Grace UMC celebrates 50th anniversary

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 11, 2000

Pete Wilson remembers a sometimes sparse crowd for Sunday services in the early days at Grace United Methodist Church. &uot;Some mornings it was just my wife, myself, and one other couple and Rev. (Bill) Elkin,&uot; he said. &uot;There were other couples, but some mornings it was just those four.&uot;

Founded 50 years ago by a handful of couples and the Rev. W.L. Elkin, a former pastor of Washington United Methodist Church, Grace has grown to host an average of 125 members for Sunday services. The current pastor is the Rev. Hiram Coker.

This weekend the church celebrates those last 50 years with a special 11 a.m. service and a noon luncheon honoring charter members. A reception at 5 p.m. will be followed by revival services at 6:30 p.m.

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On Monday and Tuesday the church will host 7 p.m. revival services with former pastor the Rev. Pete Herndon. A reception will precede the services at 6 each night.

Wilson and his wife, Nina, are charter members of the church. Elkin, the same pastor who had baptized Nina, also married the couple, so joining Grace Church when Elkin founded it seemed a natural choice for them.

&uot;He wanted to start a new church so that’s where we chose to be members,&uot; Wilson said.

The church originally began meeting in the Cold Storage building on Liberty Road, said Pauline Huff, who with husband Cameron is also a charter member of the church.

After two years the congregation began building the first section of the current church located on Fatherland Road.

&uot;Grace McNeil gave us the land, and as the years have gone by we have grown and built other buildings to it,&uot; Huff said.

One of the reasons for Grace Church’s growth was the arrival of International Paper’s Natchez mill just months after the church was founded.

&uot;They were trying to get a Methodist church out this way because that’s the way Natchez was growing,&uot; Huff said. &uot;And in the summer of 1950 International Paper opened.&uot;

For the anniversary celebration, members have been gathering their memories for special displays at the church, said Barbara Winkworth, who has been a member for 13 years.

&uot;It’s amazing,&uot; she said. &uot;This church was formed when I was born. It’s a privilege to be a part of a church that’s survived and thrived for 50 years. There’s a lot of ministry that’s going on.&uot;

Wilson, remembering those small services 50 years ago, said he never envisioned an anniversary celebration when the church was just beginning.

&uot;It’s wonderful,&uot; he said. &uot;My lifetime friends are there. It’s a very loving church. It’s just a part of our lives.&uot;