Our Story - The Minor Fall, the Major Lift
The story of the Church of Holy Apostles often recalls the biblical patterns of human history: creation, exile, renewal, and redemption. In the 1960s and 70s, a faithful group planted a church in a rural part of the county, grew a congregation, and built a modern worship and community space. In the 1980s, this faithful people expanded buildings and outreach to a growing and thriving community. By the 1990s, changing demographics and property zoning in the community led to a decline in church membership despite efforts to attract and minister to the changing population. As detailed in the February Acts article on Rev. Carriere, Holy Apostles experienced many tumultuous changes throughout the 1990s, and by the end of the millennium, the shrinking congregation had reverted once again to mission status.
In December of 1999, commercial real estate developers approached Holy Apostles about selling the church property to build a Walgreens. Several wanted to remain in southeast Memphis and move into a more multi-cultural form of ministry. Others wanted to sell and grow again in a more vibrant section of the city. The congregation wrestled with the essential question of "How does a church discern the will of God?" Was the sale of the church and property "in agreement with the Word of God, primarily the Holy Scripture? In concord with the general principles of the Christian tradition? Do circumstances fall into place in a timely and peaceful manner?" After much discussion and deliberation over most of that year, the mission council voted to sell the building and land to Walgreens. The portion of land containing the Holy Apostles building, was subsequently sold to Alzheimer's Day Service of Memphis.
Father John Urban, in concluding a pastoral message to the congregation at the end of this long process, offered the following image:
"The mythological Phoenix has long been a Christian symbol for the death and resurrection of hope by which we live as followers of Christ. We need to keep in mind that Holy Apostles Church is ultimately people, not property, and is therefore portable and can, with this sizeable nest egg, 'rise again' somewhere else in a new and grander form...just as our Lord did on Easter."
In 2001, the Hickory Hill property was sold, and in June, Bishop Johnson deconsecrated the property. Father Urban left to take a position in Jackson, Mississippi. The congregation of Holy Apostles moved to a temporary home in borrowed space at nearby Covenant Presbyterian Church, with the Reverend Bill Kelly serving as interim priest in charge. The pipe organ, banners, chairs and other church fixtures went into storage until a new church home could be built.
Attendance after the move fell to about 30 per Sunday, but this small, ever-faithful remnant of the congregation was not ready to consider disbanding completely and maintained its optimism and faith in the future together. In 2003, Covenant Presbyterian Church closed and sold their property, so Holy Apostles was again on the move.
Once again, with prayerful consideration and under the guidance of Bishop Johnson, arrangements were made to meet in the small but beautiful Agape Chapel set in the woods of the new campus of St. George's Independent School in Collierville, TN. Services there began in June, 2003, with Vicar Barkley Thompson presiding, and soon there was a resurgence of attendance as the energy of the faithful resonated with the growing Collierville community.