A crowd gathers at Barnes United Methodist Church to celebrate 210 years of the church. -- Photos by MERLE MONAHAN/TIDEWATER NEWS
A crowd gathers at Barnes United Methodist Church to celebrate 210 years of the church. -- Photos by MERLE MONAHAN/TIDEWATER NEWS

Archived Story

Barnes United Methodist Church marks anniversary with events

Published 9:19am Saturday, June 15, 2013

BY MERLE MONAHAN/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
merlemonah@aol.com

Louise Story, 99, center and her daughter Virginia Lee, talk to Rev. Darwin Edwards, pastor of the church. The Storys are from the Newsoms community. -- Merle Monahan | Tidewater News
Louise Story, 99, center and her daughter Virginia Lee, talk to Rev. Darwin Edwards, pastor of the church. The Storys are from the Newsoms community. — Merle Monahan | Tidewater News

NEWSOMS—A tiny one-room frame church organized in 1803 with a rail down the middle of the sanctuary to separate the sexes, celebrated its 210th anniversary Sunday with approximately 175 members, past members and friends attending.

Barnes United Methodist Church, rebuilt later with beautiful stained-glass windows, a massive steeple, six classrooms, a fellowship hall, and a seating capacity of 125 to 130 still could not seat everyone. Many visitors stood along the walls for the one-hour special service.

“We were delighted with the attendance,” said Kay Grizzard, co-chairwoman of the anniversary committee. “We had people from as far away as Arkansas, Vermont, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

Grizzard added that many of the visitors are supporters. Georgia Barnes, from DC, a descendant of the church’s founder, Jacob Barnes, for instance, has donated numerous items to the church in memory of her parents.

The service began with special music by the Sojourners, a vocal group based at the church. Rev. Darwin Edwards, church pastor, delivered the sermon.

Following the service, the entire congregation was invited to lunch, prepared for the most part by the ladies of the church. Tables were set up both inside the fellowship hall and outside.

“God smiled on us,” said Betty Darden. “The weather was hot and humid, but the rain held off.”

Darden, church historian, has been a member of Barnes all her life. She says the history of the church is impressive.

Located on Statesville Road outside of Newsoms, it is one of the oldest churches in Southampton County. The land on which it stands was purchased for $1 in 1802. The only stipulation when Jacob Barnes and his wife conveyed the one-acre of land to the men of the community for the purpose of building a meetinghouse was that no person except a Methodist minister preaches there.

Once constructed, the original building had its pulpit at the east with two doors at the west—one for men and one for women.

This church was in use for 90 years, Darden said, after which it was torn down and replaced with the one in use today. According to a history of the church written by Hugh Barrett Sr., little money was needed to build the church because the members themselves did the work.

Although the church has seen many changes during the years, it looks much like it did when it was built in the late 1800s. The most noticeable change is that it is larger. The fellowship hall built in 1965, for instance, about doubles its width.

“The church has sort of grown with the times. Whenever we saw a need, we tried to fulfill it,” Darden said.

As historian, Darden compiled a history of the church’s last 10 years, a copy of which was given to the congregation at the anniversary service.. “A history through the year 2003 has already been written,” she said.

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