God’s Faithfulness to Evergreen Church in the Midst of Suffering

Traumatic events are part of life, but you never think they will happen to you.

One of those traumatic events happened to our church: Evergreen Presbyterian Church in Sevierville, TN. 5 years ago, we lost our church building to foreclosure and purchase by another party in our community.

The trauma of the loss was heightened by the season. It was Christmas time, and we had to be out of our building by December 21, 2013.

This event took place about a year before I came to serve as the Pastor of Evergreen Church, and Evergreen’s previous Pastor was already in transition elsewhere. So, the church was without a Pastor when they were forced to leave the building.

It was a very tough time. In spite of being with the people of Evergreen for four years, it’s still hard for me to imagine what it must have been like to have a prominent building in town and then to have to leave not knowing where you are going. In the Christmas season of 2013, Evergreen not only had to leave but had to search for a place to worship for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Sometimes people respond when they hear of the loss of our building by saying, “Well, the church isn’t the building.” While true, I think this response is an unhelpful one. After all, a family is more than their house, but losing a house to foreclosure is a very traumatic experience.

In the midst of the uncertainty and challenge, some people left Evergreen, but a surprising number stayed. They saw something in Evergreen Presbyterian Church that they wanted to preserve.

They also found a place to worship. Evergreen was welcomed into the building of the Smoky Mountains Seventh Day Adventist Church by the gracious Pastor and members of that church.

Being without a Pastor, the elders took the lead in the transition, and they began to organize a new life as a church without owning a building.

I came about one year later to serve this group of exiles. I came because, like them, I saw something really good and beautiful at Evergreen. I found a people that were loving and welcoming and yet rooted in the truth and the Gospel of Jesus. I found a group of people who were open to thinking carefully about how best to minister to the people in our church and Sevier County. I was excited.

But I made a mistake. I really did not appreciate the trauma of the previous couple of years. I did not see the hurt. I often took calls for the good old days personally rather than as sadness and grief over what had been lost. If I had it over to do, I would have asked for more stories about the past and spent a lot more time listening.

The good news is that the people of Evergreen have been gracious. They have worked with me, and they began to think about what it would look like for Evergreen to be Evergreen in a new situation.

Through it all, the Lord has enabled us to grow in our faith and in our understanding of what matters most. It reminds me of a beautiful song by Scottish singer Amy MacDonald who sings about the loss of a home in a fire in “From the Ashes.” Thinking she has nothing, she comes to the realization: “The little things in life are free; the simple things like you and me and like love, like love.”

In May of 2015, we found a place to worship on Sunday morning at the Conference Center of the River Plantation Campground just south of downtown Sevierville. It was a great place at a great price right in a great location right in the heart of Sevierville, and it has served our needs well for the past three years.

We’ve also become more mobile, and that has enabled us to get out into our community more easily. Last week, we had a Trunk or Treat event in the Sevierville Commons in downtown Sevierville. We have led worship services in Gatlinburg for our Songwriter’s Festival. We have worshiped in Pigeon Forge at the Comedy Barn. Mobility has given us unique opportunities.

It’s also been sad to see some of our Evergreen Family leave us for other cities and other churches, but God has also brought new people who continue the legacy of Evergreen Church as a church rooted in the truths confessed by our Presbyterian Church that also wants to welcome all who come and reach out to our community.

So, the loss of the building has helped us see important things more clearly, provided us with a cheaper meeting place, and enabled us to get into our community.

We’ve seen the truth of 1 Peter 5:10: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

This Friday, November 9th, marks the 32nd anniversary of the founding of Evergreen. As we think about our past and our future, we can have confidence that the God has led us in our suffering, aided is in our suffering, and healed us after suffering, will continue to do so because He is our faithful Creator.


5 Replies to “God’s Faithfulness to Evergreen Church in the Midst of Suffering”

  1. I really appreciate knowing more of Evergreen’s story and how God has worked through this loss. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. This brings back memories of the pain in loss. Our personal life seemed to mimic our church life. We lost our home at almost the same time. In all our suffering we never felt alone. We clung to our God and to each other tightly. Our church family surrounded us as we all held on to one another for comfort. Our love grew strong in the Lord. Our faith held fast. We made it through.

  3. Thank you, Linda, for adding that comment to this post. I appreciate you!

    I think that’s the same mindset we need to take into future challenges: God will lead us through. God will make us stronger. God is faithful.

  4. I love stories and this was a beautiful story! We follow your BLOG, Wes, and sensed that God was doing something very special at Evergreen Church. Now, it’s really heart-warming to know the re st of the story. Through painful times, God faithfully brings us healing and joy. Happy Thanksgiving, Evergreen Family!

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