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Collegedale Church History

The Yellow House where the first services were held.

In 1945 services were moved to the Tabernacle, built 11 years earlier as a camp meeting auditorium.

1964 Groundbreaking for the present facility.

The 3,000-member Collegedale Seventh-day Adventist Church is the campus church of Southern Adventist University and one of nearly 30 Adventist churches in the greater Chattanooga area.


Organized in 1917, the congregation moved from the last of six temporary facilities into the current church building in 1965. In 1984 an ambitious interior renovation project was undertaken and the interior was acoustically enhanced in preparation for the new Anton Heiller Memorial Organ. In 1991 45,000 square foot addition was completed to bring all the children's Sabbath schools under one roof, to include a full-service fellowship hall, and to provide office space.


As a worldwide movement, Seventh-day Adventists believe the whole Bible to be God's inspired Word. There, eternal life is freely offered to all believers in Jesus Christ. In loving response to this salvation, we worship on the seventh-day Sabbath. Willingly we extend Christ's Lordship to all areas of life, including personal finance, recreation, and healthful living. With joy we also anticipate Jesus' soon return to this planet to resurrect and receive His family of believers.


The Collegedale Church is committed to humanitarian service, to Christian education, to sharing the gospel freely with all men and women, and offering Christian fellowship to all.


Through the Years

The Collegedale Church was born in visionary faculty minds at Southern Junior College. In the spring of 1917 faculty members conducted the first four days of a Week of Prayer. The remaining three days were given to Elder W.H. Branson, president of the then-Southeastern Union Conference. At the close of his Sabbath sermon an invitation was extended to all who wished to become charter members of the Collegedale Church. Fifty students and faculty responded.


Elders of that first church were College President Leo Thiel, and F.W. Field, Bible teacher, who became the pastor. There would be other Bible teacher-pastors of the Collegedale Church: J.H. Behrens, B.H. Shaw, H.E. Snide, Paul Quimby, and Frank Ashlock among them.


Church services were held in the parlor and dining room of the Yellow House, the handsome 12-room Thatcher mansion, which served as girls' dormitory, kitchen, dining room, and parlor. From there the congregation moved to the Commissary (some called it "the old cracker box") which housed the male students, then to the ladies' dormitory (Maude Jones Hall) parlor. Worship services were next held in the men's dormitory, which became Talge Hall. (Lumber used in this building came from the Billy Sunday Tabernacle in Atlanta and crude benches were used for several years.)


At the General Conference Spring Council, April 1923, $25,000 was voted toward the construction of an administration building. Though members didn't know where the balance of the projected $70,000 would come from, the first shovel of earth was turned for the foundation of Lynn Wood Hall, the next worship place for Collegedale members. The Lynn Wood Hall chapel's spacious platform was large enough for the choir and a grand piano. Eventually the platform had velvet drapes, a wrought-iron rail with matching velvet drapes across the front of the platform, and a picture of Christ in Gethsemane placed on the back wall. All of these were gifts of graduating classes. Years later Brad Braley brought to the campus its first pipe organ, a rebuilt Wurlitzer theater organ. He spent many months installing and tending it.


Sabbath school division for the children, as well as adult Sabbath school classes, were held in various classrooms throughout the building. Communion services were held on Sabbath afternoons, the gentlemen retiring to the men's dormitory for the footwashing, and the ladies to the home economics department. Baptisms were first held in Wolftever Creek just across the railroad tracks. Later a baptismal pool was built near the north basement door of Lynn Wood Hall.


By 1945 the college and community church membership had outgrown Lynn Wood Chapel. That September they began to meet in the Tabernacle, built 11 years earlier as a camp meeting auditorium. The hymnals were brought from the chapel each Friday and returned each Sunday. Organ music also came from the chapel. With the help of the telephone, public address system, and an astute music director, the organist in Lynn Wood Hall would play on cue for the worship service being held across campus in the "Tab." In 1947 Pastor Horace Beckner became Collegedale's first full-time pastor. His study was a second-floor office in Lynn Wood Hall almost directly above the front porch. From time to time improvements were made on the Tabernacle. In 1954 Dr. Suhrie, Pastor Beckner, and several laymen planted dogwood trees on the east lawn, built cement walks from the front and side doors to the back of the tabernacle, and enlarged the platform.


By the time Pastor Roy B. Thurmon came to lead the Collegedale congregation in 1960, a pastor's study had been added to the front porch of the tabernacle. It was during his pastorate that the vision for a new sanctuary became a reality. After turning down an octagonal plan, the building committee recommended the present asymmetrical structure. Open house for the new church was held Thursday, December 16, 1965, and official opening services were held the following night. On Sabbath morning, December 18, the congregation marched from the Tabernacle to the new sanctuary, singing hymns along the way, Eighteen months later on April 8, 1967, the church was dedicated free of debt.


Through the years adding on to the church was occasionally mentioned, but it was not until 1988 that it moved beyond talk. In that year the Arise & Build Campaign was started. Forty-five thousand square feet were added to the present church location to bring all the children's Sabbath schools under one roof, to include a full-service fellowship hall, and to provide office space. Completed late in 1991, the total cost--$3.7 million.


Paying off a debt is never as exciting as building a building. As time passed, giving to Arise & Build gradually declined. In 1994 several concerned members, spearheaded by Bert Coolidge, decided something should be done. The result was the Arise & Build Payoff Campaign. The goal was to pay off the remaining $550,000 of the church debt by December 31, 1995. Just over a year after beginning the campaign, the goal became a reality.


Now in the 21st Century, we have once again outgrew our facility. In the Spring of 2019 a new addition was completed providing a secure children's wing, more rooms for new and existing small groups to meet, and a dedicated space for Kiddie Kampus.

From 50 members to 3,400 members, from a small parlor to a 130,800 square-foot Church, we cannot help but praise God's name.

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