Providence United Methodist Church

161 Providence Rd, Forest City, NC  28043



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Providence United Methodist Church History

The Pioneers

The history of the church began with a group of dedicated Christians worshipping and studying together in their homes. Their pioneering spirit brought them to the area and testified with God's Spirit that they needed to form a church. According to the Reminiscences of Christenbury Lee written in 1895 and later found in a desk drawer in Cliffside, Providence was the first Methodist church in the area, beginning somewhere between 1790 and 1792.

Evangelization spread to Providence from South Carolina following the path of the rivers and natural boundaries.Jesse Richardson and Daniel Asbury were the two pastors generally credited with the initial leadership of the congregation and together they helped to form the Lincoln circuit. Rev. Lee wrote that "the camp meetings here were attended by the pioneer Methodist preachers of this country, by such men as Jesse Richardson, Joseph Moore, Daniel F. Asbury and ...James Arthur".

Jesse Richardson, in fact, located in the community for several years to begin a family and to purchase land. He established a campground located between Providence and the branch running south of the church. Annually hundreds gathered at the campground for two or three weeks of revival services. The building of the church was the natural outgrowth of the services. According to The Vindicator written on June 23, 1898, "in Jesse Richardson's days, hundreds of souls were converted and from time to time, even down to the present, the revival influence has been felt here".

The Cemetery

One of the most notable members of the early Providence Church was a woman by the name of Nancy Leake Hollifield. She was born on May 19,1794 and died on November 19,1900 with her life spanning over two centuries. Her brother, Henry Leake, was the second person buried in the Providence cemetery (A woman by the name of Goodwin was the first).

Nancy's tombstone reads as follows:

Nancy Hollifield
May 19, 1794
Nov. 19, 1900
106 yrs - 6 mos.

Old and worn with toils and cares
Of which through life I've had
my share
But now am resting from them all
Awaiting the last trumpets call

According to legend, a group of women going to church more than a century ago heard wails coming from the cemetery. One woman said that she simply had to find out what it was. As a result of her investigation, she found "little Nancy Leake weeping loudly at the grave of her brother".

During her lifetime, she was to see the funerals of many of her church members as well as Confederate soldiers. Many tombstones were placed with loving hands over infants and children's graves. Large rocks without inscriptions are in one section of the cemetery, a mute testimony to the slaves that were buried there.

Rev. Randy Sherrill at the grave of Nancy Hollifield

A visit in the cemetery is like a step back in time. Graves that date back to the 1800s all the way up to the present time contain the stories of men and women throughout the years. Surnames such as Phillips, Smith, McDaniel, Clayton, Walker, Morrow, Summey, Webb, Jenkins, Hamrick, Womick, and Byers are just a few that mark the graves of those buried in the Providence cemetery.

Rev. Christenbury Lee came home to Providence to be buried. A white shaft almost 100 years old rises over his grave.

The inscription reads,

"Faithful to duty,

Patient in suffering,

Triumphant in death,

Reigns with Christ".

Location and Buildings

Providence has not always been located at the present site. It once stood about a half mile north on the Providence Road. Land deeds recorded in 1880 used this site of the church grounds as a corner marker.

In 1824 Rutherford County, with a proportionately large Methodist population, had only five churches to serve them. Oak Grove and Wesley's Chapel at Harris were the nearest.

Accordingly, a group of people decided it was time to build an actual church building at Providence. The first building was a modest frame structure of "hewn logs..about 24 x 30 feet" that was used from 1824 until it was torn down in 1874. "The first church was probably built under the inspiration of Jesse Richardson and Joseph Moon, pioneer preachers in the county."

The second church was built on almost the same spot in 1874 serving the congregation for the next 20 years. "The second church was built under the pastorate of Rev. J.C. Smith and L.C. White."

The church, however, outgrew that small structure and erected a third church in 1894 near the same site. The third church was dedicated in June of 1898 by the Rev. J.W. Jones. "The ...building is a monument to the zeal and energy of Rev. H.T. Hoover, as pastor" (The Vindicator). That building served the church until Good Friday, 1918.

Therefore as many as six sanctuary buildings and a "one room" log school house have served the Providence congregation and community. "The old log school house was planted beside the church and that education flourished in this section and from old Providence has gone out men who were the children and children's children of the first members prepared to fill high stations in church and state...State governors, congressmen, legislators and judges,...preachers ... has been filled by those who received their education here."(Rose Smith, Lenora Phillips, Mae Walker, Miss Alice Smith and Mrs. Humphries were teachers at the one room school house).

