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7: Rev. Byler, 1967-1970

Brethren We Have Met to Worship
The Pastorate of Rev. Byler, 1967-1970

Rev. James E. Byler

After Rev. Robinson’s resignation, an interim committee of Ralph Johnson, T.J. Cawood and Bill Hutson asked Dr. David Livingstone to fill the pulpit in absence of a pastor. During this period, a pulpit committee actively sought a pastor. It eventually settled on Rev. James E. Byler, pastor of the Moreland Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. The church approved Byler and he accepted the church’s invitation on March 5, 1967. Byler was no stranger to Cleveland for he had previously served as pastor of First Baptist approximately twenty years before he became North Cleveland’s fifth pastor. A rather reserved individual, Byler taught his congregation the practicality of Scriptures, and portrayed a loving Christian attitude in his pastoral ministry.
The church became more involved in ministries aimed to benefit both the church family and also the church community. Such activity created an increase in membership, and in church participation. The membership roles added some 205 new names, and Sunday School attendance increased proportionately during the three years Byler served as North Cleveland’s pastor. On January 1, 1968, Sunday School enrollment surpassed the 700 mark, and church officials set aside January 14 as Soul-Winning Concern Day in Sunday School to urge members to continue setting goals in the department. The church also made other improvements in Sunday School. With the acquisition of the Annex, more classes were added, including an active Young Married Department. To provide for more adequately trained teachers, the church established a Teacher’s Training Class with Associate Pastor Rev. Samuel D. Melton as director with George Johnson and Harold Reno as teachers. In June 1969, the first class completed its work. Members in this class were Mrs. Ralph (Sarah) Brooks, Mrs. Alan (Carla) Cawood, Mrs. Taylor (Jean) Cawood, Mrs. Charlie (Fran) Dick, Paul McConnell, Mrs. Terry (Norma) McCoy, Mrs. Ronald (Joy) Rogers, Mrs. Kenneth (Becky) Russell, Miss Joyce Samples, Ken Tarpley and Goss Tiller. A majority of these individuals were later added to the teaching ranks, and church leaders planned more teacher training classes.

Royal Ambassadors

Improvements also took place in other church programs, but the Men’s and Women’s Mission Organizations and there various auxillaries experienced the most tremendous growth. The W.M.U. and Brotherhood became more active and provided more spiritual impact in the life of the church. The various branches of each of those organizations grew rapidly as well. The Girl’s Auxillaries of the W.M.U. actively pursued mission projects both locally and worldwide through planned community service and through mission-giving. A current aim used during 1966 urged girls to be aware of the need for Christian concern in missions in all areas of one’s life, and stressed that girls recognize the importance of a proper Christian walk with God. The Royal Ambassadors, similar to the G.A. program, but under the direction of the Brotherhood Department, also conducted an active chapter during Byler’s pastorate. Involved in mission activities, and in local projects, the R.A.’s also attended many R.A. Congresses, including an International Congress held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in August 1968. In fact, in March 1969, Tony Hancock, from North Cleveland ran for State Royal Ambassador President.

1965 Church Staff

Under Byler’s leadership, the church also moved into several new and worthwhile endeavors. The first of these, a church kindergarten, actually initiated during Robinson’s pastorate, developed and flourished during Byler’s tenure. The first church kindergarten began in 1967, and soon oftered facilities for a maximum forty-eight children. In early 1969, the Church Kindergarten Committee reviewed the first year of the kindergarten and decided to continue the successful program. Later the church had an opportunity to increase the size of it’s kindergarten through a merger with another privately-owned facility. If this effort proved successful, church officials seriously entertained the possibility of developing a day care program. However, these plans didn’t materialize, and the church continued to operate the kindergarten until 1972. In addition to an active kindergarten program, the church sponsored an Explorer Scout Troop from 1968 to 1972.
North Cleveland also added several more staff positions in 1965. At that time, Mrs. Bill (Dot) Carson became the church’s first full-time Church Secretary. Mrs. Lawrence (Carolyn) Gentry also served as Church Financial Secretary on a part-time basis. Since 1965, the church has hired four Church secretaries, and four other Staff Secretaries. Mrs. Noble Crawford became the first of three Pastor’s Secretaries in 1976. Elvis Brandon’s resignation on March 28, 1968 left a vacancy in the Music Department which was quickly filled when Stephen Foster, a Senior Music student at Carson-Newman College, served as interim director through the summer months. He also helped coordinate youth activities, among those a trip to Training Union week at Ridgecrest, and a production of the Youth Musical ‘Good News’ in August 1968. During Foster’s tenure, an Associate Pastor Committee composed of Glen Greene, Mrs. Bill (Mae) Ragsdale and Glen Wegner sought an individual for a more permanent position. On August 25, it presented Rev. Sam D. Melton for the church’s consideration. The church approved Melton, having established the following job description as a guideline:

