Payne Memorial United Methodist Church Is Turning 100

Published 2:36 pm Tuesday, June 24, 2014

CUMBERLAND COURT HOUSE — A hundred years ago, there was no electricity in Cumberland Court House.

A hundred years ago, Effingham Tavern was still standing, the place where Carter Harrison stood to make the first call for American independence.

A hundred years ago, the Civil War was a recent memory.

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A hundred and one years ago, there was no Methodist church in Cumberland Court House. Instead, there was a man with a vision, the Reverend J. T. Payne and a building committee prepared to spend an estimated $1,800.

A lot of things can change in one hundred years, even for a place of worship.

Located at the intersection of U.S. Route 60 and Stoney Point Road, the sanctuary was aptly called the Cumberland Court House Church when it was first constructed in 1914. It would be renamed after Rev. Payne four years following his death in 1917. It’s name changed again in 1922 to Payne Memorial Methodist Church and then again in 1968 to Payne Memorial United Methodist Church

More than the church’s name has changed. The steeple you see today, the carillon that fills the court house-area with music and the stained glass window are all later additions.

Unlike 100 years ago, the church now has all the modern conveniences. Electricity was brought into the area in 1944. The two oil stoves in the sanctuary were later replaced by central air and heat. There is even a telephone. The carillon is programmed via computer. The church is now fully accessible with the addition of an elevator.

The recent construction of the new addition began in 2003. The expanded fellowship hall and kitchen has been used extensively by the church and the community for events such as Vacation Bible School and meetings of the Women’s Club. Because of community support and fundraising, the church was able to pay off the debt for the new construction in less than seven years, says White.

The church has lived through many eras: from buggies to the sinking of the Yellow Submarine coffeehouse.

There were joint revival services held with neighboring churches in the 1930’s. Men were known to wear overalls to those services. Of course, women were still expected to where hats and gloves to Sunday services. No slacks were in sight, points out church historian Patty Pedrick in a timeline of the congregation’s history. Back in the 30’s, there was still the occasional horse and buggy.

The “fire and brimstone” preaching of a new pastor in 1973 caused a stir after he shut down the Yellow Submarine. The youth group had started a coffee house in the basement of the church. Decorated with plaid table clothes and candles, there was even dancing. The Yellow Submarine was evidently a big hit in the community until it was brought to a screeching halt. “The preacher let it be known that it was a sin to dance and there would be no more at Payne,” writes Patty Pedrick in the church history.

And now, Payne Memorial has made it to the year 2014.

It’s a small church, so the milestone is important, says Marjorie White, communications coordinator for the church. She has attended for over fifty years herself, starting in 1959 when she was baptized as a teenager.

“Through God all this happened. We’ve done big things with small things,” she says of the church’s history.

In honor of its 100th anniversary, Payne Memorial United Methodist Church is hosting a centennial celebration on Sunday, June 29. The day will commence at 11 a.m. with a worship service. Superintendent of the Farmville District of the United Methodist Church, Bob Parks, will be the guest speaker.

A covered dish lunch will be held in the fellowship hall following the service. Several groups will provide special music during the afternoon and the festivities will conclude with an ice-cream social at 3 p.m.

The pastor of Payne Memorial, Todd Gess, has created a slideshow of pictures of the church’s history that will be displayed continuously throughout the afternoon.

All are welcome to attend.

“The members of Payne Memorial United Methodist Church give God the glory as they reach this meaningful milestone,” states a press release announcing the centennial celebrations.

Organizers are hopeful that past members, old friends and community members will attend the event. “They can see how we have come along within the church and see things that have been changed and things that are for the good now. You can’t always stay like you used to be,” explained White to The Herald.

White is excited to see the sanctuary filled with people ready to celebrate. Organizers also hope old friends and former members come ready to share their own stories of the church’s history with the congregation.

In honor of the anniversary, the Cumberland Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution acknowledging the church on the occasion of its 100th Anniversary.

The resolution concludes: “Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Board of Supervisors of Cumberland County, Virginia does hereby congratulate Payne Memorial United Methodist Church on the milestone of its 100th anniversary and does commend the work of the Church in serving Cumberland County and her citizens for the last one hundred years.”