Tuesday, September 17, 2013

History Repeats Itself

   "In the year of our Lord, 1901, in the old car barn on Second Avenue, now the Home Theatre, there was a prayer meeting started on Sunday afternoon which continued to hold its meetings for about a year. On the First Sunday of November 1902, the prayer meeting was organized into a church.... This was done about two weeks before the South Georgia Conference." So goes the best early history of the church started in Bibb City over a century ago, as recorded by C. Rush in 1930. 
  Given the name North Highland, the church was grouped with the Pearce Chapel congregation to make up a two point circuit. Just a few short months later, a move was made to build a church. A "Lot Committee" was formed to investigate the best location within the newly surveyed section of North Highland, and they settled on two lots on the corner of Third Avenue and Thirty-First Street because they figured it would be at the center of the industrial community that was in the works. Soon after they acquired the used tabernacle structure that St. Luke Methodist no longer needed, and in 1906 the people built the first church building. In the 1909 Conference, the Rev. Hamp Stevens was sent to serve the now stand-alone church in the growing section of Columbus. He served for four years and "was a man that every one loved." He was moved for two years [at this point in Methodist history serving a church for any length over one year was rare and considered a very long appointment] but was returned in 1915 and served another seven. After moving to serve Richland for a year, he retired in 1923 and died in 1924. But, during the eleven years he served, the mutual love between he and the church, and the growth that happened, prompted the church in 1926, at the dedication of the newest Sanctuary building, to rename itself in honor of its most beloved pastor. 
Hamp Stevens UMC
   This early history of the Hamp Stevens Memorial Methodist Church seems ancient when compared to our lives. Only names and dates remain from the real stories of the Spirit's inspiration and vision that was caught to serve a new neighborhood and the families that would soon call it home. But, the history of Hamp Stevens has become the history of Epworth, and interestingly they are similar in many ways. Columbus was growing and a new neighborhood was being built. Local church leaders, men and women, felt led to build a place that would become a spiritual home to worship, fellowship, and grow in. Whether it was 1902 or 1960, our stories are very similar. 
Epworth UMC
   We gather on Homecoming to celebrate the same Spirit that continues to inspire us to worship and grow. We are given power to change our community and shape the lives of young and old, alike. May the simple act of remembering give us a renewed sense of what it means to be church together. Grace and Peace, Scott

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