Rev. Samuel D. Melton

1. Congregational song leading in regular services. Direction of church and youth choirs in regular services.
2. Prospect visitation will belong to both pastor and associate pastor. Associate will see that file is kept up-to-date and make continuous assignments through the Sunday School.
3. Youth leadership. Act as moderator of the Youth Coordinating Council; meet and plan regularly with the youth leadership of the church. All youth activities will be planned in this way. Train youth choir which will meet Sunday at 5:00 PM.
4. New Member Orientation will be a continuous and regular part of the Training Union Program.
5. Teacher Training Class. The enlistment and training of a continuous stream of new workers for Sunday School. Course of Study-a-syllabus recommeded by the Sunday School Board in Nashville. Worker enlistment is related to this program and will be the responsibility of the associate pastor, together with S.S. and T.U. Director as well as other organizations in the church, such as R.A.’s.
6. Monthly Officers and Teachers Meeting. Give assistance to the S.S. Superintendent to make this a meeting of real meaning.
7. Study Courses will be planned through Church Council Meeting. Selecting teachers will be done with the help of associate pastor.
8. Library. The committee can expect help from associate pastor in promotion, scheduling and selection of books.
Rev. Melton was primarily responsible for music and youth activities. He served the church well until July 21, 1969. After Melton had resigned from his position, Rev. Byler praised his associate as an individual upon whom he had grown quite dependent and who also went out of his way to help. Byler also expressed the feeling that North Cleveland members may not have truly realized Melton’s qualities of service. After Melton’s resignation, the church asked Dr. F. Dean Banta, Academic Dean at Cleveland State Community College and a North Cleveland member, to supervise the music program for the next few months.
While all these changes occured, the church was engaged in a remodeling program. Rev. Byler recognized the need for some restoration work soon after his arrival in Cleveland, and actively brought it to the attention of the deacons and church members. As a result, On February 28, 1967, the church appointed a Building Committee consisting of Glen Greene, J.L. Haney, Mrs. Fred Hall, Mrs. Bill Carson and Jim Quinn to supervise the renovation of the Sanctuary. Built in 1956, the Sanctuary had little or not construction work performed on it since that time, and needed immediate attention. At the same time, the church selected Forrest Phillips, Roy Boring and C.L. Hamilton as the Finance Committee for this project. The following description of the necessary work was also presented:
1. Put in new ceiling and lighting.
2. Panel front of Sanctuary.
3. Raise platform and choir loft.
4. Remove false ceiling of choir loft.
5. Wainscoating the walls of choir loft, patch and paint rest of walls.
6. Draping the windows.
7. Build a new baptistry which will be raised.
Later the church also voted to carpet the entire Sanctuary.

Renovation of Church Sanctuary, 1967

To finance the project, the church gave the trustees the authority to establish a Building Account through Merchants Bank up to $15,000. At that time, the bank could place a minimum amount of $3,000 into the account and charge six percent interest on any money it placed into the account. The finance committee was then authorized to develop a fund-raising plan for the church. As a result, on March 17, the Finance Committee presented a pledge system in which contributions would be collected over a three to six-month period.
During construction, the congregation held Sunday morning services in the old Bradley Central High School Auditorium and the Sunday and Wednesday evenings in the Fellowship Hall in the church’s Educational Building. After approximately a three-month period, members returned to worship in a more commodious and beautiful Sanctuary.
In addition to the Sanctuary renovation, the church undertook other similar projects during Byler’s pastorate. The deacons recommended in July 1967 that a new choir room be constructed downstairs in the Sanctuary building, and the church approved. Upon terms of an apparent pre-pastoral agreement, Byler purhcased the pastorium for $10,000 in December 1967, with the church’s approval. As a part of the agreement, the church also guaranteed the pastor a $100 monthly allowance, plus utilities. During these developments, numerous church actions concerned work and financial arrangements on the recently acquired church annex. Before 1969, the church leased one portion of the building, and used the other as classroom space. However, after recovering from a severe fire that destroyed the interior, the church reviewed her former decision. At that time, she also considered the then-congested conditions very evident in the overcrowded church Education Building. Ultimately, North Cleveland decided to renovate the annex and to brick the exterior of the building – with the intentions of using the whole facility for church purposes.

