This photo of the laying of the cornerstone at Main Street United Methodist Church 100 years ago was contributed by the church. The anniversary will be celebrated with a special service this Sunday, where Virginia Conference Bishop Young Jin Cho will speak.
This photo of the laying of the cornerstone at Main Street United Methodist Church 100 years ago was contributed by the church. The anniversary will be celebrated with a special service this Sunday, where Virginia Conference Bishop Young Jin Cho will speak.

Church to celebrate building’s 100th year

Published 10:04pm Thursday, January 23, 2014

By Karen Washburn

Correspondent

Main Street United Methodist Church will welcome Virginia Conference Bishop Young Jin Cho on Sunday as it celebrates the 100-year anniversary of the laying of its building’s cornerstone.

The bishop will preach at both the 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. services. After the late morning service, those in attendance will be invited outside for a liturgy rededicating the cornerstone.

According to the church’s history, as compiled by Dale E. Kelly, the congregation of Main Street United Methodist has been in existence in some form or another since 1801.

Prior to construction of the first building, the congregation met in members’ homes at first. Next, they gathered in Union Chapel, then located on the high ground of what is now Cedar Hill Cemetery. Its original membership as the Methodist Society was five.

Virginia Conference Bishop Young Jin Cho
Virginia Conference Bishop Young Jin Cho

According to church records, that membership has grown during the past century to a roll of 800, with around 200 in attendance most Sundays.

After the congregation moved from Union Chapel, two sanctuaries stood consecutively on Main Street prior to the existing church. Remnants of the first building can still be seen between the Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum and the second building, which still stands very near that site, minus the steeple, and is now apartments.

When plans for a new church were formulated, the building committee included M.A. Cross, H.B. Phillips, R.W. Baker, and A.V. Sturgeon, and was chaired by Judge James L. McLemore. According to Kelly, the current sanctuary took two years to build, with its Gothic architectural style attributed in large measure to the influence and guidance of McLemore and his wife.

Before final plans for the sanctuary were completed, the couple “made a trip to England for the express purpose of visiting several cathedrals,” Kelly said.

“They returned with a picture of the Durham Cathedral, built by the Normans in 1093 in Northern England. It became the chief inspiration for the building that stands on Main Street today. The bricks, which are distinct in shape and texture, resulted from the personal interest and artistry of A.V. Sturgeon, and were produced in his factory and kiln at Reid’s Ferry.”

Congregational Care Coordinator Barbara McPhail is excited about the many special programs and events in the works for the next two years, leading up to the anniversary celebration in 2016.

“The congregation hopes to celebrate with joy all the wonderful things that God has done through the ministries of Main Street over the last century,” she said.

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