Elm Grove Church

ELM GROVE CHURCH sits at the corner of State Route U and Elm Grove Road in northern Christian County near Rogersville.

Mark your calendars for 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, for an old-time auction with food and fellowship to raise money for the needy. It’s time for the annual Lord’s Acre Sale at Elm Grove Church in rural Rogersville, and a 40-plus-year reunion of neighbors, friends and family.

It takes more than a pandemic to stop this Christian County tradition at the 127-year-old Elm Grove Church.This year’s event will begin at 10 a.m. under the outdoor pavilion and continue until all items are sold. Food, including the church’s famous Elm Grove chili, will be available, with COVID-19 safety protocols in place. Social distancing and masks will be required. 

Some items to be auctioned are posted on the church’s Facebook page.

The small United Methodist Church at Elm Grove Road and State Route U between Rogersville and Sparta has been hosting the auction since about 1975, when former pastors John Chaffin and Jerry Humble were on the pulpit. According to long-time member Alen Roller, it started when the church members decided the church needed its own water well rather than relying on the well across the highway at the site of the old Elm Grove School. 

To raise money for the new well, the congregation borrowed a fundraising idea from a member who had attended a church in northern Missouri that hosted an annual benevolence auction. Farm folks shared produce, livestock, wood and homemade goods. Elm Grove members liked the idea, and that’s been the model for more than 40 years.

“People come year after year for certain things they know will be auctioned,” Roller added. It could be cream pies, angel food cakes, hot sauce, elderberry jelly or cinnamon rolls, all made by members. Or you might come for a load of wood, bales of hay, bags of walnuts, stained glass, hand-made quilts, craft items and garden produce. In years past, livestock, dressed and live rabbits and a litter of pups have been auctioned off,” Roller recounted.

“It started with my mom and dad and Johnnie Chaffin. Truman Dennis also helped,” Sue Phillips recalled. 

Phillips grew up in the church, was baptized there and now lives in Strafford. She comes back to Elm Grove for the auction. 

The connection with friends and distant relatives is just as important as the auction itself.

“It brings us all together,” Phillips said. “We have a lot of old ones who used to go, but now their kids or grandkids come.”

Retired auctioneers Tom Lightner and Earl Jones officiated for years at the Lord’s Acre Sale, succeeded by Larry and Terry McKnight. Lightner’s son-in-law, Curt Blount, a regular attendee of Elm Grove, serves as official clerk. The auction raises between $5,000 and $8,000 each year, depending on items and attendance. 

“Elm Grove is a church that always does for people, Lightner said. “If someone needs help, they’re there for them.”

Lightner looks forward to the sale each year, although the 2020 version may be a bit different.

“A regular sale is kind of boring compared to the Lord’s Acre Sale,” Lightner said. “It’s been a really good experience through the years, and the Lord has blessed me for it.”

Though the first auction raised money for a well, and some funds have gone towards church improvements like its fellowship hall, most of the money raised now goes to help people in need.

When tornadoes struck Clever, Elm Grove Church donated money to families there who had no insurance. Marionville and Joplin tornado victims also have benefited from Lord’s Acre donations. The auction benefits the Logan-Rogersville School District’s annual shoe drive and backpack programs, along with donations to Convoy of Hope and Least Of These food pantry. 

“People in our rural community support the auction because they know we support them and others in need,” Roller said. “They come for a good time and lots of laughs but also for a good cause.”

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