HISTORY OF ARAB CHURCH OF CHRIST
The church of Christ in Arab dates back to the third week of September 1933. Prior to this time, the few members that lived in Arab were inactive. Brother Oran T. Bolding, a visiting gospel preacher, held a series of gospel meetings in the old “Riddle Store Building,” downtown. As a result of these meetings, several people were baptized and they along with the other members began meeting regularly on Sundays. As the colder weather arrived, the group needed a smaller, better heated meeting place. The group obtained permission to meet in one room of the school agricultural building. The church continued to grow as other members and families moved to Arab and began attending. The church later moved the services into the school auditorium to better accommodate the attendance. Some of the men that preached in Arab during this time included Oran Bolding, J.H. Creel, Frank Moody, John Smith, Emerson Estes, and R.T. Williams.
In 1946 Joe Hyde was hired as the first full time preacher and the congregation began making plans to construct a building. Loyd Scott and Gus Camp signed a contract to purchase a lot located on North Main Street. (This lot is where the Arabian Motel now stands.) This lot was traded for a more acceptable one just off Main Street on Third Avenue where the first building was built in 1946. However, before completing the building, funds began to run out. Brother Hamilton, an elder at the Sansom Avenue church of Christ in Gadsden, personally loaned the church additional funds to complete the construction. Other congregations gave support until the building was paid for. The Central church of Christ in Huntsville committed to regular monthly support until the congregation was self supporting.
In 1954 the congregation appointed the first elders to oversee the work in Arab. R.F. Thrower, Sr., and J.D. Taylor began serving as elders and continued until 1964 when Brother Thrower died. Later that year, J.L. Scott and Thad Solly were appointed to serve as elders with J.D. Taylor.
The early 1960s saw continued growth in the size of the congregation to the point additional space was needed for Bible classes and parking. A four and one-half acre tract of land was purchased on North Main Street from Elmer and Marie Skidmore in 1966. The new building was constructed, and the first worship service was held on September 10, 1967. A benevolent building was later built on the property to assist in serving the needs of people in the community.
Continued growth and development of the church led to the need for expansion of the building. Mr. Sid McDonald donated approximately 2.25 acres of adjoining land bringing the property to approximately 6.7 acres. A new auditorium, additional adult classrooms, offices, restrooms and a large basement fellowship hall were added more than doubling the size of the existing building. The first services in the expanded building were held in October 1989. The loan for the expansion was paid off five years ahead of schedule in 1999.
A number of men have served as elders including R.F. Thrower, Sr., J.D. Taylor, J.L. Scott, Thad Solley, Robert Thrower, Jr., John McNeill, Earl Mitchell, Ralph Johnson, Jerry Cavender, Walt Mitchell, Lavoid Gullion,Ted Williams, Frank Smith, Ken Driskill and Jeff Thrower. The present elders are Danny Hughes, Jeff Cavender, Ken Denton, Todd Norris and Warren Smith.
The congregation has been blessed with fine gospel preachers through the years. Full time preachers at Arab have included Joe Hyde, M.F. Norwood, John Faught, Clifford Smith, Marshall Flowers, Bob Clardy, Demar Elam, Ron Coleman, Ken Tyler, Mark Posey, Mike Whisenant, Bobby Thomas and Aaron Pettus.
Consistent growth through the years has enabled the church to emerge as a strong force for good in the community. In 1995 and 2011, when a tornado hit parts of the city and surrounding community, the church was able to provide immediate assistance to hundreds of storm victims. Food boxes, clothing, linens, furniture, appliances, and other supplies were collected and distributed to those in need. Recently, when Childhaven Children’s Home needed vast improvements or when a tornado destroyed much of the city of Albertville, volunteers from the Arab church gladly responded.
While much of the history of the congregation involves the local work, a significant part of our effort has also been focused on missions in various locations throughout the world. The Arab congregation played a major part in the establishment of a congregation at Diego Martin, Trinidad. We continue to support mission efforts at several domestic and international locations listed on the mission works page. Our youth group annually does mission trips to Purciville, VA. Our most recent major mission efforts involve the planting of new congregations in Lincoln and Westover, Alabama. Lincoln church of Christ has now taken on the spiritual needs of the residents of Rainbow Omega and has made great strides to become self sufficient. The church of Christ at Westover is making steady progress. Both congregations are supported with excellent preachers of the gospel.
The Arab church of Christ started with a very humble beginning, but with God’s blessing has grown and matured into a very spiritual and effective congregation for the cause of Christ. The love and support demonstrated by others at the conception of this church is a driving force for our conviction to look for opportunities to help spread the gospel of Christ and plant new churches. Our prayer for the future is that our opportunities will continue and that God will continue to bless us as we strive to faithfully work in his kingdom.