• Introduction
  • The origins of the Church
  • The founding of New Hope Church
  • Reunification with the Presbyterian Church
  • New Hope’s Building Burned and Rebuilt
  • Recent History
Replica of the log cabin where the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was founded in 1810 after a night spent in prayer.


The story of New Hope Cumberland Presbyterian Church must begin with the story of the denomination which gave it birth.

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church is a denomination organized in 1810 by a group of Presbyterians on the Kentucky–Tennessee frontier. Cumberland Presbyterians are known for their “middle” theology (somewhere between Calvinism and Arminianism) and for emphasizing a “whosoever will may come” gospel.

Cumberland Presbyterian congregations are located throughout the United States as well as in several other countries (Japan, Hong Kong, Colombia, etc.) but are primarily located in the American South, with strong concentrations in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Missouri, southern Illinois, Arkansas, and Texas.

Cumberland Presbyterians were among the first denominations to admit women to their educational institutions and to accept them in leadership roles, including the ordained clergy.

  • The first woman ordained in the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition (in 1889) was Louisa Woosley, a Cumberland Presbyterian.
  • Cumberland Presbyterians were early to ordain African Americans to the ministry (circa 1830). The Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America, a historically African-American denomination, developed from the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1874.
  • The 1984 revision of the Cumberland Presbyterian Confession of Faith was one of the first inclusive confessional documents in the Reformed tradition
Rev. Louisa Woosley, ordained 1889 by Nolin Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church

The origins of the Church

The genesis of the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination had its roots in the Second Great Awakening which began in 1779 as a student movement in Virginia. Several young men involved in this early phase of the revival became Presbyterian ministers in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Revival preaching consisted of two types: that which proclaimed the Calvinist doctrine to those already grounded in the faith and that which proclaimed the availability of salvation to all people. The Presbyterian-Congregational revivalists appealed to the few who were already familiar with the Bible and church doctrine, the Baptist-Methodist-Disciple-Cumberland Presbyterian (although not separate from the Presbyterians until 1810) preaching was aimed at the religious illiterates, the masses.

The early 1800s saw hundreds converted by the influence of preaching which affirmed that Christ’s saving grace was available to any who would accept him as Savior. This was certainly good news to those who had been told that they were predestined to either heaven or hell, with no choice on their part. The revival was opposed by those adhering to the doctrine of predestination. Why preach salvation to those who were condemned irrevocably, and what need for revival had those predestined to salvation?

The revival spread over the Kentucky-Tennessee region so fast that pastors found it impossible to minister to the hundreds of converts hungry for the Word. Laymen of the Presbyterian Church, gifted with preaching abilities, were leading souls to Christ. Cumberland Presbytery of the Synod of Kentucky, ordained some of these who did not have the classical seminary education and who opposed the doctrine of predestination in the Presbyterian Westminster Confession. After several attempts to persuade the Cumberland Presbytery to withdraw these ordinations, the Synod of Kentucky, in 1807, dissolved the presbytery and reassigned its members to the Transylvania Presbytery.

Soon after, pastors of the defunct presbytery formed the Council of Revival Ministers, not to do presbyterial business, but for mutual encouragement. They continued to preach and endorse the efforts of those they’d ordained. By 1809, the issue of education had been dropped as a demand of the Synod; however, the continued refusal of the ordained men to adopt the Westminster Confession of Faith with its predestination doctrine was not acceptable. Efforts to reach a compromise failed, and on February 4, 1810, Finis Ewing, Samuel King and Samuel McAdow met and constituted Cumberland Presbytery which would later become the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination.

The decades following the Civil War brought many changes to the country. Men from this area served on both sides of the conflict (sometimes brother against brother). The healing came slowly and in some communities and families the rift was never bridged. When the war ended in 1865, residents turned to the rebuilding task, often building churches before restoring their own homes and farms.

