CHURCH HISTORY: 1846-present
LETTER FROM REV. JAY MINNICK
Friends, worship is about engaging people in the life and ministry of the church. It is about engaging people in our lives and in the life of God. United Methodist Bishop Robert Schnase writes:
We don’t attend worship to squeeze God into our lives; we seek to meld our lives into God’s.
People have been gathering to worship at Pleasant Grove for about 175 years in order to meld their lives into God’s life. Think of all the folks who have walked through these doors across those years. The 1840s! We have been here since the 1840s.
When Pleasant Grove celebrated its 20th anniversary the Civil War was raging. Orville and Wilbur’s historic flight in Kill Devil Hills occurred shortly after Pleasant Grove’s 50th birthday. The Titanic went down as our 70 th birthday approached. World War II was concluding at the centennial. Well, you get the point. Pleasant Grove has been here for a long time, and across these many years there has never been a shortage of faithful people in this place who have kept the faith. They have told the stories. They have held Christmas pageants. They have baptized people into the faith. They have taught their kids about what it means to be a disciple. They have extended the hand of Christ into this community and into the world. We are part of a great tradition--a great cloud of witnesses. This is where we worship. This is our place, and this is our ministry, but only because of the folks that have come before us.
Periodically, I will take a walk through the cemetery here at the church. William Smith 1860, William Henry Cooper 1894, Charlie Smith 1910, Sue Honeycutt 1914, Sallie Hailey 1923, B. E. Emory 1930, Joseph Kelly 1948, Frank Emory 1952, Claude Edwards 1969, Lena House 1973, Effie Kelly 1983. Do you know any of these names? You should. They went before you and made this community possible. Naomi said to Ruth, ‘Go back to your home. Go back to your people. Go back to your community.’ But Ruth said, ‘No.’ She said:
‘Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.’
Most of us who now call Pleasant Grove our home, did not grow up in this church. When you stop and think about it the odds of all of us finding our way to Pleasant Grove are astronomically small. Think about it. Canada, Guatemala, California, Ohio, Virginia, Michigan, Florida, Maryland, Zebulon, Derby, and Farmville. What are the odds? Is it by chance that we have gathered from across this world in this place to be a community called Pleasant Grove? Maybe. Or is it something else? I have heard it called a God thing. Could it be a God thing?
We believe that our mission, our reason for existing, is to be the body of Christ in the world. That’s been our mission since Day 1. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:
‘Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.’
For 175 years the community at Pleasant Grove has taken Paul seriously as we have attempted to welcome all with radical hospitality, engage all in ministry, and to enable all to grow spiritually. We should all be immensely proud to be part of a community called Pleasant Grove. I hope you enjoy reading your story.
INTRODUCTION: YOUR STORY WANTED
“Since its beginning as a small, rural church, Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church has grown with the times. It is now a church with an outreach beyond the immediate community.”
Jo Ann Smith, 1984
In the beginning, there was only oral history. Though written documentation only shows Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church’s
existence beginning in 1856, the church held its centennial celebration in 1946. Apparently, it was understood that a decade of meetings in the vicinity prior to the official date of 1856 were part of the creation of the church.
That mix of memory and official records is the challenge of writing history. As much as possible, we relied on a paper trail of deeds, wills, invoices, old bulletins, emails, and meeting minutes. To add heart to the history, we asked for and received personal stories.
This latest version of the church’s history builds on the work of past historian Foye Lee Beck or publications by Jo Ann Smith quoted, in part, above. Much has changed over the past 174+ years, yet this basic truth of her observation hasn’t changed — PGUMC has grown with the times and the community.
This history is presented in chronological order by century. You can read it straight through or skip around if you wish. Separate sections cover committees, music, missions and outreach, and our cemetery. The goal was to give these topics more depth. Even then, there’s much that has been left out.
We realize, with humility, that so much has been omitted for lack of time or resources. Much more could be said about Sunday school and some amazing teachers, the United Methodist Men and United Methodist Women, or Scouting. The Preschool alone could have its own section.
For the online version of this history, we offer anyone the chance to help us fill these gaps. Updates could be done at any time. Simply reach out to us.
At the end of several sections there are testimonials — the personal stories that bring color to the facts. If your story would add to the PGUMC story, contact us. We will make your story part of the online version whenever you’re ready.
Finally, even though this content has been read and re-read by us and others, mistakes happen. If you find mistakes of accuracy or grammar, let us know.
Thanks for sharing your stories with us.
