Saved by Grace through Faith

Our History

In 1905, several prominent families in the Bluegrass community of Knox County formed the Grace Presbyterian Church body. This was an active church until the early 1930s, when the group disbanded with members moving their memberships to either Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church or Erin Presbyterian Church, both of which are in Knox County.

When the Presbyterian group disbanded, Mr. and Mrs. C. M. Scott, parents of J. Fred Scott, bought the Grace Presbyterian Church property. The purchase was made because of having sons and other loved ones buried in the adjacent Grace cemetery. They wanted the burial ground protected. For many years the old Grace Presbyterian Church was vacant, but the Scott family retained ownership of it.

In 1935, Dr. Paul DeLay and his family, Mr. and Mrs. Leroy Stack and family, and Mr. and Mrs. Roy Williams came from Madison, Tennessee, to what is now The Nursing Center at Little Creek to start a self-supporting ministry. The self-supporting institution did not materialize at that time. However, through the influence of Mr. and Mrs. Williams, Bible studies were started in several homes in the surrounding community. As a result of these studies, both J. Fred Scott and family and Oscar Jones and family made their commitments to surrender their lives to God and to follow him. Since that time, Mr. and Mrs. Scott and Mr. and Mrs. Jones have never wavered in that surrender. The Jones family gave many years of faithful service to God as a part of the faculty of the Little Creek School.

... [L]ove the LORD your God, and ... serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Deuteronomy 11:13, English Standard Version (ESV)


When the Scott family first learned of some of the fundamental beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists, their initial reaction was not at all complimentary. They appreciated their new Adventist neighbors, but they had great pity and sympathy for "these poor people who were so wrong in what the Bible said." So convinced were they that these Adventist people were misguided and in error that Mrs. Dora Scott vowed she would never be a Seventh-day Adventist. However, as Mr. Williams guided the Scott family step-by-step through the truths that are found in God's Word, the Holy Spirit brought light and understanding to their hearts and minds. In 1937, Elders Charles Wilhelm and A. C. Griffin held a series of tent meetings in Knoxville and the Williams family brought the Scott family to those meetings. At the end of that effort, J. Fred and Dora were baptized by immersion.

Again he appoints a certain day, 'Today,' saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.'

Hebrews 4:7, English Standard Version (ESV)


This step into baptism and allegiance with Christ was one of great faith for a couple of reasons. First, this was during the depression years and times were difficult economically. They were trying to start their own dairy business and had four small children for which to provide. Second, at that time Saturday was an important market day for a farmer, and J. Fred depended on the cash he received from his green corn crop to support and supplement his dairy and farm expenses. He did not know how he would survive financially, if he gave up this Saturday market day.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Exodus 20:8–11, English Standard Version (ESV)


But his trust in God was complete; he told his customers on Friday that he would not be at the market on Saturday morning, explaining that he had become a seventh-day Sabbath-keeper. God blessed and honored his faith. Instead of his regular customers buying their supply of green corn from another vendor on Saturday, they doubled up their orders from J. Fred on Fridays.

Every person who accepts Christ and his biblical teachings can be certain of one thing—Satan brings his temptations to get him or her to compromise in some way or another. The Scott family were no different. Some very appealing and lucrative offers came to them, but to accept them would have meant compromise in their relationships with God. Together they withstood these temptations and continued to follow Jesus and his truth.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13, English Standard Version (ESV)


In 1941, Mr. and Mrs. Leland Straw, Mr. and Mrs. C. R. Frederick, and Ms. Faye Hand came from Madison, Tennessee, to start a school and sanitarium. The Scott family was thrilled by the idea of having a church school for the children that would instruct them in the biblical teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Once again, the Grace Presbyterian Church property became a busy place. Mr. and Mrs. C. M. Scott gave permission for school and church services to be held in the old church building. From 1941 until the mid-1950s, the Sabbath worship services for Little Creek Academy were conducted there.

When the Little Creek church was moved to their campus area, a dream began to form in J. Fred's mind. He shared that idea with Dora. It was not feasible for community folk to be members at the Little Creek church because the school church was used as a training ground for the students. So, J. Fred desired to start a community Seventh-day Adventist church on the old Grace Presbyterian Church property. God had blessed them in many ways and they wanted to give back to him a portion of what he had generously given to them.

