Column: First Methodist reaches historic milestones

Published 3:42 pm Friday, October 13, 2023

By Marsha Littleton |Community Columnist

On Sept. 10, the congregation of the First Methodist Church of Clanton celebrated two major milestones. The local Methodist congregation was recognized 150 years ago in 1873, and the current church sanctuary was completed and put into use a century ago in 1923.

During post-Civil War Reconstruction days, Goose Pond, which is now Clanton, was not much more than a wide place in the road. However, the railroad ran through it, so the town and its population began to grow.

While a Methodist Society was present, existing records began in 1873 when the first church property was purchased and the congregation was recognized.

In 1873, Alfred Baker sold the property on 8th Street where the church now stands for one dollar, and a small one-story frame building was erected to house the Methodist worshippers.

Four years later, that building was sold and moved to another site. Another larger church was built on that site and was dedicated in 1888. This structure featured a bell tower, a pot-bellied stove for heat in the winter and windows that allowed cross-breezes to cool the congregation in the summer. The first pastor was R.A. Micars, who shared his preaching duties with four other churches in the area.

In the early 1920s, a larger brick church was envisioned by the congregation, and the current classic revival style structure was built. The majority of the cost was covered when the well-known evangelist Bob Jones came and preached a three-day revival. The congregation met in the county courthouse during construction and moved into the new church in 1923.

Since then, the church and its congregation have grown, adding an education wing, building the Helen E. Parrish Activity Center housing contemporary worship, a gymnasium, classrooms and a kitchen. The Gibson Youth Center and the San Juan Mission have also been added.

On Celebration Sunday, Rev. Wes Kelley’s sermon theme was based on the scripture in Deuteronomy 11:18-21, in which God tells his chosen people to remember how he had blessed them, and to hand down those words from generation to generation.

Sunday evening’s celebration began with “dinner on the ground” (actually in the church’s Activity Center). Multiple tables were spread with photos and memorabilia from decades past. Congregants were invited to highlight and sign their favorite scripture in a new Bible which would be included in the time capsule, which was buried for future generations.

An evening service was held in the church’s historic sanctuary. It featured traditional music from years past sung by the Chancel Choir and the congregation, as well as a contemporary song from worship leader Tommy Lenoir.

After a message of reflection on the history of the Methodist Church in Clanton, Rev. Kelley read a letter written by him to those who would open the time capsule in the future.

At that point, the service and congregation moved outside for the dedication of the new outdoor cross, located in front of the wall on the left side of the sanctuary. This cross was designed and constructed by Jason Cleckley of Viking Fabrication in Jemison.

The time capsule containing the aforementioned Bible, a church directory, Rev. Kelley’s letter and other items of current times was buried in the grass in front of the cross.

The service, as well as the celebration, concluded with Holy Communion, the Lord’s Prayer and a closing hymn.