Reverend V.P. Crowder
Pastor 1933-1938

Construction began in March 20, 1937 for the present sanctuary after a fire on Good Friday destroyed the previous building built in 1918.

Providence Memorial Day

The church was paid for and dedicated on Sunday, June 13, 1943. Rev. Ellis Greene was the pastor.

Providence Church 1937

In 1955 the need for additional class room space became evident. An educational building was constructed consisting of a fellowship hall, kitchen, class room spaces and bath room facilities.

1968 Church Addition

Providence continued to grow. The sanctuary was no longer large enough to meet the needs. Already the seating capacity was insufficient for special occasions. Therefore early in the conference year of 1967-1968, a building program began. The present sanctuary was remodeled with an addition that would provide almost double the sanctuary space.

The consecration service was held June 23, 1968. The Rev. A. Glenn Lackey, District Superintendent of the Marion District, preached the sermon.

On January 5, 1975 a service of Celebration and Thanksgiving for the Sanctuary Renovation and note burning was held. The Rev. Elton Strickland, a former pastor who had provided the leadership for the project, preached the dedicatory sermon, "The Role of the Church".

Bicentennial Celebration

In 1991 Providence celebrated its bicentennial with services and events throughout the year. The theme of the bicentennial was "200 Years: A Look Back, A Step Forward".

Celebrating the Bicentennial in an Ol' Timey Way (July 14, 1991)
Rose Smith is wearing her mother's wedding hat, which was over 100 years.

L to R: Jimmy Keeter, Justin Queen, Amy Coles, Pam Cochran, Timmy Cochran,
Nancy Tate, Lujuanna Clayton, Judy Keeter, Rose Smith, Bobbi Wall,
Onslow White, Louise White, Kayne Callahan, Amelia Higgins and Helen Phillips.

Charles, Mike, Kris & Brandon Clayton celebrating
the Bicentennial riding their horses to church. (July/14/91)

The Parsonage

On March 7, 1999 at 3:00 pm the church held a ground breaking ceremony for the first parsonage in the history of the church. Previously, the church had shared a parsonage with one or more sister churches. For many, the building of a parsonage is a sign of a new direction for the church and for its future.

In 2000 the parsonage was completed and totally paid for by the generous contributions of people throughout the community. On Sunday April 30, 2000 the District Superintendent of the Marion District, Rev. John Davis, preached the dedicatory sermon.

The Family Life Center

On December 16, 2001 the church began a new project - the building of a Family Life Center. Rev. Morris Byers officiated at the dedicatory ground breaking ceremony which was held next to the building site at approximately 1:00 pm. The project was completed on May 18, 2002. To celebrate the church held a covered dish dinner and gospel singing in the new facility on Sunday, May 19, 2002 following the Memorial Day Worship Service.

Buidling Committee: David Waters, Charles Davis, Sheldon Walker, chairman,
Pam Cochran, Joyce Fite, Donald Butler, Alice Bradley, Rev. Morris Byers
Andrew Wheeler (future builder)

Rev. Morris Byers dedicating the ground.

The Church Renovations Project

On October 29, 2007 with the labor and expertise of E.S.Walker Construction, the church began a much needed renovation project on the church sanctuary and adjacent Sunday School rooms. A complete makeover of the following was completed and dedicated on March 30, 2008:

  • Sanctuary Windows with Cross decoration
  • New flooring & ceiling
  • New AC/Heating system
  • Bell Tower & Steeple
  • Electrical wiring re-done
  • Choir loft behind pulpit
  • Additional Sunday School Room
  • Refurbished Rooms in Church & Ed. Building
  • Landscaping/Parking Area
  • Roofing on both buildings
  • Drive Through & Handicap Ramps
  • Refurbished breezeway between buildings
  • Guttering & Brickwork
  • New Handicap Accessible Bathrooms
  • Floor Covering/Carpet both buildings
  • Light fixtures in sanctuary/vestibule/entrances
  • Remodeled vestibule area
  • Hard wood flooring in vestibule & pulpit area from old S.S. rooms
  • Pews re-upholstered
  • Stage for Family Life Center
  • New sidewalks, porch floor and columns for porch
  • Sound system re-done in sanctuary
  • Painted both facilities

2008 Bell Tower

The 2008 Renovated Vestibule

View from the new choir loft

View of Pulpit Area and Choir Loft

map of PUMC site
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