First Christian Church, like the other Church Circle churches, was organized in 1917. The first services were held in what was then known as the Strand Theater, now called the Old Gem Theater, on the corner of Main and Shelby Streets. The leaders of the church built a tabernacle in the 500 block of Dale Street, which was opened May 13, 1917. It only took a month to build the building. Thirty members started the church.
In 1920, a building was constructed near Church Circle, at the corner of Charlemont Avenue and Broad Street, on property donated to the church by the Kingsport Improvement Co. That corporation, consisting of developers for Kingsport, donated the lands on which all the Church Circle churches now sit. The church was constructed at a cost of $15,000. That church became the present church’s chapel when the new auditorium was dedicated in 1951. An education building was dedicated in 1964.
In the fall of 1978, 12 new stained glass windows depicting the life of Christ were installed in the new sanctuary. Each of the windows was intended as a memorial, and they were purchased by members.
In its recent history, the church faced a calamity when a 1989 attic fire almost destroyed the auditorium, and water damage “about did in” the basement. The fire occurred on a Friday. All the churches were gracious, but First Broad Street United Methodist Church was the first to say, “you may use our building.” That Sunday service was held at Broad Street between their services. By the following Sunday, the men had cleaned up the chapel and had it in order. First Christian held two services a Sunday in the chapel until we were able to dedicate the building again which was done Easter Sunday 1991.
First Christian Church, since its establishment, has assisted in establishing Belvue Christian Church in 1947; Morrison City Church in 1948; Oakwood Forest Christian Church in 1955 and Colonial Heights Christian Church in 1958. All these churches could be considered spin offs from First Christian.
The church has encouraged and supported young men in the ministry and B.C. Bishop, S. K. Widner, Ray Wilson, Harold Davis, Lyman Burleson, Ronald Sams, David Sykes, Ronald Blevins, Phillip Sams, Dan McCall, David Doty and Matt Hickman were ordained to the ministry in this church.
submitted by: Carol Robinette, History and Archives Chairperson