CRAIGSVILLE, WEST VIRGINIA
By Wayne S. Walker
[Note: The recent death last year of our dear friend and sister in Christ Nadine Blankenship of Medina, OH, reminded me of an article that I had written back in 1985 after preaching in a gospel meeting at Craigsville, WV, which was Nadine’s hometown. Aside from the personal references, it might contain some useful and instructive information. WSW.]
Nestled among the mountains of central West Virginia is the unincorporated community of Craigsville, with a population of around 1,500. This small but growing village is situated about 80 miles east of Charleston, 60 miles northeast of Beckley, 100 miles southeast of Parkersburg, and 90 miles south of Fairmont, near the cities of Cowan and Richwood. A congregation of God’s people meets in a convenient and commodious building of their own located on State Highway 20 South, just below the center of town.
The Craigsville church began in 1951 when Mr. and Mrs. P. L. Blake, their son Gerald, and Mr. and Mrs. Paul Stove were baptized at the Central church of Christ in Clarksburg, WV, by brother Charles Burns, after hearing the gospel preached on radio. Along with five others, they started a local assembly of Christians with brother L. D. LaCourse of South Charleston, WV, preaching. The group met in a couple of homes and a rented facility until 1953 when they purchased a garage and remodeled it into the present meeting place.
Over the years, regular preaching has been done by Gale Miller, Clifford Cronin, Bob Kessinger, Jerry Ketchum, Robert Montgomery, Okie Lamp, Olean Holliday, and Robert P. Cooper. The present preacher, Sam Gwinn, works with them on a part-time basis. Unfortunately, much of the teaching, associations, and influence in the past have come from “institutional” brethren and churches. The church has also experienced other problems common to small congregations as well.
During the week of April 29 through May 5, 1985, I was privileged to hold a gospel meeting with the church at Craigsville. Two of the members at Medina, OH, where I then worked, came from Craigsville, as did some good folks in other churches of the Akron, OH, area; it was because of their concern for the congregation and through their efforts that this meeting was arranged. We had non-member visitors from the community at every service, some of whom appeared to be very close to obeying the gospel.
While there were no “visible results” while we were there, I believe that good was done in strengthening the members by laying down a foundation of basic Bible principles which can be built upon. Faithful Christians from Beckley (Carriage Dr.), Summersville (Hwy. 19 S.), and Charleston (both Daugherty St. and Oakwood Rd.) supported the meeting as well as people from other area congregations. Normal attendance runs from twenty to thirty. The high for the meeting was forty on Friday night and the low was twenty on Saturday night, with an average of near thirty.
My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our stay among these fine brethren. Their hospitality and friendliness were overwhelming. They were also very attentive and receptive. My impression of the church there is that the majority of the membership is primarily conservative in nature, but because of the associations of the past they are basically ignorant of the true nature of the issues that have arisen to divide the churches.
What this congregation needs is a full-time, sound gospel preacher who can provide consistent teaching which will help to win them away from the institutional influences which have previously characterized them. In fact, several of the members expressed that very desire to me. They have a nice preacher’s home which is just about paid for and will be able to provide some support, while a sizeable portion will have to come from some outside sources. The work will be slow and difficult, but I believe that there is a good prospect for growth, both spiritual and numerical, with patience and forbearance.
If there is anyone who might be interested in a work of this kind, you can contact me and I will be happy to put you in touch with them. I would like to think that support will be forthcoming to assist someone who would accept a challenge like this, and I will be glad to do whatever I can to help in this area. The Craigsville church needs our aid. Are there those among us who will be willing to provide it? I hope so.
—in Guardian of Truth magazine; June 20,1985 (Vol. XXIX, No. 12); p. 11
[Note: Regarding Craigsville, the introductory note pointed out that this article was originally written in 1985. I have included it here as kind of a historical footnote. I haven’t had any contact with the church there since around 1987 or so. So again, I feel that I need to include another note to that effect at the end. WSW.]