Sherry Memorial Christian Church was brought into being through tragedy. On July 7, 1902 James Sheridan "Sherry" Porterfield slipped and fell into the blade of a sawmill and was killed instantly. Sherry was only 33 and left behind his wife, Adelia Atkins Porterfield, and five young children: Mamie, Byron, Douglas, Will, and Ida.
Sherry’s father, Lewis F. Porterfield, was so grief stricken that he confessed Christ at the funeral. He soon began making preparations for building a church sanctuary in memory of his beloved son. In November of the same year, L. F. along with his son and daughter-in-law, George C. and Launa Jane Porterfield, deeded land to church trustees. Trustees listed in the deed included Absolem Looney Caldwell, Floyd E. Atkins, John L. Atkins (father of Sherry's wife), G. W. Lucas, and Samuel Harve Lucas.
In an early church meeting held August 1903, John L. Atkins and Floyd E. Atkins were elected as Elders and Absolem Looney Caldwell and Dryden Ballard Hunter as Deacons. On a motion of J. H. Gillespie, minister, an application for recognition as a congregation was to be made to the Disciples of Allegheny District. Also attending the meeting were William H. and Nancy F. Wickline, William M. Webb, and Perlina Atkins.
With the help and cooperation of neighbors and friends, the church building was completed, and the dedication was held on Sunday, November 1, 1903. C. B. Reynolds of New Philadelphia, Ohio, presided at the dedication. Other ministers in attendance were: J. A. Campbell, C. P. Parker, Byrd Givens, and E. C. Bragg. Subscriptions and gifts received during the dedication amounted to $328, which was sufficient to pay off all indebtedness. The Rev. H. B. Coffey preached the first revival and 35 - 40 new members joined.
Pastors and Pastorships
Because Sherry Memorial is a smaller congregation, it often shares ministers with other local churches. From 1920 to 1947, the ministers of the Pembroke Christian Church also served the Newport area Christian Churches, which included Sherry Memorial, Clover Hollow, and Lucas Memorial. At this time, sermons were given at Sherry Memorial once a month. When Pembroke Christian no longer supplied their pastor, Sherry Memorial, Clover Hollow, Lucas Memorial shared a minister, and sermons were held twice a month. These three churches built a parsonage located near the old Newport School in 1952, and the first minister to live there was Lewis C. Rhodes. In 1968 when Rev. James D. Lowe left to minister with the newly formed First Christian Church of Newport, Sherry Memorial sold her interest in the parsonage to them.
Rev. O. L. Craft, who was already preaching at Oak View Christian Church, was called to minister to the Sherry Memorial and Clover Hollow Churches. When Rev. John Cox came to minister in 1975, he established the Craig-Giles Unity between Sherry Memorial, Clover Hollow, Gravel Hill, and Johns Creek Christian Churches. Rev. Jim Belcher reunited Oak View and Sherry Memorial under his pastorship in 1978, and Lucas Memorial joined later. After Rev. Belcher became ill and retired in 2001, interim ministers Rev. Eugene Akers and Rev. Holly Phillips served Sherry Memorial. Rev. Matthew Cox became our newest pastor in June 2004 and served until 2014. Below is a list of pastors who have served at Sherry Memorial: J. H. Gillespie, Ernest C. Bragg, George W. Harless, C. M. Dewey, W. M. Jones, W. G. Forbes, John T. Meadows, Alex D. Gordon, W. Meredith Norment Jr., Clifford M. Ford, G. O. Gard, J. H. Knibb, Lewis C. Rhodes, Robert L. Dinsmore, Addison W. Jones, Cecil D. Rhodes, James Keesee, James D. Lowe, O. L. Craft, John F. Cox, James E. Belcher, Eugene Akers, Holly O. Phillips, and Matthew Cox.
The current minister is Stuart Davis who was hired September 2019.
Traditions and Activities
In addition to Sunday morning sermons and classes, the church hosted other activities. Ice cream suppers were always a popular summer event, and contrary to the name, much more than ice cream was served. This tradition returned on July 13, 1996, and has been held annually. Revivals were periodically held with guest preachers and special music, and these typically lasted five days through a week in the fall. "Conventions", a day of preaching, picnicking, and fellowship, were hosted alternately with other sister churches. The Fifth-Sunday Dinner became a new tradition under Rev. James Belcher. Sherry Memorial and her sister churches would host one another on the fifth, or off, Sunday for dinner after a special service. Choral groups provided musical leadership and special presentations throughout the years.
