History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell
I am writing the January article on December 7th which many of our older church members will remember as a day in “infamy”, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, eighteen days before Christmas. One of our former deceased members, Commander Henry Hollingsworth, was probably the last surviving naval officer of that battle, however, there are a few Pearl Harbor enlisted personnel still living. Many may not know that the Commander had requested that his remains be interred amongst the Civil War Soldiers buried at Chapel Hill Cemetery. That request was granted.
By the time this article is published, Christmas 2018 will be over and 2019 will begin another year of potential resolutions. The reason that I have mentioned Christmas is that many of our veterans since the birth of our nation have been absent from their families during this time. From Valley Forge to Afghanistan, the home sickness and memories of family, community, and church are basically the same for the many generations of veterans that have answered the call of duty. I know that in my case, one of the comforting factors was my faith, remembrances, and loving affinity for the people of a small chapel sitting atop a countryside hill. I suspect that many of our veterans within our congregation today can identify with this observation regardless of the church they attended. In retrospect, I realize that some of my fellow comrades did not have these particular reflections in their life experiences, and thus had a more difficult time.
Christmas of 1958 was a very difficult time for my family. At the age of eleven and mid-December, our family home was totally consumed by fire including all contents. It occurred at night and we were fortunate to have survived without any loss of life. It was an old two story farm house which included hand split wooden shingles for a roof, providing perfect material for a gigantic bonfire. When my Daddy realized what was happening, he yelled for everyone to “get out of the house.” When we went outside, the second story was totally involved turning nighttime into daytime. Years later momma told me what she did that night which we laughed about for years. With the house fully engulfed, she ran back into the living room of the house and turned down the damper on the furnace.
As a young Marine in a foreign country during Christmas, I contemplated and treasured the memories of a church that responded to our unfortunate circumstances. Our church family provided shelter for a few days until we could move in with another church member Elizabeth Johnson. She was one of the older members of the church who was a widower living in a house with plenty of room for six people. She was actually a cousin by marriage, but she insisted we call her “Aunt Elizabeth” which we did. Aunt Elizabeth drove a “T-Model Ford” and I rode to church with her on many occasions. The old house is gone now, but church member Janet Johnson currently lives in a home that replaced the old farmhouse. Due to the generosity of the church and neighbors, we were able to rebuild within a matter of months. I can’t name all the individuals who helped my family in our time of need, but I vividly remember the next day at school my teacher and church member Edna Jackson took me to Wade Swanger’s store and bought me a set of clothes. The only clothes that I had at the time were the ones that I had on when I ran out of the house the night before. That made quite an impression on me, and I have been blessed to “pay it forward” many times since.
I can relate many similar stories, but space does not make that possible. Many have passed on with their mortal remains being reverently entombed beneath a garden of stones adjacent to the old historical chapel, forever reminding me of these dear saints of a faithful and generous heart. Recently departed President George H.W. Bush talked about “a thousand points of light”. I can say today that unequivocally Chapel Hill Church is definitely one of those points of light; may it continue to be so.
Last month’s question: What are the two oldest Methodist Churches in present day Bledsoe County? Pikeville United Methodist church and Wesley Chapel (today the church is non-denominational and Ronnie Colvard is the current pastor)
Next month’s question: What pastor instituted the first Christmas Communion at Chapel Hill?