It’s an important part of the local religious landscape.
That’s probably the easiest way to sum up Fields of the Wood in Murphy, North Carolina. If you leave my hometown of Cleveland, Tennessee, headed east on U.S. Transcontinental Highway 64, you’ll go through Polk County (the southeastern most county in Tennessee) and then cross over into North Carolina. And, soon, you’ll see the turn-off to Fields of the Wood.
Fields of the Wood was started by Bishop Ambrose Jessup Tomlinson in the early 20th Century. He was a preacher from Indiana who came to Western North Carolina to pass out tracts to the mountain people. He and a few of his followers decided they wanted to start a church, one that would be the true way to Christ. So, one day, he hiked up one of the local mountains and prayed. When he returned, he claimed God had showed him what kind of church it should be. And, thus, the Church of God of Prophecy was born.
When his church formed, Bishop Tomlinson decided its birthplace would be a good place to mark. The church bought 210 acres, including the mountain where Tomlinson went to pray, and it was named Fields of the Wood.
The centerpiece of the park is the world’s largest display of the Ten Commandments. The letters are 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. When Bishop Tomlinson died in 1943, the letters were spelled out in lime. In 1945, the letters were upgraded to white-painted concrete.
Since Tomlinson died, the park has developed. Now, it includes the world’s largest altar, an 80 foot concrete structure where Tomlinson prayed. There is also the world’s largest New Testament; it’s 30 feet tall and 50 feet wide. And, the park holds the world’s largest cross, measuring 115 feet wide and 150 feet long.
In addition, the park includes: Prayer Mountain, Psalms of Praise, puppet shows, the Solid Rock Café, the 1 Fold 1 Shepherd Marker, the Arise, Shine Marker, the Baptismal Pool, the Bethlehem Star, the Chapel, the Duck Pond, the Golgotha replica, the Gospel Theatre, the Hidden Treasures Gift Shop, the replica of Joseph’s Tomb, nature trails, a pavilion, and picnic areas.
Meanwhile, the Church of God of Prophecy has grown to over 700,000 members in 115 countries.
There’s something about the park, though, that bugs me. Heaven forbid I come between anyone and what gets them through the night. But, the whole Ten Commandments thing makes me wonder.
The premise of the church is to “find the true way of Christ.” But, the Ten Commandments listed are not the happy ones; they’re the “Thou shalt not” collection. In Matthew’s Gospel, when Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is, he says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
But, those aren’t listed in the world’s largest display of the Ten Commandments.
And, at the Last Supper, Jesus said, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
I didn’t find that there, either.
But, hey, what do I know?