Our History

In the Beginning

(SONrise Emmaus History as told by Sparky Dyson)

In the beginning, God said, "Let there be light!" and the SONrise began. But back before the dawn of SONrise, before the beginning of time in this community, the Spirit of God was moving upon the face of the deep. And it moved Ernest and Julia Cushman from their home at Munsey Memorial to the land of Kingsport and the church of Glen Alpine. The Cushmans were not the light, but they bore witness to the light, and made straight the way for the coming of spiritual renewal. The Cushmans beget Herb and Carol Creech, and greatly desired that they too experience the light, but there was as yet no place to walk in their own land. So God said to Herb, "Leave your home and your watch behind, and go to a far off land that I will show you, a land beyond the city of the mighty Vols and nigh unto the people of the choo choo, and there walk with me to Emmaus. And Herb did as God commanded. God saw that it was good, and the morning and the evening were the first step.

Others there were that had experienced the light - some with the Cushmans and Creeches, some in other lands. They banded together and formed the United Emmaus Community, and made in their own land a place to walk. The Creeches beget Alan and Janie Hobbs, and the Cushmans and the Creeches and the Hobbs beget many others at Glen Alpine and at other churches in the land, and the Kingsport community began to grow within the nurture of United. God saw that it was good, and the morning and the evening were the second step.

The Hobbs beget Sparky and Gail Dyson, and the Dysons beget Rick and Joyce Russell, and Derry and Margie Nichols, and Kevin and Kim Pruitt, and Eddie and Celia Johnson, and others too numerous to mention. Each of these beget others, and God saw that the Children of the Light had multiplied and were too numerous for the walks, for the waiting lists had grown ponderous. And God said, "Let there be a place to walk in Kingsport," and it was so. And God called this new community, SONrise, because the light of the risen Son was in their hearts. God saw that it was good, and the morning and the evening were the third step.

And God said, "Let Herb Creech be called the Community Lay Director, and let Buddy Miller be called the Community Spiritual Director," for God had called the Cushmans to a new country, and Buddy had picked up the staff of Ernest at Glen Alpine. God said, "Let Alan and Janie Hobbs be called Lay Directors of the first walks," and it was so. And the first SONrise walks were led on church circle, part at each of the churches thereof, in the winter of 1990. God saw that it was good, and the morning and the evening were the fourth step.

But even before the first pilgrim began to walk in the new SONrise, God was working to build another community; for the young do not always follow in the steps of the old, though they hunger for the light as do their elders. So God said to Janie Hobbs, "Sponsor a male child of the Dyson’s and a male child of the Russell’s to journey to the capital city and walk there with my caterpillars, for I desire to make new creatures of them." So Janie did as God commanded, and the two young men returned as if on fire, and they sponsored 5 young women to go to the capital city and become butterflies. They too caught fire and sponsored 9 more youth to meet God on the mountaintop at Junaluska, where walkers from around the world had come together. And the 16 said, "Let us have a place in Kingsport to fly, for we know so many caterpillars that long to be butterflies." But some of their elders said, "Let us first make a place for adults to walk, and when we have finished that, we will make a place for caterpillars." But the youth were on fire, and it touched the hearts of the old. Together they prayed to God, and God said, "My light shines on both the young and the old, and there is enough of my Spirit for all. Let there be a Chrysalis Community. Let Rick Russell be called the Chrysalis Community Lay Director, and let Kevin and Kim Pruitt be called Lay Directors of the first flights," and it was so. And the Chrysalis community began in the very same year as the SONrise. And lo, a wondrous thing occurred in their midst, for children began to beget parents. God saw that it was good, and the morning and the evening were the fifth step.

But alas, some Children of the Light were neither young nor old, and having just recently left the nest they said, "We must learn to both walk and fly. Is there not a way for us?" But the high priest of Emmaus in the Upper Room said, "There has never been such a thing! Children of the light have either walked or flown." But God said, "Let the Journey begin," and it was so. And SONrise and the Upper Room worked together to create a way for young adults to both walk and fly. God said, "Let Eddie Johnson and Margie Nichols be called Lay Directors of the first Journey, and let the young men and the young women journey side by side." And God saw that it was good, and the morning and the evening were the sixth step.

God saw that all that He had made was good, and He thought to rest on the seventh step. But the Spirit of God still moved upon the face of the deep, and the light spread to the Highlands of Virginia, and a community was begun there; and the light spread to the city of the mighty Vols, and a community was begun there. Then Margie Nichols beget Mary Lynne Peterson of the high mountains in the East, and the wonders and the begettings that followed thereafter are greater than words can speak, for the comings and the goings of that people are numbered with the sands of the sea.

And so it came to pass that a spiritual renewal was begun in the lands of the mountain empire; for the Children of the Light kept not this light unto themselves, nor was it hoarded in communities, but the light began to shine in their churches, and in their homes, and in their places of work. And unto every one whose heart was touched by the light, agape love poured forth. And they said to one another, "Surely the Son is risen, for He walks with me." And God saw that it was good.