A reception honoring Rev. Reece Harris and his wife, Paulette, is planned for Sunday, June 24, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Family Life Center of Sinking Creek Baptist Church.
Rev. Harris, who served as pastor of Sinking Creek Baptist Church, for 51 years, has resigned as pastor of the church effective July 11. Harris has said he will not be retiring from the ministry, but will still be available for revivals, Bible studies, supply work and other ministries as the Lord leads.
Harris, 81, was saved in 1952 at the age of 22 at the Flag Pond Baptist Church while on a visit to his home in Tennessee from Flint, Mich. Three days later he was called to preach, and the course of his life changed for the General Motors worker to enter the ministry. After graduating from Harrison-Chilhowee Baptist Academy, Seymour, in 1955 and while a student at Carson-Newman College, Jefferson City, he became the interim pastor at Flag Pond Baptist. As a C-N student he also served as a pastor of Bible’s Chapel Baptist Church, Midway, and New Market Baptist Church, New Market.
Upon his graduation from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, he was called as pastor of Sinking Creek Baptist in June, 1961. When he came to the church, he was single. He later married his wife, Paulette Dover Harris of Chester, S.C.
Harris recalls that when he began his ministry at Sinking Creek Baptist, the church had around 100 members and the congregation was meeting in a log church built in 1783 with brick supports. About one year after his arrival the church began a building program for a new auditorium. A family life center was added in 1986, and by 2005 there was a pavilion.
In an article which appeared in the Tennesseee Baptist & Reflection, Harris described Sinking Creek as as a “country church,”
“The changes that have occurred at Sinking Creek Baptist over the last 50 years are the same as they are in the Southern Baptist Convention. We have had Sunday night attendance decline, and revivals are getting shorter and fewer. However, the Bible hasn’t changed. The Lord hasn’t changed. Human nature hasn’t changed. Everyone stills needs Jesus,” he said.
Though historians debate which church was actually the first Baptist congregation in Tennessee, it is generally believed that Sinking Creek is near the top, if not the first. Regardless, the church is recognized as having the oldest building still in existence.
The Tennessee Baptist Convention, Brentwood, and the Watauga Baptist Association, Elizabethton, restored the historic building in 1966 and in 1971 the ownership of the building was given to the TBC. Harris recalled that 1972 was one of the greatest years that the church had when 85 people were saved during a revival, and later baptized 113 that year.
“I never want to retire from preaching,” added Harris. “I’ve made it longer than the average two and one-half year term pastor.
“The secret to a long pastorate is: you keep those that don’t like you away from those who are undecided about you,”he added.
The public is invited to attend the reception.