Posts Tagged ‘ Digging Deep ’

Trinity Bible Church, Pt. 1 – Visited on 1/15/11

Trinity Bible Church sits at the corner of Cherry and Myrtle in downtown Rock Hill, a two-story hulk of red brick crowned by a slim white steeple.  Cherry is an arterial route the strip malls, drive-thru banks and fast food joints of Rock Hill.  There is a certain honesty in its crass commerciality, from the Earth Fare green grocery store catering to students at nearby Winthrop University to the workers by the roadside advertising car sales and payday loans with garish costumes and cardboard signs.  Myrtle is different.

Myrtle winds back from its juncture with Cherry Road two blocks behind the storefronts and parking lots.  Trees and cheap housing screen Myrtle’s buildings from the scrum of commerce a hundred yards away.  Its houses are brick and whitewash, their porches framed by imitations of Grecian columns, fenced with walls if iron posts and red bricks.  Many vehicles slumber in their shaded driveways, and vines creep along their shadowed walls.

Trinity Bible Church stands at the collision of Rock Hill’s genteel, provincial past and its burgeoning commercial future.  Its windows are a rippling, bubbled glass, distorted to opacity.  From the outside they are blank, dull sheets; viewed from within, on a bright winter morning, they admit a hazy glow of blue and yellow light.

The sanctuary of Trinity Bible Church has the feel of some ancient Viking hall.  Double columns of pews march beneath a vaulted ceiling of dark wooden beams.  The airy space beneath its peaked roof is lit by electric lamps that dangle from on high, gleaming cylinders of metal and glass.  A solid wooden pulpit stands before the pews on a raised stage; a tiered choir loft rises behind it, while a grand piano sprawls in languor at stage right.

The morning service on January 15th at Trinity started at 11 AM, and its congregation was a punctual lot.  The vast majority arrived within five minutes of the call to worship.  They were an older group, gray heads in cardigans and suits, speckled here and there with younger couples and teenagers.  The young children spent the morning’s worship in Sunday Schools behind the sanctuary.

Once the congregation settled into Trinity’s broad wooden pews, the church choir started in with a medley of hymns.  The grand piano offered accompaniment, and a projector screen above the choir provided lyrics for the congregation to sing along.  After one song the congregation broke into a scrimmage of handshakes and ‘good mornings’ at the associate pastor’s command.  The pews that fill the sanctuary floor constricted the crowd’s movements; most worshippers shuffled a few yards in either direction, exchanging hugs and greetings with their neighbors.  Then the choir resumed, and their music called the crowd back to their seats.

After the last hymn Rev. Matthew James took the stage.  The senior pastor of Trinity, James announced that though the 15th was ‘Sanctity of Life Sunday,’ he would not lead that day’s sermon.  Instead, Trinity Bible Church hosted a guest when Churchspotting visited: a Dr. Steve Smith took James’ place behind the pulpit to speak to the congregation about his group, Digging Deep.

Smith described himself as a former Baptist pastor, formerly of Bob Jones University.  He showed a documentary on his group’s work and spoke to the congregation for the rest of the service, yet it remains difficult to say exactly what it is Digging Deep does.  News reports and documentation of the organization are scant.  Smith described it as a Christian organization created to provide American Christians access to historical sites in Israel related to scenes from the Bible.

As best Churchspotting can determine, Digging Deep organizes tours of sites they attribute to particular stories in Christian and Jewish scripture.  The group also plays some role in archaeological excavation of these sites.  They claim to have pinpointed the place where the Last Supper took place, down to where Jesus sat at the head of the table.  Dr. Smith also claimed his group had found the field from which the shepherds of the Christmas story saw the star over Bethlehem.

One of Digging Deep’s programs is Tefahk al Tefahk.  The group claims that the shepherds’ field is now threatened with development, and accepts donations to buy the land and turn it into a Biblical park.  Donators can contribute $77 towards the group to have a stone inscribed with their name set in the field, to represent their contribution to preserving the site.

Dr. Smith made repeated references to Biblical prophecy during his presentation to Trinity Bible Church.  He claimed that all the ritual machinery of worship at the Temple in Jerusalem must be restored before Biblical prophecies of the End Times can come to fruition.  He claimed that goal, realizing prophecy, as the motivation behind Digging Deep’s excavation and renovation of what the group claims are the Pools of Siloam, the ancient bath where classical Israelites washed before worshipping in the temple.

At the end of the service a special offering was taken up from the congregation to support Digging Deep.  As of this writing, the archaeological basis by which Digging Deep authenticates its claims remains unknown.  The provenance of the archaeologists presumably doing the authenticating also remains unknown.