Since 1919, Provence Assembly of God has been a Dickson fixture
Last Sunday was not a typical Sunday at the Provence Assembly of God. In addition to the usual sermons, songs and scriptures, the church celebrated 100 years of fellowship, family and faith.
Pastor Gary Gunsolus said that while the church has remained in the same location for its entire existence, they have occupied three different buildings. The first was little more than a shed. The Shed was the original name.
“I tried to find out when they changed from Shed to Provence but nobody knows,” Gunsolus said. “All of those people have passed on.”
Perhaps the name changed when the churched moved into its second building, a small white wood-framed structure. This building served as the church’s home until 1988 when pastors Joe and Betty Bartlett built the current facility.
The Bartletts, along with another set of former pastors, spoke during the celebration. Former pastors Mike and Rosie Sutherland spoke after lunch. The Bartletts were the the final speakers of the day.
For the same reason there are no written records from when the church changed its name, there is also no record of the exact date the church first opened.
“I’ve asked people, and nobody really knows exactly when it opened,” Gunsolus said. “They think it was probably in the summer of 1919. Looking at some of the pictures, it looks like everybody had on short sleeves, so it wasn’t a cold time of year, but no one knows our specific opening date, even our district overseers. They keep archives and records of most things, but the farthest they go back is into the 50s.”
Despite not having a written record of the exact opening date, some things about the church have remained consistent over the years. Gunsolus said that many members of the congregation have grown up in the church.
“It’s a generational thing,” Gunsolus said. “A lot of our members have been coming here long enough that most of their kids have kids of their own. Sometimes we’ll have four to eight in the nursery, and they’re the third generation.”
Even Pastor Gunsolus, who has only been with the church for a year and a half, has a family connection. He grew up in the area and graduated from Dickson High School but did not attend Provence. However, when he was looking at some of the old records, he discovered that his uncle was once a member of the church.
“We have some of the rosters from the 40s and 50s on our archive board, and some of my relatives are on there,” Gunsolus said. “They moved, so it says withdrawn, but they were members when they were here. I didn’t know that until I became pastor.”
Gunsolus said the church is planning to be a part of the Dickson community for years to come.
“We are heavily involved with Dickson Schools and try to help the teachers when we can,” Gunsolus said. “We try to get involved in their fundraising and promote some of their activities at the church.”