After the deaths of his parents, J. Fred and Dora bought the Grace Presbyterian Church property from the Scott family heirs with the community church idea in mind. For years, they had held on to this dream. Dale Tunnell was pastor of the Knoxville First Seventh-day Adventist Church, when, in the summer of 1977, J. Fred and his son-in-law, Stanley Jones, presented the idea of a community church to him. Pastor Tunnell gave them his full support and began to work with them to make this dream a reality. A great deal of credit also goes to Elder Horace Beckner, a retired minister, who was living in Knoxville at the time, for previously encouraging the Scott family to share their good fortune in the Lord's work, and, in particular, the beginning of a church in the Blue Grass community. As Trust representative, Elder Beckner was instrumental in coordinating the legal aspects, as much preliminary work had to be accomplished in working out the arrangements with the leaders of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

In September of 1979, the beginning of the fulfillment of that dream for with J. Fred and Dora had longed for so many years came to fruition. J. Fred and his grandson, Scott Jones, started construction of the original Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church building. They worked on the building until June of 1980. Although the building was not quite finished, Pastor Tunnell wanted to hold a series of evangelistic meetings. Mr. Straw and Ed Williams from Little Creek poured the concrete for the floor and three Little Creek students, Dale Tunnell, Jr., Kent Greve, and Lonnie Weitzel, did some of the work in getting the building ready to hold the effort. Then these three students conducted the evangelistic meetings.

On July 5, 1980, the first Sabbath worship services were held, with ten present for Sabbath School and eighteen for worship. Offerings for that day, totaling $27.59, represented the first bank deposit. Significantly, the first building fund donation was $2.00 in August of 1980.

On September 13, 1980, Elder Don Aalborg from the Georgia-Cumberland Conference held a meeting to organize the group into a company of twenty-one members. Shortly thereafter, G. Turner Howard, III, the associate pastor of the Knoxville First Seventh-day Adventist Church at that time, began holding prayer meetings on Wednesday evenings. Through his leadership and example, this group of believers was encouraged to reach out and show Christ's love to our fellow neighbors in positive and effectual ways. Pastor Tunnell served as the unofficial pastor of the church for several months.

On September 12, 1981, the company was organized into a church and the Grace Seventh-day Adventist® Church was established with forty-seven charter members. Dr. Gary Patterson, then president of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference was the speaker for that special Sabbath.

In early 1982, church districts were changed with the Grace and Oak Ridge churches becoming one district. Tim Crosby became pastor of both churches. Under Pastor Crosby's leadership a church school was started in 1983 in the basement of the church. Although this endeavor began under almost insurmountable odds, the school became an immediate success because the constituency unanimously voted to step out in faith. In order to make the school a reality, an experienced teacher, Mary Jones, daughter of J. Fred and Dora, agreed to teach for a token salary. Additionally, all of the desks and most of the library books and school helps were donated by a friend of the church through the disbandment of a public school in another state, of which he was the principal. These two aspects were prominent factors in making available an affordable Christian elementary-grade education for our young people, but more importantly, resulting in some decisions for Christ and baptisms into the church. Unfortunately, no school has been operated by the church since 1988.

For we walk by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:7, English Standard Version (ESV)


In the spring of 1984, Pastor Crosby accepted a call from another church, and Grace had no pastor for three or four months. The Georgia-Cumberland Conference asked Stanley Jones, who was the head elder at that time, to be responsible to see that Sabbath School and worship services were maintained and to select capable speakers, both locally and from the conference, for preaching in the pulpit each Sabbath. It was not an easy task, but continuity at that time was of upmost importance.

Ron Follett came to Grace as its pastor in September 1984. Under his pastorate an almost dormant building committee was revived. After two chairmen felt the need to resign, Stanley Jones agreed to accept this role and served as the chairman through the completion of the new church building.

In November of 1989, George Sharpe became the pastor of Grace. Pastor Sharpe had valuable experience in building churches. Recognizing the potential for a new church in the community, things began to happen quickly but certainly not without an anxiety or two. The first architect, Joseph Goodstein, had previously encouraged and provided the building committee with the enthusiasm needed to advance this project. However, through no fault of Mr. Goodstein, Grace had to terminate its association with his firm. A Seventh-day Adventist architect, Edwin J. deMerritt, Jr., from Slidell, Louisiana, and an experienced Seventh-day Adventist church builder, J. P. Lewis, from Dunlap, Tennessee, were hired to make the new building a reality. A ground-breaking ceremony occurred on July 8, 1990 adjacent to the church that was completed in 1980, and construction began immediately on the new building.

He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.

1 Chronicles 22:10, English Standard Version (ESV)


The community flavor of Grace resulted in publicity that was unprecedented in Adventist circles in Knoxville. For example, in its lead article of the Religion section of July 14, 1990, The Knoxville Journal pointed out that the original Grace Presbyterian Church was painted by several artists because of its uniqueness and that the Seventh-day Adventist version was similar in design as the original. The three windows representing the Trinity, the bell steeple, and the entry to the sanctuary were among the features retained. Also, since there were many family plots in the cemetery, one of the stipulations before the land was deeded to the Georgia-Cumberland Conference by the Scott family was that Grace would be an open church for funerals and weddings of any denomination.

