It was a day of celebration and praise Saturday at the Edray United Methodist Church as the congregation gathered to dedicate the newly remodeled church building.
J.L. Clifton gave a sermon including scripture focused on having a strong foundation and keeping God as the cornerstone in your church and religion.
“We are very proud and very blessed to have this structure to worship God in and to be the house of God,” he said. “It’s just a very small part of who we are as a church – as a living church. We include everyone of you as our brothers and sisters in this church. We’re so glad that you’re here.”
Clifton led the congregation in a responsive reading dedicating the newly refurbished sanctuary.
As part of the celebration, members, including Libby Gasko, Jean McKenney and Linda Clifton shared the history of the church and the history of some of its members through the years.
In 1882, residents of Edray became interested in building a community church and Reverend J.S. Wickline, who was the circuit rider at the time, began soliciting funds. He raised $800 before he was transferred the next year.
A building committee composed of S.B. Moore, William Sharp and George P. Moore took over and secured $1,600.
The plans were drawn up by George P. Moore and E.D. King in January 1883.
“About twenty-thousand feet of lumber was purchased from Larkin and Peters Sawmill at Clover Lick at the price of ten dollars per thousand,” McKenney said. “The lumber was delivered by rafting it down the Greenbrier River since there was no railroad at that time.”
The church was completed in 1883 and dedicated on December 9, 1883.
In 1905, the church was the Methodist Episcopal Church and became the United Methodist Church in the 1960s.
“In 1939, there was a merger of three denominations,” former Edray pastor Scott Engleton said. “The Methodist, the Methodist Episcopal South church and the Methodist Protestant Church. They came together to form the Methodist Church. Then in 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren and the Methodist Church merged to make the United Methodist.”
The church received many upgrades over the years including installation of indoor restrooms in the late 1980s, early 1990s.
The most recent upgrades included removal of the dropped ceiling, new carpet, removal of paneled walls and a new ceiling mural.
The renovation was done by Jacob Meck Construction. Meck spoke about the project and how it progressed.
“It took a lot of input from the congregation here and just kind of going back and forth with some ideas,” Meck said. “Probably what brought us to the point of what you see today is when we climbed up into the old ceiling space. When we were able to climb up above the lowered ceiling and look in, and see the painting, and also see what was behind the wood paneling that had been here for so many years, we realized what a treasure we had here.”
The building was in good condition considering it was built in 1883, Meck added.
“One of the things that really stood out to me about the structure – from a builder’s standpoint – was just how it was constructed those many years ago,” he said. “Nowadays, we pull in and we have all these modern tools. We have electric to cut things with and we’re always coming up with new equipment that we can try. Many of these things do make our job easier, but in the era this church was put together, the things we use today weren’t available back then.
“I was just completely amazed to actually see how this roof was constructed,” he continued. “It was actually four major trusses that hold this roof system in place – nothing like what we build today. It’s mortice and tendon that was all hand work and it’s hemmed together. Very few mechanical fasteners. It was, again, a work of art, and it was very interesting to come in and work on it.”
While he was pleased to work on a project in a building with so much history, Meck said he was also pleased to work with the people of the church.
“One of the things they teach us in construction school is that you don’t work for groups and you don’t work for churches – that’s a good way to get in trouble,” he said, laughing. “I have to say, when I meet with a group, I’m always a little bit apprehensive. But I want to tell you, it’s a real pleasure working for your congregation.”
On a personal note, Meck added that he would join the congregation if he lived closer to Edray.
“My wife and I, and our daughter, are members of New Hope Church of the Brethren just above Frost,” he said. “I remember going home and telling my wife one evening, ‘if I lived on that end of the county, I would attend Edray Methodist Church. Those people are genuine. They love their church, and there’s a glue that binds them together.’”
The ceiling mural which inspired Meck, was rejuvenated by John Fitzgerald, who shared his thanks for being included in the project.
“I would like to thank J.L. for getting in touch with me on this,” he said. “It was a fun project, pretty exciting. A lot of hard work, but I think it turned out great. I was just excited to work on it and show everybody my God-given talent.”
The mural features a crown of thorns around a bright sun in a blue sky filled with white clouds.
Pastor Sam Felton shared his appreciation to everyone involved with the project.
“It’s a wonderful congregation here,” he said. “I appreciate being a part of that. I knew it was a big undertaking to start this renovation, but the proof’s in the pudding. It’s beautiful. It’s going to be a tremendous asset in the future.”
After the program, Clifton opened the floor to the congregation and guests to share stories and memories of the church. Special guests included former pastors Engleton, Bob Mann and former church community worker Gail Leisure.