KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — On May 1st, Ball Camp Baptist Church celebrates its 225th anniversary. It’s the second oldest church in Knox County.
“I think this is our fourth or fifth location,” said Pastor Lee Fox, “but it’s always been in the Ball Camp community.”
Outside of the sanctuary is a series of displays honoring the past, in the display is a worn large leather-bound Bible in a protective wooden case and a pulpit from the early 1900s. These are tangible links to Ball Camp Baptist Church’s history and the generations of people who have made this their church home; people like Geraldine Jennings, one of the longest-tenured members.
“I have been here all my life,” she told us. “I’ve raised my children here and they have been so good.”
She went on to tell us, “my great-great-uncle gave the land where the present church is and the cemetery.”
Jackie Tiller has been a faithful member since 1969, gazing at photos of her service to her church reminds her of what it means to her.
“It’s been a safe haven,” Tiller said.
A safe haven through every hardship our community and our country have endured.
“We’ve seen every war except for the Revolutionary War, race relations, we’ve seen all types of things that have happened in this country. This church has been here through that,” Pastor Fox said.
At the age of 102, church member Lola Haire has been witness to much of that history, her faith never wavering.
“Well, I am a Christian, ” she said, “and I love my Lord.”
In the most recent times, the floods of 1998 did extensive damage to the church, but everyone came together, weathering the storm.
Then came COVID. Pastor Fox said, “our folks never complained. Well, if they did, they didn’t say anything to me. They wore masks, I wore masks.”
Now the congregation is grateful to worship together in the beautiful sanctuary.
“It really has been great to finally see that we can be together again,” Tiller said.
Whether it’s now or 225 years ago, one message will never change.
“This church understands what it means to love people the way that Jesus loves people,” Pastor Fox said.