Under the tireless leadership of Pastor Sharpe several of the members contributed with efforts of labor. This resulted in large savings of several thousands of dollars, especially in the area of painting.

The new (current) church building was completed and occupied on May 11, 1991. Pastor Sharpe and Elder Errol Eder, then treasurer of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, were the principle speakers for the grand opening. While this day was one of great joy, there was also sadness. Dora Scott never saw the fulfillment of the dream of her and her husband, J. Fred. She passed away on December 20, 1986. Their grandson, Scott Jones, lost his life in a car accident on January 18, 1986.

The new building has 8,400 square feet of floor space with a seating capacity of 212 in the sanctuary. Four adult class rooms at the sides of the sanctuary, four children and youth class rooms, a fully equipped kitchen and fellowship hall with a generous size entry of 16 x 46 feet are also included. The total cost of the building was approximately $394,000.00 and only $32,000.00 had to be borrowed to complete the project. This sum has now been paid. By the end of 1991, the membership had grown to forty-three. The church had been built with the hope of having a church school there again some day.

In the summer of 1994, church districts were changed again, with Grace becoming part of a new district with the Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist Church.

On May 13, 1995, just four years from the occupation of the new building, an impressive Sabbath School program, worship service, and dedication service were held with Elder William A. Geary, then president of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, speaking for the worship service and Elder Al M. Long, then secretary of the conference, speaking for the afternoon Service of Dedication.

A church school, consisting of five students, operated for one year (1995–1996) in the lower level of the new church facility.

John Cooper, a veteran of thirty-eight year pastoral and teaching ministry at the time, began his pastorate at the Grace church on April 6, 1996. Under his leadership a much needed pastor's study, allowing for confidential counseling, was created in the lower level. Additionally, the upstairs audio-visual system was renovated with a new balcony. In mid 2002, the membership had grown to sixty-nine. This upward growth continued under during the pastorate of David Brass, who retired from pastoral ministry at Grace in 2018.

Beginning in mid-2019, under the leadership of Matthew L. Tinkham, Jr., a church-growth and financial giving increase occurred as Grace experienced several local and relocation membership transfers and baptisms/re-baptisms partially due to intentional community outreach and evangelistic efforts. The two-year COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and 2021 created some setbacks, yet Pastor Tinkham labored hard with the audio-visual team of Grace to expand the church's ministry nationally and internationally by updating its technologies to be able to live-stream its services and ministries through its website and across video conferencing and social media platforms, such as Zoom, Facebook, and YouTube.

The evangelistic enthusiasm of Pastor Tinkham led Grace to partner with the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, the Southern Union, Southern Adventist University, and the Seventh-day Adventist Churches in and around Knoxville to host the Southern Union Field School of Evangelism in 2021–2022. As a part of this effort, a senior theology student from Southern Adventist University, John Moldovan, preached a four-week evangelistic series called "Discovering Revelation." This seminar—in addition to the ministry of Pastor Tinkham's wife, Mariesa (Swisher) Tinkham, and Kristin Beaven—attracted a small group of youth and young adults in their teens and twenties to Grace. Under Mrs. Tinkham's leadership, this group grew into full-fledged youth and young adults ministries department.

'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'

Matthew 28:19–20, English Standard Version (ESV)

In 2021–2022, several renovation projects were initiated with Pastor Tinkham's oversight and the support of the newly formed building committee. Grace's front sidewalk and hand-railing was replaced and the front memorial garden was refreshed by the Heath family in honor of those who sacrificed so much to give rise to Grace. Mark Lee and Pastor Tinkham renovated the old music room and church library downstairs in order to convert it into a room dedicated to youth and young adult ministries.

Presently, the membership of Grace has grown to well over one hundred, and many of the leaders and members labor hard for the Lord in evangelism and discipleship to grow his kingdom in the Bluegrass, Cedar Bluff, and Farragut/Concord communities of West Knoxville.

Researched and written by
Stanley R. and Mary Scott Jones
December 8, 1991
Edited, Co-written, and published by
Matthew L. Tinkham, Jr.
June 15, 2022

Our Pastors

2019–Present     Matthew L. Tinkham, Jr.
                          in district with Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist® Church

2019                  Don Pate, interim
                          in district with Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist® Church

2019                  Dwight Herod, interim
                          in district with Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist® Church

2006–2018         David Brass
                          in district with Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist® Church

1996–2006        John Cooper
                          in district with Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist® Church

1989–1996        George Sharpe
                          in district with Oak Ridge Seventh-day Adventist® Church

1984–1989        Ron Follett
                          in district with Oak Ridge Seventh-day Adventist® Church

1982–1984        Tim Crosby
                          in district with Oak Ridge Seventh-day Adventist® Church

1980–1982        Dale Tunnell & G. Turner Howard, III
                          church plant of Knoxville First Seventh-day Adventist® Church