By Rev. Mike Ainsworth, Assistant Superintendent
Over 700 guests from across the Cornerstone Conference (Western North Carolina Conference) and the IPHC gathered on Saturday, June 13, 2015 for the highly anticipated 2015 Annual Conference & Centennial Celebration of the Cornerstone Conference.
This special day celebrated the first 100 years of ministry that began in November 1915 when the Western North Carolina Conference was birthed in an effort to enlarge the Pentecostal Holiness Church’s influence westward from its Falcon, North Carolina roots. Today, the Cornerstone Conference has churches in western North Carolina and southern Virginia.
Guests were greeted by members of Men’s Ministries who also assisted with parking and seating. Centennial tote bags including a commemorative celebration program and bronzed medallion were presented to attendees as they arrived.
Shortly after nine o’clock the event began with a trumpet instrumental of “God of our Fathers” while IPHC and conference officials were seated. Rev. Stan Tuttle and Rev. Tres Ward led the conference in worship with the anthem, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” Bishop Doyle Marley, superintendent of the Cornerstone Conference welcomed guests and was joined by Bishop Jim Whitfield, superintendent of the North Carolina Conference, who brought greetings from the “mother conference” that birthed the Western North Carolina Conference 100 years ago.
Presiding Bishop Dr. Doug Beacham, general superintendent of the IPHC, read from Isaiah 61 and Acts 2 and opened with prayer. Following the invocation, Bishop Beacham presented Bishop Marley with a congratulatory plaque from the Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops.
Rev. Mike Ainsworth, assistant superintendent of the Cornerstone Conference, introduced guests and acknowledged congratulatory letters received from various state and local elected officials. Special guests from across the IPHC included college presidents Dr. Ron White (Emmanuel College), Bishop James Leggett, (Holmes Bible College), and Dr. Reggies Wenyika (Southwestern Christian University). Also in attendance were Dr. Lou Shirey, director of Clergy Development and WIN Prayer Ministry; Dr. Hugh Morgan, editor of Hugh’s News & Commentary; Mr. Joey Leggett, director of Falcon Children’s Home; Rev. Jonathan Hill, director of the Royal Home Ministries; as well as missionaries Rev. Ernest Turner, continental director of Africa, and Rev. Hobert Howard. Special recognition was given to former superintendents Rev. Jack Goodson, Rev. Tommy Fuquay and Bishop Tommy McGhee. Ministers 65 years and older where honored including two ministers, Rev. Forney Monroe Spargo and Rev. Bennett D. Shelton, who are nearly 100 years of age.
The special music for the centennial was provided by a reunion of members of the “Impact Team.” The group reprised several songs they had performed as a group of youth who traveled the conference with Bishop Marley when he served as the conference Christian education director. Though more than a few years have passed since they last sang together, the group’s strong harmonized sound and clear gospel message lived up to their name.
Bishops Tommy McGhee, Doyle Marley, and Doug Beacham spoke on the three word theme for the Centennial Celebration–Remember, Rejoice, and Renew. Each speaker did a wonderful job addressing each subject. The messages, energizing and stirring in their content and presentation, were well received by the entire conference.
An eight-minute video presentation was shared which highlighted the birth, growth and influence of the Cornerstone Conference over its 100-year history. The Centennial Celebration provided an opportunity for the presentation of an updated version of the conference history, which was first written and published by David McGhee. Dr. Stan York did a stellar job serving as the general editor for the Centennial Edition which kept the same title as its original version. A Brief History of the Western North Carolina Conference, which now covers the entire history and includes photos and biographies, was made available to attendees.
The celebration concluded with a group photo of everyone in attendance. Guests were invited to enjoy a free all-you-can-eat North Carolina chopped pork barbecue luncheon.
Presiding Bishop Beacham remarks, “Susan and I were thrilled at the sense of expectation on this special day. I commend Bishop Marley for a program that honored the past and laid the foundation for what God is going to do in the future!”
The day will be long remembered as a time when people across North Carolina joined together to glorify God for His goodness. The words of the hymn writer, Thomas Chisholm, say it best:
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!