Founding of New Hope Church

In August of 1868 a small band of east Tennessee Christians organized New Hope Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Monroe County, Tennessee. Located in a beautiful valley eight miles north of Madisonville, the church was pastored by Rev. Joseph Peeler for three years. Rev. Peeler was a Confederate chaplain during the Civil War. He was also the organizing pastor of the Corntassel Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Vonore and the Cumberland Stand Cumberland Presbyterian Church in the Fork Creek Community. Rev. Peeler died in 1871 and was buried at Corntassel Cemetery.

Rev. Joseph Peeler

Session records of 1868 and 1870 were lost, as was the list of charter members. Records of those early members are not consistent, because much of the recording was from memory. Any attempt to compile a list of charter members would be incomplete. Records of 1869 do mention several families: Airhearts, Axleys, Brakebills, Deans, Eddingtons, Henleys, Hicks, Sheets, Johnstons, Blankenships, Lowerys, Worthys, Wolfes.

New Hope’s congregation first met in a log structure. In 1870 Samuel Eddington deeded land for the frame building which would serve the members of New Hope Church for 123 years. The Airheart-Moser families donated land for the cemetery.

Witnesses of the Eddington deed included Rev. Joseph Peeler and James Worthy. Worthy married Mary Hicks, daughter of Asbury Houston Hicks. A.H. Hicks died as Dr. W.N Bicknel performed an emergency appendectomy on the Hicks’ kitchen table. He was buried in the New Hope cemetery. Both Peeler and Hicks are great grandfathers of former Democrat Editor, Dan Hicks, Jr.

Much of the history and a sense of the families active in the early New Hope Church can be read in the records of meetings, marriages, baptisms, membership rolls, pastors, elders, deacons. A walk through the beautiful New Hope Cemetery is a review of the names found in those books. Early session records tell of occasional reprimand for dancing or overindulging in alcohol. A few times of trying to arbitrate disagreements between members are mentioned, and some reconciliations achieved, but mostly the business of appointing delegates and alternates to presbytery and making decisions about the business of the church fill the early records.

Attempted Reunification with the Presbyterian Church
During the years of 1903 – 1906, there was an attempt to re-unite Cumberland Presbyterians and what is now Presbyterians (USA). Many Cumberland Presbyterians believed that revisions in the Presbyterian Confession of Faith had eliminated the disputed predestination doctrine. Others felt that the Confession still did not reflect Cumberland Presbyterian doctrine. Delegates to the 1904 Cumberland Presbyterian General Assembly, meeting in Dallas, Texas, voted for a plan of union by just over the two-thirds majority required. During 1905 presbyteries met to vote their preferences. Sixty presbyteries approved the union, fifty-one opposed. As a result of the ratification at the presbyterial level, the Cumberland Presbyterian General Assembly voted, May 24, 1906, to adjourn, sine die, and meet as part of the 1907 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Although the majority of the delegates and the majority of the presbyteries had approved the union, those wishing to remain Cumberland Presbyterian were not content to accept the decision. The delegates determined to hold on to the doctrines and the name, Cumberland Presbyterian, met immediately following the 1906 General Assembly in Decatur, Illinois. They met in the Hall of the Grand Army of the Republic (use of the Decatur church had been denied). A moderator and stated clerk were elected, vacancies on the General Assembly boards were filled and the next General Assembly set for May, 1907, Dickson County, Tennessee. Continuing to be Cumberland Presbyterian by congregations either opposed to union or divided in their opinions would, however, not be as simple.

The states of Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and Mississippi held the strongest objections to the union. Only two of the thirteen presbyteries in Tennessee approved the union of the two denominations. In Tennessee an injunction was filed by unionists of both the former Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and the Presbyterian Church in the USA prohibiting Cumberland Presbyterians (1) from interfering with the unionists’ exclusive possession of property which belonged to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, (2) from asserting any rights thereto in any court of law or equity, (3) from use of the name Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and (4) from using the Confession of Faith of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Churches wanting to retain property which now legally belonged to the Presbyterian Church USA sued for the right to the churches. Some churches bought back property from the Presbyterian Church USA when their efforts in the courts failed. Most lost their court battles, except in Tennessee, where the courts favored the dissenting Cumberland Presbyterians.

