Cornerstone OPC in Chattanooga, Tennessee was particularized (recognized as an organized congregation) by the Presbytery of the Southeast on January 12, 2001. Cornerstone had begun with exploratory meetings in 1996, spearheaded by Jim Heemstra, regional home missionary of the Presbytery of the South. A home Bible study led to its first worship service on March 17, 1996. A room at a YMCA was rented, and by the end of May seventy-five people were worshiping regularly at Cornerstone OPC.
A former Baptist church in northern Chattanooga was later rented, and in 1997 the Presbytery of the South called the Rev. Robert Y. Eckardt to be the mission work’s organizing pastor. In 1999, the mission work was reassigned to the Presbytery of the Southeast when that new presbytery was birthed from the Presbyteries of the Mid-Atlantic and the South. At the particularization service, two ruling elders were installed, Larry Mehne and Tim Steele, both serving on the faculty at nearby Covenant College on Lookout Mountain, Georgia.
After three more rental locations, the congregation was able to purchase a property of their own in the developing “Southside” neighborhood of Chattanooga in September 2004. The congregation had grown in membership but not in financial resources, and this blessing was made possible by the whole church. When an appeal was made for down payment funds, contributions were received from OP congregations all around the country—and even from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church of Uganda! The remaining purchase price was financed by the OPC Loan Fund.
After Eckardt took a call in Dayton, Ohio the next June, the PSE appointed Dr. William Dennison as the ministerial advisor. Dennison pastored the congregation himself until the Rev. Calvin Keller was called as the church’s second pastor in October 2006. Cornerstone Church is currently without a pastor as Pastor Keller in October 2018 accepted a call to Harvest OPC in Winston Salem, North Carolina.
Picture: Bob and Karen Eckardt