PGUMC History Task Force:
Linda McCabe Jane Albright
1800s: A COUNTRY CHURCH
Our story begins around 1846 when a group of Christian believers of the Methodist faith gathered under a grove of trees in Northwestern Wake County, North Carolina, to worship God. Around this time our country was at the peak of a Protestant religious revival – a movement known as The Second Great Awakening. This movement began around 1790, gained momentum by 1800 and, after 1820, caused a great rise in members among Baptist and Methodist congregations whose preachers led the movement. Out of this religious climate came the founding of many new Methodist churches, including Pleasant Grove Methodist Episcopal Church South, aptly named by this initial group because of the serene setting in which the people gathered. While there are no documents proving that our church began in 1846, previous writings of our church history state that our church had its 100th anniversary service in 1946. Therefore, it can be ascertained that there has been a congregation gathering for worship services since 1846.
Christian gathering places during those early years were usually outside along dirt roads known to attract weary travelers and attended by people who shared similar beliefs. During inclement weather, services would often move inside to a farmhouse or to a store. When attendance increased, they held their services in a community store. In C. Franklin Grill’s Early Methodist Meeting Houses in Wake County, North Carolina, Grill indicated that the congregation of the Pleasant Grove Church met at a place called Edward’s Store. Grill wrote extensively about black memberships in the early history of Methodists. During this expansion, Grill states, “no special consideration was being given to the black members who in many places were becoming more numerous than white members. Both groups attended services, but the blacks were separated in the seating arrangement. Often they used the same facilities for public services at different hours. It was becoming apparent that blacks had different religious expectations and desired a more heart-felt expression of their religion, and this caused a conflict in the more proper public meetings. Another factor that was beginning to separate the church racially was that religious instruction began to take a part of the more progressive church program and blacks were forbidden to receive formal education. All of these changes caused problems and nothing was offered to relieve the tension.” It was written by Jo Ann Smith in a prior record of our church that, “...There were both white and black members in the original church...some of the black members remained with our church for the remainder of their lives...and in our church cemetery are graves of a number of our black members.” The largest headstone in the black section of our cemetery belongs to Richard Chavis (1842-1914).
In May of 1856, John King, son of Susan and William Smith, deeded one acre of land to Wesley Smith, ‘for a public grave yard (sic) and meeting house and for no other purpose so long as time remains on this Earth, in consideration of love and affection to the trustees of the Pleasant Grove Methodist Episcopal Church South.’ Although land had been provided in the 1856 deed, there is no official record of the exact date the original meeting house was constructed. However, a life-time member of the church, the late Mrs. William T. Smith (née Malissa Thompson), born August 30, 1853, spoke of her memory of the church building to her grandson, Wilton Kelly. Mrs. Smith’s recollection lends credence to the belief that a small one-room wooden structure was built around 1856. There is a hand-drawn picture dated 1856 of a meeting house shown on our pictorial timeline.
In those early days of American Methodist revival, churches such as Pleasant Grove did not have their own pastors because there were not enough to go around. Church members would lead worship and do the preaching on most Sundays. On a regular rotation, a Methodist Pastor – known as a circuit rider– would come to these gatherings to preach, serve communion, baptize babies, or perform marriages. A ‘circuit’ (nowadays referred to as a multi-point charge) was a geographic area that encompassed several local churches. Pastors met each year at Annual Conference where their bishops would appoint them either to a new circuit or to remain at the same one. Once a pastor was assigned a circuit, it was his responsibility to conduct worship and visit members of each church in his charge on a regular basis, in addition to possibly establishing new churches. He was supervised by a Presiding Elder (now called a District Superintendent) who would visit each charge four times a year, which was known as the Quarterly Conference.
Pleasant Grove Church was part of five different circuits in this order: first the Wake Circuit, then Rolesville, Millbrook, Jenkins Memorial, and Westover. While not all the names of the early circuit riders who preached at Pleasant Grove Church can be established, a list of many of the ministers who have served here (Pastors and their respective circuit) can be found in this history.
Let’s take a look at how Pleasant Grove Methodist Episcopal Church South acquired the first few parcels of land for our campus:
May 1856 – a church building was first established
The initial one acre of property was donated from J.T. and Mary Edwards to the Trustees of the Pleasant Grove Methodist Episcopal Church, South, for the sum of $1.00 and in consideration of love and affection.
