Amherst Baptist Church, Est. 1959
On September 30, 1959, Elbridge and Oren Frye, Sr., opened their home to a group of sixty-eight people for the very first prayer meeting of what would become Amherst Baptist Church. The following Sunday, October 4th both morning and evening services were held. On October 18, 1959, Amherst Baptist Church was accepted into the watch care of Catawba River Baptist Association with 80 charter members.
Chairs were borrowed from Kirksey Funeral Home for the first services. Later, Myrtle Hollar gave the first love offering for chairs and soon Pastor Clint Noble took Jim Myrick’s truck to Statesville to buy Amherst’s first chairs. Those same ladder back chairs are still being used in various Sunday School classrooms today.
Delmar and Nellie Branch donated our first piano and two friends of the church, Roy Waycaster and Jim Myrick, purchased new hymn books. Clyde Baird was our first choir director and Becky Myrick, 12 years old, was the church’s first pianist. Clyde would select the hymns in advance and Becky would have all week to practice for the next Sunday. Worship service continued each Sunday in the Frye home and the church began to grow.
Mr. and Mrs. Frye also owned and operated Frye’s Grocery, which was located next door to their home. Mr. Frye was expanding the store with a large room built onto the backside. When this room was finished, instead of being used for the store, this became the place of worship for Amherst Baptist Church. The Frye home was still used for Sunday School classes and other meetings. To the excitement of those involved, some Sunday School classes were taught in automobiles!
For the first baptism, the Frye’s minnow pond was cleaned and made ready for the first converts to be baptized by Pastor Noble. Among those were Allen Bradshaw, Debbie Price, Jay Noble, Linda Ingram, Tommy Poteet, Betty Bivens, Bryan Dellinger, Harold Bailey, David Hoyle and Robert “Mac” McNeely.
As the church continued to flourish, the Frye family donated one acre of land and sold the second one for one half its market value to the church on which to build. The people of Amherst sold bonds in order to help pay for the construction. On October 3, 1963, the church voted to have small banks made at a price of $0.35 each. One bank would be placed in each member’s home. The theme for this promotion was “A Penny Per Person Per Meal Per Day.” This brought in an additional income of approximately $1000 per year and promoted deacon-member relationships as the deacons were responsible for collecting from the homes each month. Jack Poteet was the first treasurer and served in that position for nearly 35 years.
The new church was almost ready to move into when tragedy struck. Luther and Ruth Curtis’ son was killed in a car accident. Pews were purchased from Mount Home Baptist Church. Shelton Woody and other men of the church transported the pews on a 1958 dump truck and then worked nearly all night getting the church ready for the funeral to be held the next day. This was the first service held in the new church building.
The first sanctuary was located in the area that is now being used for Sunday School classes and the church office. There was now plenty of room for worship, for Sunday School classes, and to fellowship with one another. However, Frye’s Store and the Frye home were still very much involved in the life and activities of the church. There was a much used, well-worn path in the woods between the store and the church’s new location.
Years later, the sanctuary that we’re worshipping in today was built, under the leadership of Rev. Arnold Bell. The sign in the front of the church was donated in loving memory of Barry Poteet by his parents, Garry and Rita Poteet and his grandparents, Stella Ross and Gladys Poteet.
In 1987, while David Orders was pastor of Amherst, Mrs. Nell Hollar donated to the church 1.02 acres for the expansion of the parking lot. Next, the land at the back of the church was available. The church decided to sell the church parsonage and purchase those eight acres, where the ball field and playground are now located.
We have been blessed with a new fellowship hall named in loving memory of Nell Hollar and Edwin and Marie Hoyle. 276 people can enjoy a meal together. It can hold 400 for meetings. The old fellowship hall was converted into much needed Sunday School classrooms.
In the past year we have been truly blessed by the arrival of Pastor Ernie Wilson and his wife Susan. We know God has him here at Amherst for a reason and we are excited to see what God has in Store for this family of believers. Through the years, other fine men have served as our pastor: Clint Noble, first pastor, Paul Odum, Terry Thorpe, Joseph Walker, Ed Bean, Arnold Bell, Duane Kuykendall, David Orders, Ralph Gorge, Ernie Richards, Harold Joplin, and Al Tinnin our interim.
“When you hear of missionaries starting a church, you wonder, ‘What would it be like to start a church?’ Well, the Lord gave Jack and me the opportunity to be a part of starting this church. Trusting in the Lord to help us, Jack and I decided this would be a wonderful opportunity for our children to help grow a church – something they would have that would be filled with lots of good memories. You start a church with a group of people that love the Lord and a lot of prayers and a lot of faith. There’s a song that say, ‘Prayer is the key to heaven, but faith unlocks the door.’ – I believe this!”
Lavone Poteet, Charter Member The members of Amherst are thankful for God’s leadership in the vision, sacrifice, dedication and determination of Elbridge and Oren Frye and all of those who helped join in service throughout the history of Amherst Baptist Church.