The following years confusion and division characterized the state of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church as it struggled to reorganize. Seventy-four presbyteries were represented at the 1907 General Assembly, forty presbyteries less than the year before. Presbyteries of the synods of Kansas, Ohio, Oregon, and Pennsylvania were not represented after 1906. Consolidation and reorganization significantly reduced the number of presbyteries (Previous four paragraphs see A People Called Cumberland Presbyterian).

On August 18, 1906 the New Hope Session adopted the following resolution:

Whereas the union and reunion so called of the CP Church and the PC USA has never been and not now satisfactory with the New Hope Congregation and whereas, union injunction denies the use of the church house and also the name Cumberland Presbyterian to those who in heart and conscience desire to hold on to said name Therefore, Resolved that we the session of said Church and for said Church do hereby declare our lawful right and determine purpose to continue our allegiance to the CP Church as continued by the loyal Commissioners of the Decatur, ILL. Assembly in May, 1906, whose action in so doing we most heartily approve and endorse that we gladly allow to any of our officers and members the personal right to go into the union if they so desire but would be glad if they would remain with us.

The above is endorsed by J.E. Brakebill, R.L Cochran, James C. Lowry, W.P. Hicks, Elders; Rev. M.L Sloop, Mod; W.P. Hicks, Clerk.

As a result of the unionists injunction, New Hope was padlocked for the duration of the court battle for ownership rights. According to the records, Rev. M.L. Sloop and his congregation waited patiently and peaceable for the settlement which returned the church. Although future Presbyterian Confessions of Faith would not contain the strong predestination doctrine, other attempts to unite the two denominations have so far failed. However, today the two denominations cooperate in new church starts and various ministries.

Old New Hope School - 1913
Old New Hope School – 1913

New Hope School

Several churches in the area either began meeting in school houses and later build churches nearby or were closely identified with the schools. Corntassel Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Vonore, New Hope Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Madisonville and Fork Creek Presbyterian Church in Sweetwater fall in that category.

The early 1900s saw several young people of the area migrate West. VONORE Yesterday and Today, p. 91 records the following: “Joseph Moser led a wagon train of kinsmen to the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Henry and Rachel Brown Brakebill, along with neighbors and other relatives moved to Iowa. Seven of John Wolfe’s fourteen children moved to Texas.”

Rev. Verna Briggs

During the 1940s or 1950s, Rev. Verna Briggs served as pastor, though the precise dates remain uncertain. Rev. Briggs’ pioneering role as a woman pastor aligns her with the legacy of trailblazers like Rev. Louisa Woosley. Her leadership represents a continuation of that tradition, embodying women’s inclusion and empowerment within the Christian church. Her significance lies not only in her tenure but also in the context of her leading a small rural church as a woman during that period. Betty Lou Leslie fondly remembers Rev. Briggs’ compassionate gesture of providing a new family Bible when the Pryor B. & Mae Leslie homeplace burned. Briggs’ ministry resonates with the biblical truth of Galatians 3:28, reminding us that in Christ, there is neither male nor female, but all are one. Rev. Briggs was born to Mary Jane Eblen (1872-1953) and Samuel William ‘Sam’ Briggs (1869-1946). Notably, she shares familial ties with U.S. Representative Samuel T. Rayburn, who represented Texas in the US Congress. Throughout her life, she also served as a schoolteacher and was a longtime resident of Roane County. She rests in Lawnville Cemetery, adjacent to Youngs Chapel Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Roane County.

In 1956 the New Hope frame building was bricked and an annex added. Rev. W.E. Hedgecock was the pastor. The building committee included: Melvin Leslie, George Tinker, Clinton Tinker, Woodrow Carroll, Pryor B. Leslie, Glen Rodgers, J.H. Wolfe, John Airheart and Brunner Wolfe. New sanctuary furnishings were installed in the sanctuary in 1957 and 1958.

The session record books of the last half of the twentieth century note several families active in the life of the church. Among them were the Airhearts, Axleys, Colemans, Franks, Lays, Lemmings, Leslies, Lowerys, Mosers, Rodgers, Sheets, Tinkers, Taylors, Wolfes, Worthys. New Hope has been blessed with hard-working people dedicated to supporting the life of the church with their service, leadership, and financial support. Current members recall some of those individuals who served the church:

Elder George Tinker and Deacon Clinton Tinker were among those servants who donated their physical work repairing and building the structure that housed the congregation. Among the mementos saved by Jimmy Tinker is a scrap of paper accounting for the time different members spent scraping the frame building for painting.

