By Lynda Edwards/ Times Free Press
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Dec. 5, 2015) -- Last year, the numbers for Red Bank's White Oak United Methodist Church were dismal to the point of scary. But the Rev. Stephen DeFur, although now pastor of Knoxville's Cokesbury United Methodist Church, grew up in Red Bank and was a lifelong fan of the White Oak church, located at 2232 Lyndon Ave. He was sad to hear of the little church's impending closure.
As pastor of Cokesbury Church UMC, DeFur has the largest congregation in UMC's Southeastern Jurisdiction, an area that includes Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Kentucky, Virginia and the Carolinas. Since November 2013, Cokesbury's average worship attendance increased from 2,900 to 3,859. More than 6,000 attended Easter worship services last year, according to the church's website.
DeFur asked White Oak members if they would be interested in becoming a Red Bank satellite of his Knoxville church.
White Oak reopened officially as Cokesbury UMC in Red Bank this September. And attendance numbers are already inspiring hope. "They started with 33 (members) and now have more than 120," DeFur says proudly.