The Annex

North Cleveland also assumed a larger role in community activity during Byler’s pastorate. One important function the church performed for a brief period of time during 1967 was the housing of Cleveland State Community College. Unable to occupy it’s unfinished facilities, the new college used the church Educational Building to house offices and to hold classes. The church authorized a committee of T.J. Cawood, Glen Greene, Hoyt Elrod, Bill Hutson and J.P. Quinn to work out the proper arrangement. In retrospect, one member praised the good relationship fostered between North Cleveland and Cleveland State, and promised a bright future of cooperation between the two. He also expressed pride that the church had pursued such a positive step in Cleveland State’s history. After December 1967, the college moved its facilities to its present campus on Norman Chapel Road.

Youth Council

An opportunity to continue the same spirit of cooperation came in early 1969, when North Cleveland joined an association-wide effort to organize a Baptist Student Union program at the college. Bradley Baptists, enthusiastic about the spiritual opportunity available at Cleveland State, worked together to finance the project. Having purchased the property, the Association worked in cooperation with the Tennessee Baptist Convention to raise funds to build the B.S.U. Center. In order to accomplish this, Associational leaders including Byler, chairman of the B.S.U. Committee, urged each church to contribute liberally. North Cleveland pledged to provide $1800 of the $16,000 needed. Bradley Baptists owed on the project, and Byler asked his members to raise at least $400 on the upcoming B.S.U. Day in Bradley County (February 2, 1969). He believed the church would provide the additional funds over the next four years. Based on this effort, and many others throughout Bradley County, Baptists built and financed the B.S.U. Center and today the B.S.U. program at Cleveland State is one of the largest in the state of Tennessee.
Later in 1969, the church again participated in an associational project. On this occasion, North Cleveland helped the Bradley Association finance and modernize the recently acquired Baptist camp located in Southwest Bradley County. North Cleveland’s contribution was a dining area at a financial cost of $750 with the men of the church furnishing the labor. The committee established to supervise this project included Bill Caron, Glen Greene, C.L. Hamilton and Ken Andrews.
In addition to these associational events, North Cleveland took an active role in the formation of the Bradley County Child Shelter Home. Many area officials had grown concerned over the need for the temporary housing of juveniles whose parents were apathetic, criminal or sick. This concern developed into a fund-raising project in which the churches were asked to contribute. Again, Byler encouraged his congregation to give generously to this worthwhile endeavor, and also suggested that Sunday School classes might take an active part in the Child Shelter Home project.
Several months after this massive effort, Bradley County did indeed construct and soon operate a successful Child Shelter Home, which still functions today.

Brotherhood Officers

North Cleveland became a very social-minded membership during the years James Byler served as her pastor. Under his leadership, the church developed a conscientious concern for Christian benevolence and for Baptist missionary enterprise. North Cleveland sadly accepted Rev. Byler’s resignation on February 1, 1970. Explaining that he had followed the Holy Spiriti’s leadership, Byler stated that he had accepted the pastorate of the First Baptist Church of LaFayette, Georgia. He also promised the members his continued prayers fo rtheir efforts to find a new shepherd who would guide the church effectually. The church hosted a reception in honor of the pastor and his family on February 12, and The Evangel best summarized what seeemed to be the sentiment held by many North Cleveland members:
“Not only will we be missing a good pastor, but a Sunday School teacher, a pianist, and leader ot two choirs which Mrs. Byler so faithfully served. What great jobs they have done at our church. Needless to say we will all feel the impact and influence of the lives of the Bylers now and in the days to come.”
When Byler announced his decision to resign, an interim committee, chaired by Kenneth Russell, asked Dr. Livingstone to again return for another period of service. Members welcomed Livingstone’s arrival and expressed assurance in his competence which had been proved again and again by his humble ministry.