Churches have always been important to the Athens community. The first meetings were in the homes of believers, often organized by lay leaders and later served by circuit riders. From one of these early meetings the Concord Methodist Church was planned and a lot was acquired for a building in 1858. Simlar churches were established in Bethel and Pisgah. The first pastor lived a few miles outside of Athens and probably served the other churches in at Bethel and Pisgah. At least the early marriage records in Mercer County suggest that may have been the case..
A Regular Baptist Church was established at Concord in 1874 with services held in the Oxley Hollow school house until a tract of land was provided and a building was completed in 1925. In the meantime, the Athens Baptist Church was organized as Concord Baptist Church on October 29, 1887 and two years later the congregation acquired a lot adjacent to the Normal School property for their building. The Christian Church and others in the area developed subsequently. This section focuses on some of these churches.
Community of Faith
By the 1850's settlers with new hopes and aspirations were establishing thier families in the "no name" community that later became Concord Church and then Athens. As described above in Community of Faith, regular meetings of Christians were conducted by lay-preachers in the sparcely populated and wilderness areas. Eventually itinerant pastors, or "circuit riders," were appointed to pay occasional visits to several local assemblies and to conduct annual camp meetings. Church buildings were planned during some of the annual meetings.
The distance between churches combined with undeveloped wilderness required early preachers to ride on horseback to reach several congregations. Some of the circuits would take weeks to complete, especially when family visits and revivals were included. Reaching some of the distinations was often treachous and lonely in those days.
Many congregations developed in more populated areas eventually were able to appoint thier own pastors who could pay an occasional visit to other congregations. The first appointment was the Reverend William Holroyd, a local preacher and hotel keeper, who served Concord Church and probably other congregations. Country churches almost always relied on lay-preachers or itenerate pastors, however. Many of these churches continue today with regular worship. Read more...