It began with a question.
“We are celebrating Hillyer Memorial Christian Church on its centennial,” said Joe Harris in the first of several phone calls and emails, “and I am looking for information on Raleigh Topping, who attended Atlantic Christian College and founded our congregation. Do you have anything?”
The call came in on February 9th, 2015. “We’re having a recognition of Topping and our church’s centennial on February 22, 2015,” Joe continued, “so anything you can get to me before then would be much appreciated.”
Fortunately, previous Barton College archivists had preserved a small but valuable set of materials, including copies of several letters that Topping had written while he was a student in Wilson. Copies were made and duly sent to Joe Harris in time for the celebrations at Hillyer.
Now in recent weeks, Joe and his wife, Helen, visited the campus to renew acquaintance with their alma mater and to present a copy of Hillyer Memorial Christian Church: One Hundred Years, 1915-2015 to the Carolina Discipliana Collection. Written by J. Michael Wenger (son of College President Arthur Wenger) and Dr. Alvin M. Fountain, II and designed by Barton College senior Theresa Scott (who has been accepted into NC State’s Graphic Design master’s program), Hillyer Memorial documents the many personalities and events that mark the life, work and ministry of this important Disciples congregation.
Raleigh Topping was among that small group of “anxious” Christians meeting to organize a new congregation in the downtown Raleigh Police Courtroom on February 28, 1915. Doubtless, Topping and his fledgling congregation were filled with questions as to what work God might call them to do. This volume explores not only the early days but brings the congregation’s history all the way to the Centennial celebrations of 2015.
Hillyer Memorial Christian Church: One Hundred Years, 1915-2015 will soon take its place on the shelves of a newly reconstituted Carolina Discipliana Collection. Carefully organized and preserved by Charles Crossfield Ware, Kitty Gaylord and Walter Anderson, and now tended by College archivist Shannon Wilson, the collection for several years has been in storage in Harper Hall but is currently being prepared for relocation to the Hackney Library. Once this task is completed, students, researchers and visitors will once again have access to one of the more important collections of books, pamphlets, journals, church records, and photographs documenting Disciples in the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia.
Many more stories await discovery in these collections, waiting only for a question.