There was a member of the Wolfe family on the session or deacon board from the late 1800s until 1979.

New Hope Church Before it was destroyed by fire – Nancy Lockwood, Artist

In 1968 New Hope elected its first female elder, Betty Lou Leslie. She went on to serve as Clerk of Session and as New Hope’s representative on presbyterial boards. Betty served New Hope with distinction until her resignation in 1992.

Deana and Austin Lay joined the church in 1972 and served the church and community in many ways until their deaths in 1983 and 1985 respectively.

Although he was an elder for a short period, from 1988 until his death in May, 1989, Melvin Leslie is remembered as a tireless teacher, worker and supporter of New Hope.

Events in the Life of New Hope Church

Traditional events, other than regular worship and observance of Christian holidays, in the life of New Hope are: children’s Easter egg hunt, Vacation Bible School, October wiener roast and hayride, the Harvest Dinner at Thanksgiving time, the Christmas program and party. For a number of years, youth and adults of the church participated in Corntassel Church’s Living Christmas Tree. For the past four years (???) we participated in Easter sunrise and Thanksgiving service with eight area churches.

Christmas fruit baskets for friends and shut-ins, the Gift to the King Christmas offering, and the One Great Hour of Sharing offering at Easter are the regular benevolences we support. Cumberland Presbyterian congregations support work of their denomination with a tithe of the contributions received. They also contribute an apportioned amount toward work of the presbytery. Medical insurance for ministers of the presbytery is paid by churches of that presbytery according to the size of the membership and the income of the individual congregation.

Baptisms, weddings, funerals, ordinations, installations, dinners, parties and other events of significance have been celebrated at New Hope Church over the years. The building and all of the changes which have taken place in the structure and in our lives are remembered with fondness. Many special family events were celebrated here. We are now entering a phase not experienced by any living member, a brand new building.

Church Burned and Rebuilt

On August 17, 1991 anxious members called one another, “The church is on fire!” Some rushed to the basement to drag out furniture before the fire or water could damage them irreparably, others cried helplessly as we all realized that New Hope would never be the same. From the day the building smoldered in ruins, the decision was made, unanimously; rebuild the church! Almost as quickly funds began pouring in from our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the community. Help, funds, “anything we can do,” were offered.

The Building Committee, consisting of Elders, John Taylor and Jerry Lay; Deacons, Larry Lay, Jim Leslie, Kevin Taylor and David Leslie, invited members to submit their ideas for the new building. A “wish list” of these ideas was printed and posted for members to review and revise. Every effort was made to include as many of the suggestions as possible for the new building. The vision of a facility which would meet our needs for many years to come prompted New Hope members to pledge to meet the added financial obligation.

One of the most poignant received was from Virgil Rose of Lenoir City, Tennessee. The charred remains of furnishing from the sanctuary were piled outside for anyone who could salvage any of them. Mr. Rose hauled off some pieces. On Easter Sunday, 1991, we used the communion table he restored. Enough salvageable wood from a pew was found to replace the top of the table. All was sanded down through the burned areas and refinished like new. It is used to display photographs and historical mementoes.

Worship was held outdoors until the damaged fellowship hall could be repaired, then services moved inside until the new structure was completed. Only one Sunday was missed. When it became too cool to meet outside we came indoors and bundled up. A renewed sense of what the “church” really is was brought home to us. The church had not burned. The church, its members, survived, and the building could be rebuilt.

The August 17 fire presented us at New Hope with many additional responsibilities, but for the most part church went on as usual. There were compromises to make because of the smaller space, but we adapted and functioned as a church.

The Ecumenical Picnic scheduled for August 18 at New Hope, was canceled. However, we participated in several events while still in the cramped basement. The annual wiener roast and hayride was held in October. Spiritual Renewal Week held the first week of November by a group of seven church was well attended by New Hope members. Dr. Robert Ferguson, TV and radio minister, formerly senior pastor of the first Presbyterian Church of Knoxville, was the speaker.

