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First Methodist Church celebrates 100th anniversary in 2020

  • The venerable First United Methodist Church of Chester is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its church at State and Servant streets.

    The venerable First United Methodist Church of Chester is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its church at State and Servant streets.
    Gwendy Garner photo

 
By Gwendy Garner
Contributing writer
updated: 2/5/2020 6:12 PM

Throughout the year, the First United Methodist Church of Chester will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its building at State and Servant streets.

The church's Lay Leader kicked off the yearlong celebration by presenting a church history on Jan. 26.

The Methodist congregation in Chester actually dates to 1840, when D.H. Hatton, a Methodist circuit rider, gathered six communicants in the town and organized the church. A German Methodist Church was organized in 1848. By 1850 the two congregations were meeting at 851 State St., with the Methodist Episcopal Church (English speaking) meeting upstairs and the German Methodists meeting downstairs.

In 1872 the Methodist Episcopal Church purchased a church building from the local Presbyterian Church and began meeting there. That church building, which still sits behind the current Randolph County Courthouse, is presently owned by the First Christian Church.

In 1919 the Methodist congregation bought property at 871 State St. and built a church building at a cost of $25,000. The cornerstone of the building was laid at 2:30 p.m. on July 11, 1920. Officiating were the mayor of Chester, prominent citizen and church member Dr. W.R. McKensie, and the pastor, the Rev. Josiah G. Harmon, who served the congregation from 1917 until 1921.

The congregation continued to grow, and eventually an education building was needed. In 1961, under the leadership of the Rev. R. Paul Sims, a two-story addition was completed at a cost of $83,000.

According to a current church spokesman, the women of the church raised a lot of that money by hosting weekly dinners for the community, cooked in the church's old kitchen. The dinners were sold at 50 cents per meal.

The Chester congregation has seen some denominational changes through the years. A unification in 1939 changed the name from Methodist Episcopal (M.E.) to First Methodist. In a 1968 merger, the name became First United Methodist.

All throughout 2020, historical aspects of the church will be addressed at Sunday morning worship services. Plans are being made for the Bishop of the United Methodist Church to join the congregation later this year and the church plans to participate in various community activities as the year progresses.