An overdue thank you for a Christian act of kindness that occurred 126 years ago will take place Sunday.
First United Methodist Church on Main Street will recognize its neighbor, First Presbyterian Church, for its compassion.
At 10:50 a.m., the Methodist Church congregation will walk across the street and hold services at the Presbyterian Church to commemorate and say thanks for an act of charity that happened in 1886.
“Back in 1886, our Christian Presbyterian neighbors opened the doors of their church to a congregation of wet, mud-splattered and exhausted Methodists,” said Dr. Neil Schultz, a member of First United Methodist. “Sunday’s celebration is about the legacy of the spirit of compassion and Christian unity that became evident that day.”
The churches became intertwined on Aug. 25, 1886 when the Methodist Church arranged a gala event to witness the laying of the cornerstone of its new church on Main Street. The event also offered a barbecue feast to help raise money to build the church.
Four days before the event, on Aug. 21, an article in the Southern Standard publicized it as “The largest crowd of people that has assembled in McMinnville for years will probably be here next Wednesday to witness the ceremonies of laying the cornerstone of the new Methodist Church and partake of the grand barbecue.”
To ensure a large crowd would be present, event organizers tried to secure a special guest appearance by Samuel Porter Jones. At the time, Jones was one of the most celebrated preachers of the time.
Musical entertainment during the day was provided by the Warren House Band, a popular community band at that time similar to the Silver and Gold Band of today.
While an estimated 1,000 people were in attendance, Schultz says the festivities were dampened by the absence of Jones and the weather.
“As it sometimes does, the weather did not cooperate,” he said. “It rained and the area got muddy. Main Street wasn’t paved back then, as it is now. People were walking through the mud and muck. When it wasn’t raining, it was hot. People were getting sun burned. It was miserable.”
An article in the Standard after the event stated “It was threatening most all day, and when the sun did shine out for a few minutes at a time it was disagreeably hot.”
Dr. Stainback, the pastor of the Presbyterian Church at that time, generously offered the use of his church.
“Can you imagine how muddy and wet these people were,” said Schultz. “Yet, the Presbyterian Church opened its doors to them. What a wonderful thing to do.”
To commemorate the generous nature of one church to another, a reenactment will be held Sunday that will include the Methodist congregation walking across the street at 10:50 a.m. to hold services at First Presbyterian Church. Leading the procession with be the Silver and Gold Band. Worship Service will begin at 11 a.m. at First Presbyterian, followed by a barbecue dinner at noon in the fellowship hall of First United Methodist.
Contemporary services at First United Methodist Church will held that morning beginning at 8 a.m. and Sunday School at 9:30 a.m. First Baptist Orchestra and violin soloist Randy Walton will perform at the Outreach Building from 10:15 to 10:45 a.m.
Missing from the event will be mud on the Methodists and the 5,000 pound cornerstone that was placed, says Schultz.
“The cornerstone is no longer there,” Schultz said. “All that remains of it is the cap stone that has August 25 1886 inscribed on it. Our celebration is about Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of Christian churches.”
The celebration is open to the public.