Apostles has been blessed in so many ways. Over the last 7 years since a small church plant started which was called Knoxville Anglican Fellowship there have been several faithful ladies that have quietly served the Lord. They have nurtured, inspired, and fervently prayed for the leaders of Apostles. We have been blessed with many faithful matriarchs; however I want to tell you about a few that were called to us at the very beginning. I am speaking of Alice Cody, Leona Phelps, Patty Coker, Reenie Ernest, and Sharon Hodges.
In the very beginning of the seeds of Apostles, about 35 people felt they were being led to start meeting together to have evening prayer and possibly to plant a liturgical church. It is amazing how the steadfast love of our Heavenly Father and the faithful actions of His believers led to what is now a growing church with over 200 people in attendance. I want to reveal some of those early steps of faith and the love and provision of our Father. During the early days some of us were in a Wednesday night Bible Study together.
One person in particular was Alice Cody. Anyone who knows Alice admires her and has seen a kindness and love that is strong evidence of a Spirit filled servant of God. When we were still just thinking about stepping out in faith, Alice was a source of encouragement and quite honestly almost “badgering” us to hear God and Go! Alice would persist to encourage (badger) me at Bible Study and I would in turn go home and encourage (badger) Ron. Then I learned other ladies like Leona Phelps, Patty Coker, and Reenie Ernest were not only praying fervently for us but were also very willing to walk beside many of us if we tried to explore where God was leading us.
On Thursday, June 29, 2006 after much prayer, a group of approximately 35 people decided to try to find a place to have evening prayer and worship together. During the process of setting up the first meeting, it was exciting to watch how God worked through His servants to connect the dots. One of His servants was Sharon Hodges. Sharon had taught Sunday School at Central Baptist Church many years before when her daughter was small. Sharon called the Senior Pastor at Central Baptist Church, Dr. Larry Fields, and asked him if our little group could rent a room at Central Baptist on Thursday evenings. He said yes and we rented a room in the basement for $50 per night.
When we met the first night, two faithful prayer warriors showed up, Leona Phelps and Patty Coker. They quietly pulled two chairs over to a corner and began to pray. Each time we met Leona and Patty came about 30 minutes early and prayed for our little group and listened for direction. As weeks went on the little group of prayer warriors grew. One of those nights after we had evening prayer we saw a glorious double rainbow as we walked out of the building. We all felt that God was honoring our prayers. Those first few nights were the beginning of a wonderful relationship with Central Baptist Church who we have been renting from for 7 years and who we are in the process of buying our building from. Now seven years later, when Leona and Patty are able to come, we still see them at the front after each 9:00 service praying.
Another one of our faithful prayer warriors was Reenie Ernest. Reenie may be small in stature but she is a giant in the faith. After raising four children, Reenie became a missionary to Kenya and started a ministry called Rachel’s Lament which has helped many children in Kenya with school expenses, clothing, and food. At last count, Reenie has about 23 children in Kenya named after her and has continued her work for many years and just completed her last trip at the age of 80. Not only has Reenie shepherded children in Kenya, she has taken younger women at Apostles under her wing, encouraging them in their faith and mentoring them.
During the first year of Apostles the number grew in attendance and we were blessed with more faithful matriarchs. Margaret Taylor had been a minister’s wife and she served for three years sending out emails to the intercessory prayer group. Her emails telling us what to pray for were as beautiful as poetry. Louise Connor had served for years on Alter guide and still serves several Sundays each year. She serves with reverence and grace. Pati Woodhull and Liz Hodge have been in the mission field as well and have been prayerful and gracious encouragers, and their smiles can put anyone at ease. Sally Cook has been faithful in attendance and prayer and encouragement as well. She demonstrates strength, humility, and perseverance. All of these ladies have loved us, encouraged us, prayed for us, and nurtured us. We have witnessed them greeting, taking bread to newcomers, taking food to the sick, and giving us nuggets of wisdom. They have quietly attended each week, served where needed, and tithed. They have been wonderful mentors for the women in my generation and my hope is that we can be love and mentor the next generation as well as they have. Each one of us at Apostles has been blessed by them. God Bless them.