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History of Mountain Gap Church

by Dr. James Adams

Mountain Gap Church, located some two miles south of Meansville Ga, celebrated its centennial in 1998. This church had its beginning in 1898 as the local component of a widespread spiritual renewal, principally in Methodist constituencies, that swept across the South and some other regions of the country as well during the 1890’s. The major thrust of this movement was return to primitive Wesleyan Methodism in faith and practice.

The local leader and catalyst in this movement was the Rev. George W. Grice, an ordained Methodist minister From nearby Barnesville. In the wake of an historic revival in the First Methodist Church in Barnesville in 1898, a local group led by the Rev. Grice organized a separate congregation, first named Vega Holiness Church (reflecting the movement’s emphasis on the Wesleyan teachings of holiness in Christian life), in the Vega community in southeastern Pike County. Most of its founding members were formerly affiliated with the Century Nelson and Fincher Methodist churches with a few from Mt. Zion Baptist Church in the Piedmont community, all within the broader community. A list of its founders would include: Rev. George W. Grice, Ella S. Adams, W. Jerry Adams, Ettie J. Adams, John T. Adams, Maude B. Adams, Walter B. Brown, Ollie E. Brown, George R. Brown, Bell B. Brown, Rev. A. Warren Brown, Arthur O. Burnette, Sr., Lizzie D. Burnette, Alfred H. Jones, Louisa H. Jones, Robert B. Smith, Matrie B. Virden and Susie C. Yarbrough.

In addition, as a further outreach effort into the community, in 1900 the church began the practice of conducting summer revivals under temporarily constructed “brush arbors” near the church site so as to accommodate larger attendance in it’s evangelistic outreach. Thus began Mountain Gap’s tradition of an annual summer camp-meeting style revival, culminating in the erection of a permanent, open air arbor, or tabernacle, such as exists today on the present Mountain Gap site. Even in its brush-arbor days, the camp meeting flourished, drawing support from several other congregations in the County and bringing in crowds of worshipers by rail to the Vega flag stop from as far away as Atlanta and Columbus, Many of the ardent worshipers came equipped to camp out in tents and other improvised accommodations for the duration of the camp meeting. It was in the wake of a profound spiritual move in the brush arbor camp meeting of 1907 that the Mountain Gap congregation established its identity as Pentecostal in spirit and character, and in 1913 became a local affiliate of the Pentecostal Holiness Church, one of several Pentecostal denominations.

In 1916, the church was relocated from only a short distance away to its present site at Mountain Gap, itself an historic site in the annals of Pike County, as Mitchell’s history of the county bears out. It was then that the church adopted “Mountain Gap” as its name. Because of the access this natural gap gave for crossing the Pine Mountain ridge between the northern and southern sectors of the county, it early on was traversed by a public road from the County’s southeastern section ro the county seat at Zebulon and later (in the 1880’s) by a railroad connecting Atlanta and Fort Valley. In addition, this site was favored with a fine spring, which had historically served to refresh those traveling through the gap and which also became a convenient source of water for the church congregation at a time when plumbing in rural areas was virtually nonexistent

One of the more memorable events of the church’s history was a teenagers’ birthday party in May 1919, that turned into a religious revival when the honoree, a sixteen-year old young lady, suggested that her guests engage with her in a prayer meeting as part of her birthday celebration. The revival that ensued swept the community and swelled the congregation markedly, not only with youth, but with many spiritually-aroused parents as well. From this spiritual awakening, as well as others before and since, has come a host of those dedicated to Christian ministry as missionaries, ministers, teachers and evangelists.

The marked spiritual stimulus of 1919 prompted the Church to act immediately in summer of that year to construct a permanent open-air arbor to better facilitate the annual summer camp meetings previously conducted under temporary brush arbors. It was under this first permanent structure that nationally-know evangelist, Oral Roberts, and other prominent ministers preached camp meetings over the years. The original structure was replaced with a slightly larger in 1950, and in 1977 the even larger present rustic, octagonal, cedar log structure was constructed on basically the same site.

In 1946, the small wood-frame church building constructed at the Mountain Gap location in 1916, gave way to a more expansive masonry Structure, Construction was begun under the pastorate of the Reverend. Ralph McBroom and completed under the Pastorate of the Reverend Carlton Piper. In 1986, under the pastorate of Reverend Willis Fortson, the facility underwent a major expansion, more than doubling the size of the total church facility. Twenty years later, in 2006, the most momentous, development in the history of Mountain Gap Church from the standpoint of facility development was realized. Under the pastorate of Reverend Ryan Linkous, growth in attendance and programs began pushing the limits of the Church's plant facility, not only beyond its physical capacity, but beyond the limits of its expansion capability on the particular site. In response, efforts were put in motion to relocate to the present site a half-mile away on land that was donated be member Betty Hanson, at the corner of Pine Valley Road and Vega Road. The new Mountain Gap Church facility was completed and occupied in August of 2006, under the pastorate of Pastor Ryan Linkous. Now looking with pleasure on the beauty and functional character of the new facility, one may be led to exclaim, "Look what God hath wrought!"

Once the new, expanded facility was in place, both growth in attendance and in the spiritual tide of the Church burgeoned under the dynamic ministry leadership of Pastor Linkous. However, Following Pastor Linkous departure to assume a larger pastorate in his home state of Virginia in 2012, momentum in these areas settled down to a slower pace. Today (January of 2019) under the current pastorate of Pastor John Price and his wife Selina, a true spirit of worship and anticipation of new and better things are currently reflected in the expectancy of today's growing congregation.