The Kalkaska Church of Christ celebrated her centennial in 1988, but her spiritual roots in the community go much deeper than that. Just how deep no one knows. As early as the nation’s centennial, 1876, twelve years before the church was officially incorporated, one of those listed as a charter member wrote to the Christian Standard appealing for a preacher of the gospel to come to Kalkaska:
“It seems to me that there never was a better field for missionary work than right here in this place. The great trouble with our people is that they wait too long. When a new place is springing up, this is the time to go and preach the gospel…” Mrs. Cowan, Christian Standard, September 2, 1876
In articles in the Christian Standard in 1881 and 1882 it was reported that preaching was being done in Kalkaska and the surrounding area.
In March of 1888 George Dains of Manton wrote about Kalkaska and said, “…a great work to be done in the Northern counties…the field is an inviting one. We may possess it if we will. There needs real ‘pioneer work’ to be done in our Northern counties. The inhabitants are a plain folk and need the plain simple gospel ‘not with enticing words of man’s wisdom’ but the plain terms of God’s Word.”
Evangelist Charles W. Gardner
It was pioneer evangelist Charles W. Gardner and his wife who rose to the challenge and organized the Kalkaska Church of Christ in the spring of 1888. The church began holding regular Sunday services in the GAR Hall, a large brick building East of Cedar St. The church began to build their own small “chapel” in the fall of that year on a lot located at the corner of Cedar and Fifth. The first service was held there on February 10, 1889. This location is where the church has met ever since. The congregation reported 40 members and an annual budget of $375, by 1891 the membership had more than doubled to 83. Having outgrown the original chapel, the Kalkaska Church of Christ built her second house of worship at this location in 1892 at a cost of $750. The same year Henry Rossell came to be the first full-time minister. Brother Rossell wrote,
“Our new house of worship is now completed and will be dedicated on the Lord’s Day, November 28. Let it mark a new era in the history of primitive Christianity in Northern Michigan.” Brother L. L. Carpenter from Wabash, IN, came to preach the dedication service. He describes the new church house as, “…a very neat one, and is comfortable and commodious. It is well located and well furnished. It has a fine bell, a good organ, a baptistery, a Sunday School room, fine chandeliers, is carpeted, and seated with chairs.”
Excelsior, Springfield, & Spencer Begin
In the months following the dedication of the new building, 40 new members were added, and the membership grew to 170 by June of 1894. That same year the Excelsior Church of Christ was organized and the 81 members there were encouraged to build “at once.” The Kalkaska Church of Christ was also instrumental in starting the Springfield Church of Christ in 1898 and the Spencer Church of Christ in 1905.
The first half of the 20th century was a period of conflict and decline for many Churches of Christ as a creeping return to denominationalism overtook many congregations and a liberal theology which denied the Bible as God’s Word penetrated our Christian Colleges. The crisis came to a head in 1927 with the parting of the ways of the “Disciples of Christ” who chose the road to a return to denominationalism and the independent “Churches of Christ and Christian Churches” who continued to pursue the course of Christian liberty.
Resolution Passed To Remain Soley Based On New Testament
Congregations were forced to take a stand for the simple truth of New Testament Christianity or be absorbed back into the denominational world. On November 12, 1947, the church elders passed the following resolution:
1. Be it known that the Kalkaska Church of Christ of Kalkaska, Mich., wishes to be known as a New Testament Church of Christ.
2. That is refuses to be bound by any ecclesiastical organization.
3. It refuses co-operation with any organization denying the deity of Christ, His divine Sonship, or the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures.
4. It refuses to use any literature published by any organization or printing house that denies the above.
5. Be it also known that we will not recognize any missionary society, or project, with our prayers, time, or money, which rejects the Lordship of Jesus Christ as having all authority and power both in heaven and on earth.
6. Be it known that we will defend our freedom and liberty in Christ against any encroachment from any ecclesiastical power or hierarchy that would rob us of our freedom in Christ.
In 1964, during the ministry of Paul Stacy, the old white frame building constructed in 1892(?) at the corner of Cedar and Fifth Street was removed and a more spacious house of worship was built on the same site. It was dedicated on April 19 of that year at a cost of $52,000. During the ministry of Eddie Bratton, the church building was remodeled and expanded in 1977.
Following an 18 year ministry by Eddie Bratton, and a brief interim ministry by Dr. Walt Zorn, Emory “Dan” Johnson came to preach in 1987. He served as preaching minister for nearly 29 years. During this time the church facilities were expanded and a second worship service was added to accommodate the growing congregation.
The church relocated to a spacious new building, constructed on West Kalkaska Road, in October 2011.
In 2015 Dan retired from KCC. He and his wife, Sherry, started “Restore Me Ministry” encouraging ministers and their spouses and hosting them for rest and restoration at their “Haven” retreat center in Kalkaska.
In 2014, the Elders invited Andy Bratton, the son of former KCC preacher Eddie Bratton, to take the Senior Minister role.
Andy is the current Senior Minister at the Kalkaska Church of Christ. Other current staff members are listed here.
(A complete history of the Kalkaska Church of Christ is available to purchase from the KCC bookstore. Contact the church office to purchase one.)