We had our annual Harvest Dinner the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The limited space was a minor inconvenience, but the usual happy fellowship was evident. We also participated in the ecumenical service at St. Paul Lutheran Church the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Christmas fruit baskets were delivered as usual. Our Christmas program was a real challenge. The limited space allowed no surprise entrances or much space for a stage area, but we managed a great play and fellowship time afterward.

New Hope Church Building – Kevin Taylor, Artist

A Maundy Thursday evening service emphasizing the last days of Christ combined elements of the the traditional Seder meal and communion.

Tyler Carl Lay’s baptism was scheduled for the morning worship service, April 26. The ground breaking ceremony took place that afternoon. Although the builders had been able to excavate the foundation the week before, the ground breaking was just as impressive and significant. Among the many guests attending were Jim Kelly, representing Equitable Church Builders, and Rev. Bruce Potter, representing the Board of Missions of the Presbytery of East Tennessee. Rev. Potter presented a $7,714.35 check from churches of the Presbytery. Congregations of the presbytery had made contributions on “New Hope Day,” January 8, 1992. Between the two services we had a bountiful dinner. Members had discovered that we can do most anything we need to do, with God’s help.

Six (counting Tyler) of our members attended the March 4 “Team Evangelism” conference held at First CP Church in Knoxville.

By May, 1992, we had received nearly $35,000 in donations from the community, our presbytery and our own people. The $94,000 insurance check added to that, meant the goal of $182,000 was becoming a reality.

Because of the dangerous building site and limited space at New Hope, we accepted Fork Creek Presbyterian Church’s offer to share vacation Bible school with them. It was a great Bible school. The added teaching personnel and the increased number of children made a good mix. Everyone enjoyed the week.

Our students were honored at a Sunday evening service.

Butch Lay married Lisa Sanders October 24 at the Idlewild Baptist Church in Athens. They are making their home on the Cold Stream Farm.

Sunday evening worship was replaced by two studies during the year. One studied the CP Confession of Faith, beginning January 11, the other looked at “Disagreeing in Love,” and began November 8.

Women of the church raised money for the building fund by selling pecans two different times. Cookbook sales also raised funds for the new building.

The bell from the former building was refinished and hung in the new steeple. John Axley rang the bell for our first Sunday in the new sanctuary. His family donated the bell, dated 1917.

All Sunday school classes resumed meeting September 6, our first Sunday in the new building. New teachers were recruited for additional classes. Julie Taylor – Kindergarten class, Sherri Lay – the Juniors, Carolyn Lay – the Teens. John Taylor – Adult teacher, Brenda Leslie – Young Adults. Jerry Lay – Sunday School Superintendent.

Bob Lockwood developed a choir that grew in competence. THE HYMNAL for Worship and Celebration, used by the choir, offers the traditional as well as contemporary music. Beverly Taylor, a talented pianist, served New Hope while Bob Lockwood directed the choir.

During the months of building the new facility, the work was carefully scrutinized by members of the Building Committee, keeping the builders faithful to the contract details. Many members and friends assisted with the physical clean-up, work on the basement and lawn work not included in the building contract. Donations of time, money and furnishings for the church have been made by members and friends. This was a time of generous giving of self in the life of New Hope. Churches in the area not only donated funds but furnishings for us to be able to worship during the building process: Fairview Baptist Tabernacle – a spinet piano, Union CP – Hymnals and pulpit chairs, Lenoir City CP – wooden classroom chairs, Marietta CP youth – Table for kindergarten class.

The Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Finance loaned New Hope the $45,000 needed to complete the purchase of the new building. Monthly payments would be $355.86 for a period of 15 years. We began payments on October, 1992. Many of the additional furnishings for the facility have been provided by anonymous donations or purchases. There have been many sacrificial acts and gifts to the work of New Hope during this period.

