Highland Presbyterian Church was founded in 1953 with the purpose of providing a church easily and conveniently available to the students at Maryville College. In the early 50s, students were required to attend church on Sundays but didn’t have vehicles to get there.
In order to provide a location within walking distance of the college, a group of faculty and students started to have services in the hallway and parlor of the 19th century house that the church still resides in. Later on in Highland’s life, a sanctuary was built on to the house, which is where services are currently held.
Not only has the location so near to the college kept them in close relations over the past 60 years, but also the congregation. Today, the church has a congregation of roughly 100 people.
“If you asked everyone in the congregation to stand up if they attended Maryville College, it would be well over half of the group,” said Rev. Billy Newton, the minister of Highland.
While only three charter members still live and attend Highland on a regular basis, much of the congregation consists of people who remember the days when 50-100 students would be at service on Sundays. Many of them went there as young adults and never felt a reason to leave.
Newton worked at the college for four years as the director for the center for strong communities, a four-year community partnership project, prior to becoming Highland’s minister.
“I was attracted to Highland’s small but very friendly community,” Newton said. “Although Highland is small in numbers, they are very global minded and very committed to local outreach programs and missions.”
In honor of the 60-year anniversary of Highland Presbyterian Church, the church held multiple events. The congregation enjoyed gathering for various hiking trips and picnics.
The church also held “Maryville College Sunday” on Nov. 10. Newton said that the congregation loved the opportunity to really celebrate partnership with Maryville College, as well as remember how important the institution has been for the church.
On “Maryville College Sunday,” Dr. Tom Bogart, president of Maryville College, stood in front of the Highland congregation and preached in place of Newton. In the past, it was tradition for the president of the college to speak at Highland once every year. This, however, was Bogart’s first appearance at Highland.
Before Bogart began speaking, the congregation was gathered by Danny Pierce, associate professor of physical education, health and recreation, to donate spare change for Blount County’s Meals on Wheels. As people gave their contributions, they stated things that they were thankful for. Most of them mentioned things like their graduation from Maryville College or the students that attend Highland.
Bogart opened his speech with great emphasis on his perspective as an economist. He spoke with two main topics in mind: origins/motivations and methodology. He went into detail on Highland’s establishment in the early 50s and acknowledged that Highland Presbyterian exists because of Maryville College.
He talked about how Highland never had to question whom to serve because it was made to serve the college and its students. He expressed what a blessing it has been for that mind set of the congregation to go without wavering for 60 years.
“From founding members and alumni to today’s students and faculty, Highland has provided a welcoming home within easy walk of campus,” Bogart said. “In turn, Maryville College exists to prepare students for lives of citizenship and leadership as we challenge each one to search for truth, grow in wisdom, work for justice and dedicate a life of creativity and service to the peoples of the world.”
Within his speech, Bogart also expressed his gratitude for the students at Maryville College and their commitment to charity and community involvement.
Although the college has changed immensely since its foundation in 1819, Bogart spoke about one consistent theme within its existence: sending students into the world as strong workers because of the belief that every person adds to society by being both ethical and productive individuals.
“Thank you to Highland Presbyterian for its first 60 years of living out this scriptural command, and I look forward to the next 60 years of the journey together,” Bogart said.