In 1991, members of a Reformed Bible study in Maryville began meeting for Sunday worship in the home of Doug and Karen Robson. The group soon affiliated with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), which sent a man to help: Jim Heemstra. He and his wife Sandy camped nearby for months at a time, showing a servant’s heart and bringing us a wealth of encouragement and wisdom.
Within its first year, little “Covenant OPC” was invited to use a vacant church building in the Sandy Springs neighborhood in Maryville. (In 2019 the Waggoner family, trustees of this property, would generously deed it to us.) So at the suggestion of Rev. Robert Berry, who served as organizing pastor from 1993 to 1997, we changed our name to “Sandy Springs OPC.”
Rev. Mark Marquis served us from 1998 to 2002. During his pastorate, Sandy Springs helped to plant a congregation in London, Kentucky. (Years later, in 2011, we would plant another in Dayton, Tennessee. These are highlights in our history; we’re glad to be part of Christ’s wider church, and a bigger story than our own!)
Then, for three difficult years, Sandy Springs was without a pastor. Dr. Bill Dennison, a professor at Covenant College in Chattanooga, provided us an with an interim ministry. He drove up to Maryville Sunday after Sunday to preach and to visit our families. The Lord graciously used him to restore the congregation.
One Sunday late in 2004 James Ganzevoort, then an intern in Atlanta, was planning to preach at a conference. But a hurricane altered many people’s plans, and at the last minute James was reassigned to preach at Sandy Springs. After this providential “blind date,” he and the church soon came to appreciate each other and see how they could serve the Lord together. Sandy Springs called him as its third pastor, and the presbytery ordained and installed him here in 2005.
Since then, God has continued to do good things at Sandy Springs. Relationships have formed, the truth has been taught, and many moments of happy fellowship and holy worship have been shared. We’ve welcomed covenant children into the world, and bid other saints farewell from it. Sandy Springs OPC keeps “declaring the whole counsel of God” and administering the means of grace week after week, and aims to do so in East Tennessee as long as the Lord allows.