Newman Swamp UMC celebrates 200 years of worship
By Jana E. Pye, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tucked away in a quiet corner of the tiny rural town of Lamar, the Newman Swamp United Methodist Church congregation has celebrated God’s word for two centuries; they have gathered together on Sunday mornings to pray for loved ones and sons sent off to fight in foreign wars, gather for weddings and funerals, and enjoy fellowship.
The congregation gathered the weekend of June 24 and 25 to celebrate their past and future with a day of good old-fashioned fun with games, reenactments, picnic, memorabilia displays and a movie on Saturday, followed by a lovely church service and church meal in the fellowship hall on Sunday. The Newman Swamp Grammar School that adjoins the church grounds serves as the church fellowship hall, and many of the congregation attended the little school.
Rev. Wes Conner, who pastors the church along with two other United Methodist churches in his charge, had a lot of help in gathering history about the anniversary from Neil Windham, who sadly passed away before the event.
“The stories just poured out of Neil,” recalled Conner as he shared with the congregation on Sunday. “He showed me where the original church was in the woods, a little log house. Up until he passed away, he shared photographs and memories with me, hoping that I would do a good job with this service. He wanted you all to remember how special this church was to him, and to the community. The annual Children’s Day here at Lake Swamp used to bring in more than 600 children to this tiny church for a day of fun and games each summer. It’s amazing to think of even in today’s times how many children looked forward to that day!”
Neil Windham’s widow, Sylvia, director of the choir, helped with the church meal; she teared up when talking about how much Neil would have loved the service. “I feel he was with us today, and would have loved every minute of it.”
The combined church choir of Newman Swamp and Elim UMC shared hymns with the congregation, including the beloved “The Church in the Wildwood” that was printed in the insert for the congregation to sing along.
A special surprise during the church service was a “visit from past” from Bishop Francis Asbury, sharing the dream of John Wesley in Great Britain that the Methodist Church be established and flourish in the New World.
The Rev. W. Robert Borom, the Francis Asbury actor who shares the words of Asbury, walked in from the rear of the church in full dress of the early 1800’s, complete with knickers and a quill pen with which to compose a letter home to England during his spell binding oration. Asbury was noted to have visited the church in the history of Newman Swamp on his last trip to Baltimore, Maryland to the Methodist General Conference before his death.
Newman Swamp was first known as Windham Meetinghouse; “Father” Jenkins preached there in 1816. The present building was erected in 1901, the fourth. The first was a log house, followed by two other frame buildings.
Mobile users, please click link to view photos: Newman Swamp UMC 200th Anniversary
Church in the Wildwood
Composed in 1857 William S. Pitts
There’s a church in the valley by the wildwood,
No lovelier spot in the dale;
No place is so dear to my childhood,
As the little brown church in the vale.
Come to the church in the wildwood,
Oh, come to the church in the dale,
No spot is so dear to my childhood,
As the little brown church in the vale.
How sweet on a clear, Sabbath morning,
To list to the clear ringing bell;
Its tones so sweetly are calling,
Oh, come to the church in the vale.
There, close by the church in the valley,
Lies one that I loved so well;
She sleeps, sweetly sleeps, ’neath the willow,
Disturb not her rest in the vale.
There, close by the side of that loved one,
To trees where the wild flowers bloom,
When the farewell hymn shall be chanted
I shall rest by her side in the tomb.
From the church in the valley by the wildwood,
When day fades away into night,
I would fain from this spot of my childhood
Wing my way to the mansions of light.