111-year-old church plans to celebrate its history
During a special service at 9:30 a.m. June 23, New Hope United Methodist Church, located at 1516 New Hope Rd. in Benton, will host a special service to celebrate 111 years as a congregation.
“There is a lot of history,” said longtime member Karen Glenn, who was raised in the church.
Two acres of land for the church was donated by Ambrose and Cora Hope on Sept. 10, 1908. Between the donation and July 11, 1909, the original building was constructed.
The deed stated the land has to be a place of worship for what was then known as the Methodist Episcopal Church South.
The original church was destroyed by a windstorm in the spring of 1954.
According to an article that ran at the time in the newspaper, no tornado was reported but the church showed signs of having been lifted off the ground.
The building where the church still meets was built in 1955. A parsonage was added in 1960.
The Rev. Shari Leech Day has served as New Hope’s pastor for two years. She and her family are from Benton.
“I think with most churches a future is built on its history,” she said, adding this church’s long history is “amazing.”
She said many of the congregants are the children and grandchildren of the past congregants.
Glenn said the church cur
rently has close to 80 members and averages between 15 and 20 attendees each Sunday.
The church is a traditionalstyle church with a center aisle leading up to an alter with six stained glass windows featuring images such as a lamb and bread and wine. Two more can be seen from outside the church. It has classrooms and a fellowship hall as well.
Glenn said the worship style is also traditional.
She added it used to be a country church, but Benton has grown up around it.
Day said she is surprised by the range of ages the church has who regularly attend.
She added the church is close knit while also being open to anyone who walks in the door.
“We are very loving and we welcome all visitors,” Glenn added.
While the church is small,
Day said it does work to reach out into the community through the Churches Joint Council On Human Needs and it is also open to helping those in need societally and spiritually. The church also selects a family to help at Christmas each year.
A scholarship named for former pastor Clayton Harris has provided college funds for 20 graduating seniors since it was founded in his honor. Harris served as pastor from 1978 to 1988 when he died.
He had suggested creating the scholarship before his death and worked toward making that a reality.
His wife, Ann Harrison Dodd, said he had talked about the need for the scholarship and the importance of education from the pulpit.
During the special service, the church plans to invite members and those with history
at the church to share their stories.
Randy Mason will be the special guest singer for the event.
Former Pastor Natasha Murray, director of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, will speak.
Following the service, the church will have coffee and donuts. There will be a scrapbook of church history for attendees to view.
Day said a passage from the bulletin from the centennial celebration sums up the purpose of the service.
“Today’s worship service is an opportunity to celebrate God’s faithfulness to the church in the past, to ask God to grace the church in the present, and to depend upon God for the church in the future.”
The original New Hope United Methodist Church was built at 1516 New Hope Road in Benton in 1908 and stood until it was destroyed by wind in 1954.
The building where the members of New Hope United Methodist Church still meet was built in 1955 to replace the first building that was destroyed.