It should come as no surprise that the tenth decade begins with an unpledged budget, a search for a music director, concerns about needed repairs to the organ, the need for a church van/bus, discussions about the “state of the parsonage,” and a lack of excitement about missions and Bible study! As we revisit our history, it is amazing to see how frequently we "relive” our history.
The decade begins with the reappointment of Rev. Dr. Landis to Mount Vernon with the stipulation that he expected the church to become a “worshiping congregation, an informal church, and an increased mission.” Although Dr. Landis continued to challenge the congregation for falling short of its potential stewardship, he provided the leadership for many new initiatives before his retirement in 1976. In November of 1974 the Mount Vernon congregation honored him and celebrated his 65th birthday with a surprise party and the gift of an 11-day vacation in Hawaii. At the time of his retirement a picnic was held at Hyco Lake and Reverend Landis was given a television and a hammock.
During this time, a memorial was given to purchase a new pulpit for the sanctuary. Under the wise leadership of a committee by Lydia Harvey, Helen Henderson, and Nell Jefferson, the decision was made that the historical value of the pulpit was priceless, and plans were made to redesign the present pulpit and to establish a Memorials Committee that would prioritize projects for future memorial gifts.
In 1975 the church undertook a new mission project – the relocation of a Vietnamese refugee family to Danville. With leadership from Lydia Harvey and Rebecca Yow, a home was provided and furnished and a job secured for the father. Church members gave loving sponsorship to this family until they relocated to California, seeking better jobs and to join a larger Vietnamese community.
Rev. H. Randolph Arrington was appointed to serve Mount Vernon in June of 1976. One of his first tasks was to lead the church in finding a music director after the resignation of Lou Mize. Jim Carmichael, a young man with a vision of how the music program at the church could grow, began his service with the church. During the rest of this decade he worked to set up a graded choir program for children, secure funding for two additional octaves of bells, and assist the church in purchasing the present tracker organ rather than spending $85,000 on the previous organ, which continued to deteriorate.
It was in 1976 that the Mother’s Morning Out program began as a means of serving young couples with children. Supported by the guidance and leadership of Susan Smith and Ely Foster, this endeavor eventually evolved into our present Children’s House preschool.
During Reverend Arrington’s pastorate the Memorials Committee purchased American and Christian flags to display in the sanctuary and a pall to be used at funerals. It was also during this time that the church began an accounting system that enabled church members to receive regular statements reflecting their financial support to the church.
Rev. Wasena Wright was appointed to Mount Vernon in 1980, and he served as senior minister through the rest of the church’s tenth decade. During this time, Claude Owen Jr. led a stewardship campaign that still echoes through the church halls: the infamous "Pony Express."
Other initiatives undertaken during this time include a 2½ year project to prepare needlepoint kneelers with traditional Christian symbols for the communion rail ... the appointment of a woman (Rev. Dorothy O’Quinn) to serve as associate pastor … the tradition of placing a wooden cross in front of the church during Lent … the compilation of a wedding brochure identifying guidelines for weddings at Mount Vernon … expanded youth programs and activities … and the support of additional mission projects (World Hunger, the Cherokee mission, and additional funding for the Henry Fork mission).
After many, many discussions and committee meetings about the need for transportation (hmmm, does this sound familiar?) the church finally purchased a 44-passenger bus in 1982! Guidelines were developed about who could use the bus and who would be responsible for the bus upkeep. About the same time, a capital campaign was proposed to provide for repairs and replacements needed to maintain the church facility and a five-year plan (which included the cost of a new organ) estimated at $443,500 was proposed. Due to the campaign leadership of Ruth Sager and Charles Majors, $555,361.20 was pledged!
A membership survey revealed that members of the church wanted Bible study and discussion. Three Bible studies were planned ... very few church members attended.
In 1983, the year before the Centennial Celebration, Emily Grousbeck offered her home on Stratford Place as a new parsonage. The previous parsonage was sold and the proceeds of that sale were given to Grousbeck.
It was also in 1983 that Mount Vernon’s version of the “burning bush” occurred. It seems that after the flower-covered cross was taken down after Easter, the “beautiful, large boxwood” behind it was found to be badly damaged. A “burning bush” committee was appointed, and it decided to remove the damaged bush and the matching boxwood on the other side of the entry. Three types of holly were planted in a symmetrical design on both sides of the front entrance.
The church approached its birthday in 1984 with a successful capital campaign, a pledged budget, plans for a new organ, needed capital repairs underway, a vibrant music ministry that included children’s musicals, an active youth ministry, and a congregation that thrived under the leadership of Wasena Wright.