sept. 8, 2002)
“THE JOURNEY OF UNITY, SACRIFICE, AND DETERMINATION” By Agnes Roberson and Ralph Kinnel
“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” (Matt. 7:24,25) .
Around 1937, there was news of an evangelist, named Paul English, going around establishing congregations in areas known as “new fields.” They were called “new fields” because these areas had not been exposed to the truth of the Church of Christ. The word was out that he would be coming to the Arp/Troup area. Pamphlets were sent 2-3 weeks ahead of his arrival, and the community became curious: interested, excited, with great anticipation upon his arrival. The people could sense that something great was about to happen.
A tent was set up around Liberty Baptist Church, and Bro. Paul English preached for about two weeks, baptizing believers in a stock pond going toward Troup. One highlight of the tent revival was debate between Bro. English and Mr. Dan Hunt who preached for the Footwash Church. At the end of the debate, Mr. Hunt stormed off in anger. However, many were baptized and brothers were trained on how to study and teach the Gospel of Christ without adding and subtracting from God’s inspired word (The Holy Bible). (2 Tim. 3:16).
Some of the early members included Jess Lydia (great-grandfather of the twins Shirley Ray and Shirley Jean). They moved to Dallas, but they visit us periodically. Also, Bro. Jess’s brother, Riley Lydia and his wife, the Dickerson family (Sis. Olive Powell and Sis. Billie’s parents-relatives of Sis. JoAnn Roy); the Henry Coleman family (Ma’Dear –Sis. Vassie’s family), and the Sydney Beck family.
Members went from house to house teaching prospects until Lydia’s brother, Mondrow, obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ. He had been a Baptist preacher with a church known as Piney Grove; therefore, his conversion created interest that allowed members to attend services held at the Piney Grove building. Jess Lydia purchased a ½ acre of land that a building was moved on. This became the official “Sinclair Church of Christ” building because the turn to the church building was above the Sinclair Oil Camp which was having tremendous success at this time. A building currently on the oil camp site has been recently renovated.
The Sinclair building was located off the main road which caused traveling challenges during the winter months when the climate was too cold to walk. Consequently, members began attending services from house to house. During this time, the Roberts and Duncan families became active with the Sinclair congregation. Bro. Joel Thompson became the minister, and services were being held in the home of his mother. Bro. Joel’s mom became a favorite with the area children because of her delicious tea cakes. Their home was located in the Bascom area now known as the Chapel Hill area. A great deal of the land in which the Chapel Hill High School is located once belonged to the Thompson family. The family cemetery is located on the school grounds. A house closely located by Bro. Joel’s home was utilized for services, and Bro. Joel or visiting ministers would preach every Sunday. As a result, services were moved to the location of what is currently known as the Universal Heights Church of Christ. Around the 1940’s or early 1950’s, the roads leading to the Sinclair building were improved, so the Sinclair members returned to their building.
Along with the establishment of a legacy of strong leadership, a reputation of good cooks was being announced. Sinclair began having inspiring Gospel Meetings with large crowds. For example, Bro. Gibbs Sr. was contacted to preach, and his nine year old son Gibbs II lead the song service. While the congregation continued to flourish, a Caucasian congregation from the Troup area offered to assist in purchasing a building if the congregation could purchase some land. One road block was created when news became apparent that the land would be for a future Sinclair Church of Christ. Later, property was purchased on Hwy. 838 close to MaDear’s (Vassie Roberson) home, but a building was never placed there. Again, the Troup congregation informed the Sinclair members regarding the availability of the old school building, and they offered to help them financially secure the property. Bro. Tackett, Bro. D.C. Taylor, and Bro. Paul Thompson worked for three years to get from previous location to current location. Therefore, Sinclair sold the property on Hwy. 838 and bought this building along with 3 ½ acres of land on Hwy. 135.
