A History of Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Battle Creek
A History of Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Battle Creek (part 2)
The Fourth Church
The Dime Tabernacle
April 20, 1879 - January 7, 1922)
The fourth Adventist church built in Battle Creek, became known as the "Dime Tabernacle" because church members and the community were invited to give dimes in support of the building project. The idea was suggested by James and Ellen White's second son, James Edson White, and since this was a church used by the denomination for gatherings and general meetings, members were encouraged to save a dime a month for a year to contribute to this project.
It was at General Conference in March, 1878, that a vote was taken to build a larger church because of the increases in numbers being seen from the Sanitarium the review and Herald. The foundation stones were laid August 19, 1878, and construction was completed the next year at $26,275 with all, the furnishings, according to J. N. Loughborough.
The Dime Tabernacle was a brick-faced building with a size of 105 x 130 feet. It had a 108-foot clock tower that was donated by the members of the community. The main auditorium could seat 900 persons, and the gallery another 1,450 with wall seats and extra chairs. The were six large areas for Sabbath School rooms and an office surrounding the auditorium. By raising glass partitions in these rooms at the back of the auditorium, another 850 seats could be added from the north, east, and south vestries, giving the entire building a seating capacity of 3,200. It was dedicated on April 20, 1879. At the dedication service, by seating people on the steps and adding extra chairs, there were 3,649 people in attendance by actual count.
Four entrances provided access and exit. The auditorium pews were heavily padded,with movable benches and chairs in the rooms in the rear.Two graceful staircases led to the gallery area.Overhead there was a large dome of richly colored glass of beautiful design and behind the pulpit were three stained glass windows that portrayed the ten Commandments. A baptismal pool was under the platform in front of the choir space. This church was considered to be a fitting climax to the career of James White. He accepted the General Conference presidency for the last time that year, and died in 1881.
Records in 1898 show a church membership of 1,400 with another 288 who had yet to transfer their memberships from their home churches. There is a Sabbath School membership of 1,133 with 173 classes listed. The Tabernacle continued to serve as a major meeting place for large gatherings of Seventh-day Adventists. It was also used by the community for major large meetings. Evangelists Moody and Sankey spoke there, along with many other well known names. The funerals of both James and Ellen White were conducted in this church. Also several General Conference sessions were held in the tabernacle, including the important 1901 session during which the church organization was restructured.
The fires of the battle Creek Sanitarium (February 18,1902) and the Review and Herald (December 30, 1902) along with consistent counsel from Ellen G. White, finally caused Adventists to begin to decentralize. The educational work had already had moved its center to Berrien Springs prior to the fires. Many saw the fires as divine judgments from God. The Dime Tabernacle continued to be our most prominent church and was used extensively for many years until it was destroyed by fire January 7, 1922.
When it burned , the basement the basement of the Tabernacle was filled with a large number of folding chairs owned by the Michigan Conference, along with campmeeting equipment such as tents, cots, bedding and dishes. By the time the fire was discovered , it was impossible to save the building. The value of the building was estimated at $85,000, but there was only $20,000 in insurance, hardly enough to replace the campmeeting equipment in the basement alone.The local newspaper says that "on Monday morning, January 9, 1922, it was announced that a new tabernacle would be rebuilt," and it was.