Many activities were planned for the children. Vacation Bible Schools were held at least since the 1930s, and continued up until the late 1960s when the Newport Churches held VBS together at the Newport School. VBS returned to Sherry Memorial in the late 1970s, and continued into the mid-1980s. Christmas programs were a long-standing tradition, as is evidenced by an old picture taken inside the church before a program was to take place. Another popular tradition was the Christmas treat - each child received an orange, candy bar, candy cane, pack of gum, and a few other pieces of candy. The Christmas treat returned again in 2002. Various Christian Youth Fellowship groups have been held in previous years, with learning, fellowship, and service projects. The well-received annual Easter Egg Hunt began in 2000 as an outreach to community children.
The Sherry Memorial Christian Women's Fellowship was organized in 1938 under the guidance of Rev. and Mrs. Clifford Ford. Mrs. Douglas (Effie) Porterfield was elected to be the first president with a membership totaling four. The Fellowship was established to work with the Church's Board of Directors, elders, deacons, and congregation to further the advancement of the Lord's work in the community and the world. Membership in the CWF quickly grew, and monthly meetings were held in member's homes with refreshments being served. Currently, the CWF meetings are held at the Church.
Sherry Memorial celebrated 100 years of serving Christ and the community in 2003. A special service led by Rev. Holly Phillips with guest speakers Rev. Gregory Porterfield and Rev. Eddie Kendall was held on July 12. Over 285 church members and guests enjoyed the service, special music presentations, a catered meal, and fellowship. Commemorative ornaments and cookbooks were also issued.
Baptisms were conducted in nearby Sinking Creek, until Pembroke Christian Church installed a baptismal pool. After the new Lucas Memorial was built with a baptismal pool, immersions were held there. Recent baptisms have again been performed in Sinking Creek at the foot of the mountain in the shadow of the covered bridge.
Church Building and Additions
An old picture taken of the church in its original condition shows wooden shingles on the roof, large six-paned windows, painted trim (probably the dark green popular then), shutters (with one window shuttered), two separate front doors, and a paling fence. Slat-back pews, the original communion table and chair, fancy wallpaper, and an attractive kerosene chandelier are noticeable in another old photograph. The flooring was made of wide boards, and two aisles went to either side of the chancel. During a wedding, the bride would come in one aisle, and exit out the other aisle. Another exterior picture from the 1920s shows the church painted all white. The paling fence remained, presumably to keep livestock out of the churchyard.
The church was extensively remodeled in the 1920s under the pastorship of John T. Meadows. Two new Sunday School rooms were added to the rear, and the chancel was changed, raised, and enlarged so as to include a choir loft. Textured colored glass with gothic-style frames replaced the clear paned windows. Two of the clear paned windows were moved to the back facing Sunday School rooms (and have since been covered over). A stone decorative portico and a "wedding cake" belfry with a small wooden spire were added. A metal star eventually replaced the wooden spire.
Crimped tin shingles purchased from a traveling salesman replaced the original wooden shingles. Byron Porterfield purchased the same kind of shingles and had them installed on his house also.
The sanctuary originally featured two pot-bellied stoves, one to either side of the church. With its high ceilings and lack of insulation, the church was probably difficult to keep warm during a harsh winter day, and a furnace replaced the stoves in the early 1950s.
During the years of 1960-1962, the interior was again remodeled. An oak floor was laid, the ceiling in the Sunday School rooms was lowered, and modern pews were installed. The new pews were purchased from another church in Radford, and some had to be cut and adjusted to fit inside the church. The two-aisle arrangement used with the original pews was then replaced with one center aisle. New hymnals were purchased, and the pulpit was refinished. A dedication service was held August 26th, 1962.
Four much needed Sunday School rooms were built in 1969, making a total of six. The two Sunday School rooms added on in the 1920s were initially used for separate men's and women's classes. The children's classes were held in the sanctuary, and when the weather permitted, on the front porch steps. In 1992, the partition between the first two new Sunday School rooms was removed to make one larger room for dinners, receptions, etc.
From 1985 to 1988, the church was further modernized with a well to supply water, bathrooms and a kitchen. The kitchen replaced one of the old Sunday School rooms at the rear of the church, and a small addition was made to the back for the bathrooms. A new driveway and parking lot were built for easier access in 2004.