New Mission Statement (1992)

The Session adopted the following mission statement during the 1992 year:

The mission of New Hope Cumberland Presbyterian Church is to proclaim the good news of God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ through worship, teaching, Bible study, prayer, service, fellowship and genuine caring for our community. Our goal as part of the Body of Christ is to be a source of hope to those in need of a Savior and an instrument of spiritual growth for all who worship with us. We welcome those seeking fellowship in the name of the Risen Christ, the Savior of the World, Jesus of Nazareth.

New Hope hosted the Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service November 25. Eight churches participated. Pastor Bob directed the choir consisting of members from New Hope and Corntassel CP churches and Fork Creek Presbyterian. Beverly Taylor, Megan Northcutt and Charlie Hicks provided the instrumental music.

December 6th we celebrated with friends and family as we dedicated our new building. TV coverage by Channel 10, allowed us to relive the day another time or two. Special music by Beverly Taylor, Megan Northcutt, and Dr. Paul Brakebill from the Loudon CP Church helped make the day special. Bob Lockwood was installed as pastor in a ceremony following the dedication. A lovely reception by the ladies of the church capped off a memorable day.

Our Christmas program, “The Sounds and Light of Bethlehem,” was presented on the new stage taking advantage of the special lighting and acoustics designed into the building.

From the day the new building was rededicated, the congregation of the New Hope Church has worked to bear witness to our Lord by being sensitive to the needs of the community. Over the years, through the hard work and dedication of the membership, the new building has been paid off, the cemetery chartered and expanded, and the church continues to seek ways to better serve the community and the Kingdom of God.

Rev. David & Donna Koopman, 1998-2019

Rev. David Koopman was first asked to preach at New Hope Church on Palm Sunday of 1998.  There was a fill-in preacher for Easter but not for the week following, so it was arranged that Rev. Koopman would preach that Sunday and from there it was no looking back. Rev. David’s wife Donna served faithfully as church musician, playing the piano and keyboard from 1999 until they retired in December 2019

Over the course of the ensuing 22 plus years of Ministry together many wonderful things happened.  The mortgage was retired over 12 years early, a professional sound system was installed, the pavilion was built, the parking area raised and repaved, an elevator (lift) was installed, the church and the cemetery were each incorporated, new roofing was installed on the church building as was a new climate control system. But these, and so many others, are physical things that only tell a small part of the story of the New Hope Church. 

Congregational stewardship improved to the point where the church has been able to be a more active benevolent force both in the immediate community as well as the denomination. The willingness of the congregation to extend aid to families in crisis and causes that required emergency attention stand out as the wonderful parts of the ministry we shared.  From individual families who have lost their homes to fire or have experienced unexpected medical disasters to the victims of the wildfire in Gatlinburg, New Hope has responded, without hesitation, to so many and of that we can all be proud.

During Rev. David Koopman’s service as Pastor, children have grown from childhood into adulthood, and he stood at the side of families where a beloved member has gone forth to their eternal reward, and he was also fortunate enough to lead some to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Koopman says, “The love that resides within the congregation of the New Hope Cumberland Presbyterian Church is a love that has the power to change not only the community, but the world. Though small, this congregation is far more powerful and influential that any may know, for ‘in Christ all things are possible.'”

As New Hope moves into the future, ever looking to Jesus Christ, this small but mighty congregation will stand yet another 150 years and beyond as a beacon of hope and a witness to the Lord we serve.

. . .

New Hope’s 2020 Veteran’s Day service was held in loving memory of Rev. Bob Hatley (6/23/1949 — 4/27/2020). Rev. Bob Hatley was ordained in the Baptist tradition, but attended New Hope in his latter years. Rev. Hatley was a veteran and was instrumental in New Hope CPC being designated a “Veteran Friendly Congregation.”

Looking to the future

As New Hope Cumberland Presbyterian Church looks ahead to the future, it does so with eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of its faith and mission. Embarking on the next chapter of its journey with confidence, the congregation embraces the profound truth that “in Christ all things are possible.” As it celebrates its past achievements and courageously confronts the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow, New Hope Cumberland Presbyterian Church stands as a steadfast beacon of hope—a living testament to the enduring power of faith, love, family, and Christian fellowship.

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