111-year-old church plans to cel­e­brate its his­tory

The Saline Courier Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By El­isha Morrison el­[email protected]­ton­courier.com

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.”

Spe­cial to The Sa­line Courier

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.

EL­ISHA MORRISON/THE Sa­line Courier

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.

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