The Civil War (1861-1865)
We would be remiss if we did not discuss the Civil War and its probable impact on our church. The war created many hardships for the civilians of Wake County and likely some members of the Pleasant Grove Methodist Episcopal Church South. After Major General Sherman of the Union Army burned Atlanta, his army marched to the sea in Georgia. Without supply lines, Sherman’s army took from the civilian population whatever foodstuffs they deemed necessary to sustain the Union soldiers. In some cases, a scorched earth policy was implemented in conducting total war against the Confederate states (more than $100 million in property damage in Georgia alone as estimated by Sherman). This military policy included burning of civilian homes, barns, and destruction of crops still in the fields. After capturing Savannah, Sherman’s army proceeded north to Columbia, SC, and then into North Carolina, including Wake County and Raleigh in 1865. The largest contingent of Union troops in Raleigh bivouacked at Dix Hill. An agricultural census was conducted in 1860 and 1870 in many townships in the South. This census provides significant evidence of the economic devastation of civilian property and starvation suffered by the inhabitants of our North Carolina farmland during and after the Civil War. After the Civil War, a period of reconstruction took place from 1865 to 1877 in which America tried to reunite following the horrors of the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865, just days after the war ended, so President Andrew Johnson led the country through Reconstruction. The economic impact on the South and its inhabitants lasted through the entire reconstruction period. During this economic recovery period, the membership of Pleasant Grove Methodist Episcopal Church South continued to grow.
An additional one acre of land was sold to the trustees (Simon Lynn, Benjamin Lynn, David Smith) of Pleasant Grove for $10 by John Q. Adams, Jr. and wife, Sarah J. This land was on the north side of Cedar Fork Road.
In a rural community such as the House Creek District to which Pleasant Grove belonged at this time, a church building served other important functions. Not only was it a place to worship, it was the primary place for many community events. The Pleasant Grove ‘meeting house’ had not only Sunday School classes and church services but other community activities as well.
1900s: GROWING WITH RALEIGH
By the turn of a new century, the members of the church had begun to feel the need for a new building. In 1903 the second church building was constructed. It was dedicated in 1907 with the Reverend R. J. John providing the dedication sermon. The new building was a large one-room wooden structure. For Sunday School it was divided into classrooms using curtains. A pot-bellied stove in the center provided heat in the winter. The first member to arrive on Sunday started the fire in the stove and it took some time to heat up the room. Emma Layton, who attended this church all her life, remembered “We nearly froze before the church got warm.”
Upon completion of this new church, the members were anxious to have their first service in it. New slat benches were built and installed. Trying to have everything complete and ready for the service on Sunday, the members quickly painted the benches. The color chosen was red. On Sunday members of the church gathered with a sense of excitement to attend the first service in the new building. They entered and seated themselves on the new red benches. It was not until they stood up to sing that it was discovered that the paint on the benches had not dried. There were red streaks on the men’s pants and many new dresses were ruined that day.
Pleasant Grove Methodist Episcopal Church South acquired additional parcels of land for our campus in the 20th century:
March 1915 – front part of the original lot
An additional one acre of land was donated to the church by J.T. and Mary Edwards to the Trustees of the Pleasant Grove Methodist Episcopal Church South for the sum of $1.00
December 1915 – west of original lot
Another one acre of land was purchased from the Wake County Board of Education to the Trustees of the Pleasant Grove Methodist Episcopal Church, South, for the sum of $20.00 and for the “Devine (sic) worship for the use of the ministry and membership of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (residence for the use and occupancy of the preachers of the Methodist Episcopal Church.”
February 1916 – south of the school board tract and west of the graveyard
A half-acre of land was sold by W.T. Smith and Malissa Smith to the Trustees of the Pleasant Grove Methodist Episcopal Church, South, for the sum of $20.00 .
The Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Protestant Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church South merged in 1939 to become the Methodist Church.
An interesting aside to our property acquisition history is the selling of the acre of land given to Pleasant Grove Methodist Church in 1867 by John Q. and Sarah J. Adams, Jr. Because of a judgment filed by the U. S. Government during WWII, ownership of this land was transferred on April 20, 1943, to the United States of America. The church was paid $2,025. In addition to many more acres acquired in this judgment, the land became part of the Durham-Raleigh Air Support Command Base.
In 1949, an additional 4 classrooms and central heating were added and the Sanctuary was renovated and served the congregation for several more years.
In 1953, Rev. Jack Crumb was the pastor. Under Rev. Crumb’s direction, on January 31, 1954, a large building program began. The committee consisted of J. M. Moore, D. L. Davis, Norman Kelly, and Wilton Kelly. The following work was accomplished: a remodel of the vestibule, two entrances in front of the vestibule replacing side entrances, concrete steps for the building and the classrooms, storage closets, remodel of a classroom for the church office and pastor’s study, and a church library. The library was given in memory of J. S. Kelly, the construction superintendent. Much of the labor for this effort was provided by church members and they were able to bring this program in for approximately $7,500. At this time there were 115 church members.
