Friends in High Places



Article Published: Jun. 9, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Friends in High Places

The Boone Mennonite Brethren Church, now in its 93rd year, is due for some much needed repairs, and a number of talented musicians are joining forces to help pay for those repairs.

Photo by Jeff Eason



eason@mountaintimes.com

Buildings are a lot like people. Once you get into your 90s, things just start breaking down.

The Boone Mennonite Brethren Church, now in its 93rd year, is due for some much needed repairs, and a number of talented musicians are joining forces to help pay for those repairs.

The multi-band benefit concert is being called "High Places: A Celebration of Soul and Spirit in the High Country" and is scheduled for Saturday, June 11, from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at the Harvest House, located at 247 Boone Heights Drive in Boone.

Admission to the benefit show is $10, and additional donations are welcome. There will also be a homestyle dinner for sale beginning at 6 p.m. for $5 per plate.

The musical entertainment for the evening will consist of performances by Melissa Reaves (blues and rock), the Henhouse Thieves (folk), Brian Yerman & Lazybirds (blues and country), Amantha Mill (country and bluegrass) and the Boone Mennonite Brethren Gospel Choir (Southern gospel).

"The church is the last historically black church in Watauga County and is now comprised of both white and black members," said Jonathan Priest, drummer for the Boone Mennonite Brethren Church.

"The Junaluska community is an interesting facet of Boone history, and this church has been the cornerstone of that community."

The current pastor of the church is Chris Eidse, a minister from Canada.

"We have a goal of raising $60,000 for restoration of the church," Eidse said. "It was built in 1918. Basically, we're restoring everything from the inside out."

Utilizing labor from the congregation, Eidse plans to restore the church's parking lot, front stairs, heating system, kitchen and basement.

"We have a laundry list of repairs that need to be done," he said. "Right now, we are working on getting the steeple redone. It's a copper steeple that was donated from another church in the 1940s. When we started, you couldn't even it was copper, but now it is really getting its shine back."
According to Eidse, the Mennonite Church congregation in Boone first became a church in the Elk Park Community, on the other side of Banner Elk.

"Two Mennonite families came to the area from Kansas and Minnesota to start an orphanage for African American children after the Civil War," Eidse said.

"They started an orphanage, school and church. The fact that white Mennonites would come down to the South to start a church was quite controversial at the time. The Ku Klux Klan came to the church one Sunday with guns and robes in an attempt to intimidate the Mennonites. They said that it was not right for blacks and whites to be worshipping in the same church. The Mennonite pastor asked them for proof and wanted to know where in the Bible it said that blacks and whites couldn't worship together.

"Meanwhile, some of the Mennonite congregation slipped out of the church and went home and got their guns. It could have become terrible chapter in our history, but cooler heads prevailed.

"The Mennonite pastor told the Klansmen that they were welcome to come to the church at any time but to leave their robes and guns at home."

In 1912, the church moved to the area on the hill near downtown Boone known as Junaluska. For six years, the congregation met at the public school for African Americans until their new house of worship was completed.

Eidse is originally from Winnipeg, Canada, and moved to North Carolina seven years ago to work at the six area Mennonite churches. He moved from Lenoir to Boone eight months ago.

"We're looking forward to getting a chance to meet other members of the community at this fundraiser," he said.

For more information, or to purchase tickets to "Friends in High Places," call (828) 263-0502, or visit http://www.boonechurch.com. If you cannot attend the concert but would like to make a contribution to the Boone Mennonite Brethren Church's restoration project, visit http://www.boonechurch.com/giving.

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