The Church of the Good Shepherd started it's journey in late February of 2016. I was ordained/incarnated into the (Anglican Orthodox) Southern Episcopal Church, USA in early February of 2016 and started feeling the call to plant a new parish/church in Sweetwater Tennessee. I spent a lot of time in prayer and talking with other pastor friends of mine whom had planted churches in the area. It was nothing to take lightly, and I had to make sure this is what God intended for me to do.
Once I got to the point that I couldn't sleep at night because of the this vision in my head of the church I started checking on local buildings that were for rent, somewhere that we could at least meet and grow. It was while I was sitting in the parking lot of a rental property that I received an email from a furniture company that I had been talking to about pews and they gave me the phone number of a church that was doing away with their pews and purchasing chairs for their church. I called the pastor of the Christian Bible Church in South Pittsburgh Tennessee and they donated their old church pews to us. It was at this moment that I saw God was indeed in control and I let him work. That night we were also given a deal on our church building that we are currently in.
After that night things started to fall into place. A friend of mine asked me if we had hymnals for our church and her church gave us the hymnals that we sing out of. I also had several other people donate Bibles to the church for use in the pews. I also moved an old pulpit that I had refurbished to the church to be used to bring God's word. I then moved my piano and some other instruments down to the church to spread the joy of music to those who would attend. Finally after many hours put in by myself and friends and family we were ready to open the doors of the church.
We opened the doors of the Good Shepherd on Easter Morning 2016. We didn't know how many would be there. We hadn't even talked to anyone about coming to church, the church was planted on pure faith. That morning we had thirteen join us for worship and communion, and as the weeks and months went by we had more and more start attending. We grew from 10 to 30, and we have a regular attendance in the upper 20's, and it continues to grow.
I was asked how much it costed to start the church. I am going to tell you that it took a lot of hard work and sacrifice in order to get it going. I had to pay a lot out of my own pocket, which included taking money away from my family in order to make the church work. This went on for several month's until the church was able to start standing on it's own two legs so to speak. There is more to planting a church than just simply saying ok, let's rent a building and start a church. There is floor plans, worship plans, music plans, utility bills, rent, insurance, etc. We established a 501 3c tax exempt status for our church which helps out when we are buying supplies for the church, I have spent a lot out of pocket to supply for the church and have gotten a lot donated for the church.
A lot of hard work goes into planting a church, but by the Grace of God it can be done. And in the end it pay's off. I still maintain a full-time job besides being a husband, father, and pastor. I still plan services, special services, Wednesday Bible Studies, and on occasion service music.
But in the end, it is amazing to walk into the doors of the church and feel the spirit. To be able to stand behind the sacred desk and preach God's word and to participate in the most Holy Sacred sacrament of Christ Body and Blood. I am thankful for the knowledge that God has bestowed on me to plant a wonderful parish here in Sweetwater Tennessee.
The Church of the Good Shepherd experienced a tragic loss in the early morning hours of July 22, 2017. At 1:00am a fire broke out in the ice cream parlor that neighbored the church. The ice cream parlor, the church, and a photo studio were completely damaged by fire. The parish of the Good Shepherd arrived on scene at around 1:30 that morning and stood in shock as they watched fire shoot through the roof of their beloved chapel. I stood amazed at how the members clung to each other with emotion, praying for the church and standing vigil all night until it was light enough for them to go into the charred remains of the church to try and salvage what they could.
On Sunday morning, July 23rd, I received a phone call from one of our members who stated that she was contacted about a possible vacant church building located 17 minutes from my home. My wife Addie and I drove out to the church and sure enough the church was sitting there vacant with grass waist high. We went on to a meeting with our real estate agent over another building to potentially house the church but I couldn't get the vacant church out of my mind. I told our agent about it and she was happy to ride out with us and look at it. When we pulled into the drive there was a car sitting there, that car turned out to be the person who originally owned the church.
The owner told us that she had already sold the church to another congregation in Loudon but she said it was God who said it was meant to be that she be there at the same time and said she was going to talk to the other pastor. On Monday evening a small group of our parish was gathered at my house working on cleaning some of the things that we salvaged when I received a phone call from our agent Debbie. She said that she spoke to the other pastor and he agreed to put the church on the market and sale it to us. She said that he gave her a number which was around 150,000.00 and she told him that there was no way that our little church could afford that because of us loosing everything. He then said that he feels that it was God who sent us to him at this very moment and lowered the asking price to 75,000.00. The pastor then said that if we didn't have the money to put down a down payment on the property that his church would donate us 10,000.00 to put down on the church building, property, furnishings, and everything else that comes with the church.
Tuesday went by with no news, I was always told no news is good news, so I took it with a grain of salt that God was working hard on what to do with our little parish. On Wednesday I got a phone call from Debbie saying that the other pastor is going to start the paperwork and that he is going to turn over the key to the building to us so we can start moving in and holding services so we are not without worship. On Thursday evening I went and met with our Agent and picked up the key to the church, I spent about hour alone inside the church in prayer and thanksgiving with God praising him for what he brought us through. Members of the parish worked on cleaning the church and setting up for the next couple of days so that we may have our first worship service on Sunday July 30th, 2017.
We held a church Re-Commissioning/ Blessing service in the front of the church on Sunday morning. The congregation and myself then walked through the church doors to the sound of the bell toiling and the piano playing as we made our way to worship. We had 17 in attendance for the first service at the church. It was a wonderful worship service filled with singing, praise, and administration of the holy sacrament of the Lords Supper.
I can say that the parish of the Church of The Good Shepherd has come quit a long ways during our infancy, and we are not finished yet. God is not finished with us and we will continue to grow, learn, educate, and minister to the surrounding community. Not only the community of Sweetwater but now Philadelphia and the surrounding area(s). God has really blessed the Church of The Good Shepherd and is still blessing us everyday.
Late 2020 the Church of the Good Shepherd felt the calling to separate from the “Anglican Orthodox” Southern Episcopal Church. I held a meeting with the leaders of the church and then the church members, at these meetings it was decided that we felt led to leave the “Anglican Orthodox” Southern Episcopal Church and go back to the original teachings of the Methodist Church. On January 1, 2021 the Church of the Good Shepherd became a “Independent” Methodist Episcopal Church, reverting back to the teaching of John Wesley and the original teachings of the Methodist Movement.
Today the Church of the Good Shepherd is thriving small country church, where we proudly boast that we are a “Small Country Church with Large Loving Hearts.”