Nearly 50 years ago, the B & B Tavern, a Lenoir City barroom located on Highway 70 near Eaton's Crossroads, was a popular site for impromptu parties. Most likely, on New Year's Eve, many revelers toasted to new beginnings at the bar, jukebox playing in the background. As one of seven beer joints on Highway 70, it was patronized by truckers and locals. "It was joked that the sheriff's department kept two police cars out here - one coming and one going," the Rev. Dennis Kirk, Community Baptist Church pastor, said. Organized in 1968, Community Baptist Church purchased the barroom building property and the 9 acres on which it sits in 1969. The church initially met on B street in Lenoir City, beginning in 1967. The Rev. Grant Carter, who now lives in Kingston, was the first pastor. The church began meeting first in a tent on the property. A few weeks later, according to church records, services were held in the former barroom, which had been gutted and transformed into a sanctuary. According to information supplied by Kirk, the small congregation faced battles from those who did not want to see the building become a church. "Sometimes people would come and sit in the parking lot and blow their horns and slam their car hoods while Brother Carter was trying to preach," Kirk said. "This was a rough part of town and a Bible believing, Bible preaching church was not welcome." Kirk, who came to the church as pastor in 2009, understood well the significance of the transformation. Growing up in Memphis, he had spent years in bars, in rehabilitation facilities and in jail. In his tract testimony, "From Gutters ... to Grace," he acknowledged his past. "From age 13 to 25, my life was filled with drinking, drugs, fighting, stealing, lying and breaking the hearts of those who really loved me," Kirk said. "I spent a lot of New Year's Eves on Beale Street," Kirk added. A lot can change in individuals as well as locations. The significance was not lost on Kirk. "I thought it was kind of neat the way the Lord allowed me to come out of the life I had and pastor in a church that started as a bar," he said. Since Kirk came to Community Baptist, he has held many Watchnight services at the church, offering the congregation an opportunity to come together for fellowship and begin the year with corporate prayer. Watchnight services have been held by many denominations at various times. For some, they allow people to review the year that has passed and provide an opportunity to prepare for the year ahead. According to Interpreter Magazine, Watchnight services are said to have originated in the Methodist Church, by the Rev. John Wesley in 1740. They were called covenant renewal services. At Central United Methodist Church, not far from Community Baptist, the Rev. Doug Crowder, former pastor, was a proponent of Watchnight services. "My husband loved the New Year's Eve service," said Elaine Crowder, wife of the late pastor who died in 2010. "He thought it was good to have something for people who didn't want to participate in a lot of drinking. One time we had board games. They would do different things. "Then about 11:30 p.m. there would be a worship service with special music and prayer and scripture," she said. "It would end at 12 a.m. After that we had breakfast - a regular cooked buffet." The services held by Community Baptist include some of the same elements. Fellowship is an important component. A movie may be shown sometimes to start the evening, Kirk said. "Sometimes we preach," Kirk said. "Sometimes we share testimonies. Then before midnight, we encourager people to hold hands and pray the new year in." Watchnight services appear to be on the wane for most local churches. Central Baptist Church in Loudon will have a service New Year's Eve at the Family Life Building, with board games, basketball, finger foods and fellowship. Prayer will be part of the evening as well, but the event likely will be ending about 10 p.m. Pastor Bud Slaton said the gathering will not be a traditional watchnight service. "With the watchnight services I attended in the past, the people would actually stay at the church and pray in the new year. The watchnight is going away, but we have a prayer service for our country's leaders and for peace every Wednesday. This is more of a fellowship time." This New Year's Eve, Community Baptist will hold a Visions Banquet early in the evening, to share and refocus members on the needs and plans for the future. Then, those who wish may remain to welcome the new year. The church has grown steadily since its beginning. A new auditorium was built before Kirk came to the church. Office nursery, children's church and Sunday School room spaces were added on and a courtyard to connect two buildings. A strong Hispanic ministry, led by the Rev. Adolfo Bourdet, now meets in the block building that once was the B & B Tavern. The Hispanic ministry came to Community Baptist when the church merged with SouthEast Baptist. At Community Baptist, English and Spanish services meet simultaneously and occasionally they combine. "I love this place," Bourdet, a native of Bolivia, said. "It has been a great experience. What God is doing here, with people getting saved, is blessing to us. As a pastor, I am growing and learning. It has been a good experience. This place has been dedicated to the Lord." The church is still growing quickly and additional space is needed. The congregation can top 200 at times. "It is so much fun to watch the church grow," Karanna Kirk, Dennis' wife, said. It was her idea to add a community walking trail on the property. "I love to walk and I walk here a lot," Karanna said. "I thought it would be nice to have a place people could come before and after services. There's no place in this part of the community to walk." The ideas for future growth are not new. "We've been talking about our 2013 goals a lot this year," Karanna said. "We just want to get everybody excited, everything in place and get moving on it."