By Christie McNeal/NEMS Daily Journal
SALTILLO – Saltillo Methodists have been worshipping God together since they first shared a one-room “Union,” or united, Church in 1877 with their Baptist and Cumberland Presbyterian neighbors. In 1912, the Methodists withdrew from that church and built a one-room church of their own. Three buildings and hundreds of members later, Saltillo First United Methodist Church will celebrate 100 years Sunday.
Billy Irwin, lifetime member, remembers the first church, a brick building with a pot-bellied stove in the middle of a single room. He remembers Sunday schools meeting in different sections of the sanctuary – the children sat in the back, the older men in the front, the women in the middle, and the youth, or “courting-age folk,” as he called them, sat in the front choir area.
Attendance in those days varied, according to Irwin, and especially depended on the weather.
“Eighty to 90, you had a big crowd,” he said. The weather is often used as an excuse today, but “back then it was a real excuse.”
Irwin said he recently looked through some old church records with his brother. Each Sunday school class used to keep a record of the collection amount and the number of people present. He said the records from the mid-1920s listed the students as “scholars,” and the collection amount was always in pennies and cents.
“I remember carrying a penny, going to Sunday school and getting that little card,” he said.
“A penny went a long way,” fellow Sunday school member Dean Pannel said.
Irwin then remembered another time pennies were significant in the church’s history.
In 1947, because the church was in need of repairs, and membership was growing, they decided to rebuild. They recycled bricks from the first church, and Irwin remembers the children being paid to clean them – “a penny per brick,” he said.
Lester Palmer, who is still a church member, was the builder for the new church. Irwin said Palmer based the building on a church he had built in Wesson that had the words “Ye are the light of the world” prominently displayed. Palmer liked the verse so much that he brought it to the church in Saltillo, and the words remain a vision of the church today.
That new building, which is now home to Greater Vision Ministries in downtown Saltillo, was dedicated on March 6, 1949. The congregation stayed at that location, adding classroom space, a nursery, a pastor’s office and parsonage throughout the years.
The church joined with Hebron United Methodist Church in 1964, agreeing for the Saltillo pastor to preach in Hebron, which the current pastor, the Rev. Tim Green, is still doing.
Green began his tenure with the church in June 1991, and the church soon began making plans to expand to a new location to allow for more space for the still growing congregation.
In 1997, a building committee moved forward with $1.8 million plans for a new church building and parsonage to be built on donated land off Old Highway 45 in Saltillo.
The church had their first service in this building on Pentecost Sunday – June 11, 2000.
Since then, they had to replace the steeple, which they lost in winds from the effects of Hurricane Katrina and completed two new children and youth buildings in January.
“We feel those new additions are going to benefit the children and youth in discipleship, worship and service,” Green said.
Green said the church is excited to celebrate and look back on how far they have come in 100 years and to think about the possibilities for the future.
He said one of his favorite parts of worship is watching the children leave for their own study and think about how much potential the church has for growth in the future.
“It’s exciting to see all the little hands and feet move toward their worship,” he said, smiling.
Saltillo First United Methodist Church
• Sunday, April 29
• Sunday school 9:45 a.m., worship 10:15 a.m., fellowship meal following
• All are invited, including past pastors and their families