• September 22, 2019

Historic Sardis church reborn - The Trail Blazer: News

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Historic Sardis church reborn

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Posted: Monday, September 2, 2019 7:29 pm | Updated: 6:27 pm, Mon Sep 9, 2019.

A fire left nothing behind when it razed a 170-year-old church to the ground in 2016, but it didn’t take the memories of those who laid its foundation to those who carry on its tradition. 

Barbara Kerns and the congregation hold tight to the legacy left behind by their ancestors in the rebuilt Sardis Church that meets twice a year, during the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays.

“To be honest with you at that time, it just felt like a death in the family,” said Kerns. 

 The original Sardis Church, built in what is now Rowan County in 1849, was a place of worship for members of the Hamm and Littleton families. In the 1970’s Kerns father, Vestil Hamm and Cephas Littleton set out to restore it, and that’s when they started a tradition of holding at least two services a year. 

“It’s such a connection to the land in Appalachia and going back to your roots,” said Ron Hamm, who has been going to services since he was a boy. “I think it is still the same spirit." 

After the church was destroyed, they held services in a tent on the outskirts of where the original building once stood. Kerns said this is where the idea began to put something back in its place. 

 She never expected it would be like this. 

“We started with just an idea and pretty soon it became a reality,” said Kerns. “There were so many memories we just decided we would try.” 

The services are identified as a homecoming for family and friends that have moved away from the area and Hamm said the time there is often used as a way for the families to pass down oral traditions.

“It’s a rich history of storytelling,” he said. “I think it is still the same spirit of connection and belonging.”

The congregation worked to raise the money needed to have someone build a church on the grounds of the original, based on photographs that had been taken only months before the fire. 

An estimated $40,000 dollars was donated to the Sardis Church and Cemetery non-profit for the rebuild and upkeep. 

“It is still amazing to me,” said Kerns. 

The Sardis Cemetery sits across from the church that is nestled into the Daniel Boone National Forest on Clearfork Rd. 

“They talk about the people in the cemetery just as if they are right here and that brings it to life more,” said Gale Lincoln during the 2018 service when the church was still under construction.  

Kerns said she wants the legacy of those that are buried in the cemetery to live on through future generations in the new church. 

“You can still feel like you are in the old building because of the spirits that are here,” she added.