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Local church celebrates
180th anniversary

 

By Alex Welch
Assistant Editor

  Mount Bethel United Methodist Church celebrated a milestone last Sunday, as May 19 marked the 180th consecutive year of the congregation offering religious services. As its history spans throughout three different centuries, the church has seen plenty of changes over the course of its existence.

Mount Bethel UMC recently celebrated their 180th anniversary of offering religious services.                        Photo by Alex Welch

  The first site for Mount Bethel began across the road from its current location. It was known as the Flowers Meeting House in honor of Drury Flowers, the property owner, with its initial origins dating back to 1823.

  Ten years later, the church began gathering at the site used today. A deed from Henry Winderweedle shows he donated one acre of land in 1833 for a Methodist Episcopal church. Trustees Drury Flowers, Christian Lewis, John Hunt, Hillery Phillips and Levi Turner accepted the land to establish an official church and school. Hunt donated one half acre of land in 1948 to add to the church’s property. His donation currently serves as the cemetery.

  The original church was likely constructed from logs. Church historian Diane Chumbley said there aren’t official documents from this time. “We’ve just got word of mouth,” Chumbley said, explaining that much of the early history was simply passed along verbally.

  A wooden board structure was built in 1891 to accommodate larger gatherings, according to church records. In 1938, another rebuilding process took place, this time including a brick exterior. Over the years, the church has endured renovations and additions, but Chumbley said the current structure still incorporates the first foundation. “The sanctuary still has part of the church that was built in 1938,” she said. “We’ve just added to it. It’s still with us.”

  The largest expansion to Mount Bethel came in 2003, when the Christian Life Center was developed to create office space, classrooms, a nursery, a library and more, according to Chumbley. She said Sunday school classes are held here today. The addition includes a full kitchen for events, like a dinner they held for Mother’s Day earlier this month.

Chumbley documents the happenings in the church today, adding to the lengthy archives already in place. She has been a part of the church her entire life, but she didn’t take over her current role until Harold Rogers passed away, leaving the position to her. “I’ve been doing it for about 10 years,” she said.

  Making notes of Mount Bethel’s events is common, but she also takes pictures of the church’s endeavors to keep track of it all in the archives.

  Records also show attendance figures from the past. Sunday school classes began in 1887, with 95 people present. Today, Mount Bethel averages 100 people for Sunday school and church services.

  The sanctuary now has a projector and screen for hymn lyrics and notes each weekend. While Mount Bethel has progressed over the years to accommodate growing membership and changes of society, the history of the church is still visible and part of the culture.

  For more on Mount Bethel UMC, visit www.mtbethelumc81e.org.

 

 

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