Bethel UMC celebrating 200th anniversary Sunday

Published 8:49 am Thursday, August 18, 2016

To Jimmy Essex, Bethel United Methodist Church is home.

No, he doesn’t live there. But members of his family have attended the church in Mocksville for generations. And yes, he does consider the members of the church as family.

On Sunday, the church will celebrate its 200th anniversary. District Superintendent Dr. Jeff Patterson will deliver a message at the 10:30 a.m. service. The Brad Ratledge Band will provide music, followed by a covered-dish lunch. Former members and visitors are welcome.

“When we were growing up, going to church was a part of life,” Essex said. “If I don’t go, I feel like I’m missing something.”

He remembers when the church, on appropriately Bethel Church Road, had two entrances – one for men and one for women.

Essex said several Methodist churches started at Bethel, including First Methodist in Mocksville and Byerly’s Chapel in western Davie.

“At one time, there were more Methodist churches in Davie County than anywhere else,” he said, with 25 Methodist churches out of 128 in the county.

“This is where I found the Lord,” Essex said, “and everywhere I look, I see family, not just blood family, but people who are close to me.”

That sense of family appeals to Tony Owens, as well, who has been the minister at Bethel for 11 years.

“Being part of a family, a community, is appealing,” Owens said. “They’re very welcoming and mission minded. They understand things need to happen outside these four walls.”

Owens was baptised in Lexington by Carl Lane, who soon thereafter came to preach at Bethel. Owens likes that fate.

“These are the most wonderful bunch of people I’ve ever been around. They work together. It’s a wonderful sense of family. If there has ever been an ill word spoken, I don’t know about it.”

The church has long-time members like Essex, and new ones who keep things fresh, Owens said. Although not as large a congregation as it once was, they accomplish a lot.

“It’s something to see what a church this size can do,” Owens said. “We have a ball. If you reach one person other than the people who are here, you’ve been a success. Everybody gets together and just gets things done.”

Somtime prior to 1816, a Methodist Episcopal Church was established at the site, about a mile east of Downtown Mocksville. The first recorded meeting at “Olive Branch” was in March of 1816, and members later met it Moore’s Meeting House, a log building with a dirt floor and seats hewn from logs.

In 1833, a group of the congregation formed First Methodist in Downtown Mocksville.

Periodic services continued at Bethel, as circuit riders stopped to preach.

Between 1868 and 1873, Bethel Methodist Protestant Church was organized on four donated acres of land.

For years, ministers traveled via horse and buggy from Yadkin College.

A new building was erected in 1890. In 1931-32, six Sunday School rooms were added to the sanctuary. More were added in 1956, and in 1957, a brick veneer was added and the interior was renovated. A fellowship hall was dedicated in 1967, and new heating and air was added in 1971.

Improvements have been made periodically since that time – both on site and in the community.