In 1956, the second renovation took place providing a kitchen and a fellowship hall. This addition is now called the basement of the Mattie Bell building. In an interview conducted by Colleen Starkes in 2003, Mattie Bell stated that she was the first leader of the United Methodist Women.
Starting in 1958, the church engaged in building a parsonage. The land for the house was donated by Lena Jackson House in March of 1959. This parsonage at 6401 Pleasant Pines Dr., Raleigh, was later sold and a new parsonage at 2908 Dunkirk Dr., Raleigh, was purchased in 2002.
Around 1961, the congregation was called upon to make an especially important decision that might have changed the course of our church’s history. As a gift from the Cliff Benson family, the congregation was offered the opportunity to close down its current location, move to a new location on the highway, and join with other local congregations to become what is now Benson Memorial Church. The congregation firmly declined. It was also in 1961 that Pleasant Grove Methodist Church became a station church with its own full-time minister, Reverend Jack Hunter, for the first time.
February 1966 – west side of original lot to form a driveway
A ½ acre of land for the driveway was sold to the Trustees of the Pleasant Grove Methodist Church by Emma Layton for the sum of $10 to be used as a driveway.
The merger in 1968 that formed the United Methodist Church brought together the Methodist Church, primarily of British background, and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, primarily of German background but very similar to the Methodists.
The third church building was constructed in 1968. This modern brick Sanctuary was consecrated on Sunday, December 29, 1968. Wilton Kelly was chairman of the building committee, Morris Moorefield was the treasurer of the building fund, and Charles Davis was the architect. According to an October 28, 1967, article written in The Raleigh Times, this project cost over $100,000 and states that groundbreaking services for this building project were held on Sunday, October 29, 1967.
As of July 1, 1984, there were 390 members in our church as reported by JoAnn Smith in the 1984 version of PGUMC’s History. Two of our older members of our church in 1984 were:
Emma Smith Layton, the daughter of William Thomas Smith and Malissa Webb Thompson. Ms. Layton celebrated her 91st birthday on February 26, 1984, and
Norman H. Kelly, who celebrated his 92nd birthday on December 27, 1983. Mr. Kelly’s wife, the late Mattie Judson Smith, was another daughter of William Thomas Smith and Malissa Webb Thompson.
On September 15, 1985, our church held a wonderful Homecoming Day celebration. The Reverend Rufus Stark, Executive Director of the Methodist Home for Children, was the guest speaker at the Sunday morning service. The public was invited and following the 11:00 a.m. service, there was a picnic on the church grounds.
Reverend Curtis Campbell was the pastor when the 4th major addition project began in 1990.
The scope of this project included a new fellowship hall, 6 new classrooms, 2 bathrooms and paving of the parking lot. The church began discussions, research, and interviewing contractors as far back as 1988. It appears from reading the notes preserved on this project that the actual groundbreaking was in mid-1990. The cap on this project was $500,000. There were 3 committees steering this project: Building, Building Finance Sub-Committee, and Building Public Relations and Communications Sub-Committee. John Ramsay was the architect and the construction contract was awarded to Jedco.
Pastor Jay Minnick joined our church family in 1993 at the age of 31. Rev. Minnick is the son of Bishop Carlton and Mary Ann Minnick and PGUMC was his first church. Jay was ordained in 1995. In the early 1990's, there was a two-step ordination process. You were ordained a deacon and then after two years of full-time service you were eligible for ordination as an elder. Jay was ordained a deacon in June 1990. He was in graduate school at the time, so he did not complete his two years of full-time service until after his appointment to Pleasant Grove. He was appointed to Pleasant Grove in June 1993, and eligible for elder's orders in June 1995.
The ordination process has changed significantly since those days, but it remains an exceedingly long and complicated process.
Our church continued to grow and on June 4, 1995, we began two services each Sunday: one at 8:30 a.m. and another at 11:00 a.m. Unfortunately, this 8:30 service and another service on Wednesday evenings were not successful and so were discontinued. The 8:30 service was reinstated on Easter Sunday, April 11, 2005, and continues to grow as of this 2019 writing. Of note in 1995, were two of our oldest church members:
Mrs. Vivian Edwards (1903-2003) and
Mrs. Foye Lee Beck (1922-2012).