In the process of the school closing and the new birth of the Sinclair family attending services in the new building much work was needed. The walls of the building were wild, bright, loud colors due to the building being used for night club in the past. Consequently, the building has gone through a major metamorphosis in order to prepare the facility for a place of worship. Over the years, Sinclair has been blessed with some great ministers and leaders:
· Bro. Mondrow Lydia (Late 1940’s)
· Bro. Joel Thompson (Late 1950’s)
· Bro. Charlie Booty (until his death around 1964) (MaDear’s brother-in-law, Aunt Katherine’s husband)
· From 1965-1967, Bro. Hopkins succeeded Bro. Booty. He labored with Sinclair and Westview-Kilgore preaching for both congregations every Sunday, beginning with Westview, before preaching in Arp. Finally, he committed to Westview only.
· In 1968, Bro. Paul Thompson (brother of Joel) preached for Sinclair. During his tenure, Bro. D.C. Taylor was baptized in 1968. He began preaching in 1969. Later, Bro. Paul turned the work over to Bro. Taylor.
· From 1972-1973, Bro. Alvin Roy Jackson labored at Sinclair. Bro. Taylor assumed an assistant role. Sinclair experienced great times under bro. Jackson, and the young people were coming in a big way during this time.
· From1973-1975, Bro. D.C. Taylor preached for the Sinclair congregation.
· From 1975-1980, Bro. W.T. Walls became the minister, and he baptized the Norman and Franklin families. Bro. Walls labored until his health failed in the mid 1980’s. Bro. Taylor assumed role as minister again. Bro. Walls died in 1986.
· Around 1987, Bro. Chris Brown co-ministered with Bro. D.C. Taylor for a short while.
· Bro. D.C. Taylor and Bro. Gene Roberson were basically consistent leaders during this time over more than 20 years from the departure of Bro. Alvin Roy Jackson until the arrival of Bro. Herman Cooper and family in 1996. This was another tremendous milestone for Sinclair Church of Christ.
· Bro. Herman Cooper co-ministered with Bro. D.C. Taylor until Cooper’s death in 1999. As a result, Sinclair was blessed with the addition of Bro. John Teal and family.
· From 2000-2006, Bro. John Teal co-ministered with Bro. D.C. Taylor. The death of Bro. Herman Cooper left a sad impact on the church. However, the healing process started immediately with the addition of Bro. and Sis. Teal. Bro. and Sis. Teal were definitely an asset to the Sinclair family. They implemented the GAP Award and were instrumental in the remodeling process of the current restrooms in the Sinclair Church of Christ building. Also, they were a part of the first Sweetheart Banquet.
· From 2006-2007, Bro. Jamal Anderson was hired as the minister, and the congregation experienced some great times again. Bro. Anderson left in 2007 to assume ministerial position with the Sheppard Street congregation in Mt. Pleasant. Bro. Gene Roberson and the congregation sought after another minister.
· Bro. Ralph Kinnel and family along with good friend Bro. Michael Murphy visited the congregation on the first Sunday in 2007. Bro. Ralph Kinnel was interviewed and hired for the ministerial position August 19, 2007. Later, a great well-known area minister (Bro. Ernest Mills) was added to the Sinclair family as an Associate Minister in January 2009. Also, Bro. D.C. Taylor is currently a vital part of the congregation after all these years along with Bro. Gene Roberson providing tremendous support.
I believe that it is the will of God that has brought us here to this point. Though we have been through many storms, and the rains have come, we are in the sunshine now. A few clouds gather sometimes, but I believe that if we are steadfast and hold to God’s unchanging hand, the Lord will continue to smile and find favor on the Sinclair Church of Christ. Yes, we have been down, but never out, for Sinclair was founded on THE ROCK!
Based on recollections (with thanks and gratitude to) Vassie Roberson, Katherine Ector, Dorothy Roberts, D.C. Taylor, Gene Roberson, Gerether Norman, Jovivian Franklin, Bernice Johnson, Penny Roberts, and Yolanda Stephenson.