160 South Main St. Sparta, North Carolina
Early settlers of Alleghany County were associated with many protestant churches, including Presbyterians, but organized churches were limited. Primarily, families gathered to worship in churches built by the Methodist and Baptist denominations. Many of the worship services and activities were held in private establishments and homes provided by the people of the community and often shared facilities with the local residents, their livestock, equipment and supplies until better accommodations could be acquired. Even though most of these early primitive churches no longer exist, the extended generations of those congregations remain active in the local churches of today. Orange Presbytery established in 1770.
1901 – 2018
1901 – 1935 Orange Presbytery sent Reverend William A. Murray, a recent graduate of Union Seminary, to Alleghany County. Reverend Murray began to promote the Presbyterian faith in the area where he founded a church in Rocky Ridge in the western part of the county and began to organize a church in Sparta. There, he began to work with James Carson of Charlotte, North Carolina. Mr. Carson had family ties and property in Alleghany County, but had been adopted by his uncle who lived in Charlotte and after finishing his education at Davidson College, he remained in the Charlotte area becoming an active member of First Presbyterian Church of Charlotte, NC. Mr. Carson agreed to build a church in Sparta for Orange Presbytery provided the Presbytery would provide a manse for the minister. In 1903, Reverend A. H. Temple was assigned to Sparta to continue the work of Reverend Murray who had been called to serve another congregation. Reverend Temple purchased the property for the church and began to acquire the materials and supplies needed for its building. Later that year, construction of the church and manse began under the guidance and supervision of Revered James Cameron Story who served the beginning church until 1906. The church building was dedicated as Carson Memorial Presbyterian Church on August 26, 1906. Throughout the next several years, the church remained active in the community under the leadership and support of the Orange Presbytery and its members were instrumental in the development of the Glade Valley Presbyterian Church and Glade Valley School. Although members of the early churches became divided, the two congregations continued to grow and remained close to each other, often sharing ministers and facilities for its services and activities.
Carson Memorial Presbyterian Church,
photograph from about 1910
Over the years, the leadership and membership of the church has changed like the tides of the ocean, experiencing ebbs and flows of people and resources, surviving hardships and losses, celebrating new life and growth, but the mission of the church has never changed and continues to provide a house of worship that proclaims and hears the Word of God, administers and received the sacraments, and nurtures a covenant community of disciplines of Christ.
As the church has grown, the facilities have been upgraded to serve the changing needs of the congregation and community. A second (brick) church was constructed in 1937 to replace the original wooden structured that had been determined to be unsafe. The congregations of Carson Memorial Presbyterian Church and Glade Valley Presbyterian Church were consolidated in 1964 when longtime minister, Reverend R.L. Berry resigned, and officially became Sparta Presbyterian Church. A few years later, in 1969, the church approved the construction of a new education building that would serve the growing needs of the church and updated the kitchen and fellowship hall to accommodate larger gatherings; construction of the new building was completed in 1970.
A few years later, the church struggled with the future of the sanctuary and its ability to accommodate a growing membership. By 1978, the church decided to add a narthex and make significant changes to the interior and exterior of the sanctuary. The renovation was completed by 1984 and by the end of that year, membership had risen to 151, the highest ever recorded at the church.
Over the last five years, the church has experienced a growth of at least 9% in its active membership each year which has resulted in the renewed sense of purpose and commitment among the congregation. Today, men and women continue to equally share the responsibility of leadership and provision of services in the church. The people of Sparta Presbyterian Church remain committed to the mission of the church, providing numerous opportunities for spiritual growth and unity in the church and community. On any given day, members of the church can be found participating in a variety of service organizations in the community, attending wellness classes at church, rehearsing for choral performances, developing mission projects, or cooking up something delicious for the next fellowship gathering. Sparta Presbyterian Church is everywhere and anywhere fulfilling the call of the church.