Benton UMC celebrates 177 years

Homecoming service set for April 30

Special to the Banner
Posted 4/21/17

Benton United Methodist Church will celebrate its 177th birthday with a homecoming service and lunch on Sunday, April 30. All former members of the church and community residents are invited to …

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Benton UMC celebrates 177 years

Homecoming service set for April 30

Posted

Benton United Methodist Church will celebrate its 177th birthday with a homecoming service and lunch on Sunday, April 30. All former members of the church and community residents are invited to attend.

The service will begin at 11 a.m. with the lunch to follow. The Rev. Dave Whaley will welcome the members and guests, and Superintendent Hugh Kilgore will deliver the sermon.

Wendell Richardson will direct the church choir. Mary Frances Healan, church historian, is chairman of the homecoming event with Mary Holmes and Wilma Jean Pippenger assisting. Ms. Healan had a large number of her family at the Easter service, with many of them being members of Benton United Church.

Members are very proud of the interesting history of Benton United Methodist Church. The current church building was a white frame Army chapel at Camp Forrest, near Tullahoma, during World War II. Benton Methodist purchased the building for $90. It cost $7,000 to move it. Each piece of timber was numbered and carefully dismantled, and just as carefully reconstructed, with only one small window being broken.

The date of the first brick church building is unknown, but was possibly soon after the date of the deed, which is April 4, 1840, when James McKamy deeded a parcel of land to the trustees of the Methodist Church. The deed reads: “Methodist Episcopal Church South.”

The frame building which the chapel replaced was built in 1907. The original church was nondenominational. A movement to build a new church was begun in 1937. The dismantling of the old church began on June 2, 1947.

On Sunday, Nov. 30, 1947, the church observed the re-opening of the new church. The church debt was cleared in 1954 while the Rev. Ralph Posey was pastor. The church was dedicated Aug. 14, 1955, by Bishop Roy H. Short during the pastorate of the Rev. Lawrence C. Clark.

At that time, the church had 35 members. In 1968, under the leadership of the Rev. Cal Maas, and Dan O. Clemmer, chairman of the trustees, a new brick addition was added to the church at a cost of $20,000. The debt on the addition was cleared in 1973 and dedicated on Feb. 24, 1974, by Bishop L. Scott Allen with the Rev. Joe Marine as pastor.

A new parsonage for the church was dedicated by Bishop Clay Lee and District Superintendent Robert Walker and John Daugherty, Charles Stone, Johnny Pippenger and Margaret Evelyn Biggs. Church trustees assisted with the dedication. A new community building has been added recently behind the church.

Recently, a prayer garden has been added to the side of the church and will be dedicated at the homecoming service with a special brick placed in honor of Edward Spurling and Mike Barter, who served as chairmen of the project.

The church has many activities and special services, such as the Manna Kitchen, which feeds the elderly and is chaired by Kay Green. The church has received many compliments about its Sac Pac project which provides food for students at Benton Elementary and Chilhowee Middle schools to take home for the weekend. This valuable program is chaired by Pete and Gail Pharr, and seems much appreciated by the students.

The church’s history includes the interesting story of how the “War of the Roses” was held under the three large, beautiful trees which surrounded the church. This was the site of many political campaigns, the most famous being between brothers Bob and Alf Taylor, both of whom were running for governor of Tennessee. Their father, the Rev. Taylor, preached there. The church has been and still is a vital part of the community.

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