In the fall of 1997, new paraments were requested for the church. The original cloths being used had been made by Evelyn Castleberry’s mother, Evelyn J. Mercer, many years before.
Elizabeth Lewis designed and sewed the following machine-embroidered cloths:
One pulpit cloth
One Bible bookmark
Two altar cloths
Each set was completed in red, green, white, and purple. The white cloths were first used at the Christmas Eve candlelight service of December 1997. The Ladies’ Circle provided the funds for the materials used.
2000s: VISIONARY GROWTH
By the early 2000s, the 11 a.m. service in the Sanctuary was packed most Sundays, sometimes uncomfortably full. A growing congregation increased the responsibilities of the Rev. Jay Minnick. In his early years at PGUMC he did it all, starting with making the coffee every Sunday morning. During the week he was assisted by an office manager, a position that has been held by Julie Lebria since 2005. That was no longer enough. In 2002, our church purchased a new parsonage at 2908 Dunkirk Drive in Raleigh. In 2009, the Minnicks purchased this home from the church.
Growth in attendance put a strain on the church building and the church staff. Strategic planning sessions led by staff and laity in the early 2000s sought to tackle these challenges. Obviously, expansion of both facilities and staff were needed. New worship services were added in hopes of lessening the strain on the 11:00 a.m. service while also offering new service styles to attract new people to the church. Additional talent was added to the church staff. And finally, the building itself was expanded, but it was more than a decade from the spark of an idea to a newly expanded and renovated facility.
Over the years a series of seminary students served internships at PGUMC, but the time came to add to the permanent staff. Julie Hilton Steele was hired as Director of Emerging Ministries in 2003. She took responsibility for Sunday school and managing volunteers.
Help with building maintenance was needed. The PGUMC buildings and grounds are the responsibility of the Board of Trustees, which includes everything from unlocking the church on Sundays to getting a roof leak repaired. The maintenance issues grew with the age of the facility and often occurred when a trustee wasn’t available. At the urging of church staff, who were most often around when something broke or an emergency clean-up was needed, the Staff-Parish Relations Committee agreed to hire a custodian. Warren Williams became PGUMC’s first custodian in November 2013. Arya Jamshidi was hired as weekend custodian in July 2015.
The following persons have served on the PGUMC staff since 2000:
Melody Hall, Preschool Director, 1997-2005.
Julie Hilton Steele, Director of Emerging Ministries, 2003-2006.
Cathy Anderson, Preschool Director, 2005-2020.
Lucinda Sullivan, Program Director and Volunteer Coordinator, 2007-2014.
Rev. Meredith Snider, Associate Pastor, 2011-2012.
Warren Williams, Custodian, 2013 to present.
Rev. Erin Simpson Pearce, Director of Family Ministries, 2014-2016.
Ashley Yohman, Volunteer Coordinator, hired in 2014 and transitioned to Director of Connecting Ministries in 2016 to present.
Steven Hall, The Grove Band and Children’s Choir, 2017 to 2019
Rev. Carol Van Buskirk, Minister of Non-Traditional Worship, 2019-2020.
The first solution to the space problem was to add another service in hopes of reducing numbers at the 11 a.m. service. The 8:30 a.m. service was added on Easter Sunday, April 11, 2005. Weekly Communion was added to this service on March 5, 2006. Attendance was low at first, but a core group attended regularly from the beginning. By 2019, 70 to 100 persons attend each week.
Vision and Mission
In the spring of 2006, PGUMC kicked off a visioning process with a day-long workshop led by Dr. Lovett Weems from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership in Virginia. He had done his homework by measuring the pews in the Sanctuary. Allotting each person 30 inches of pew space, he estimated the Sanctuary could comfortably hold 184 persons. With more than 200 in attendance each week, even with some of them children, the crowding would discourage newcomers, he said, and threaten further growth.
That workshop led to a series of meetings that culminated in a new mission and vision statement for PGUMC:
Mission: We exist to be the Body of Christ in the World
Vision: To reach all through hospitality, engage all in ministry and enable all to grow spiritually.
The Hyder House, located across the street from the church, wasn’t on any strategic plan. Instead, it was the result of unexpected generosity and blessings. The aptly named Hyder House was purchased in 2009 with donations from the estates of Christine House and Noah Hyder. Christine House and her family had been active members of PGUMC for generations. Noah Hyder had served as the lead usher for a couple of decades. Upon their deaths, they loved the church enough to leave a legacy.
Shortly after their generous gifts, the house across the street became available. The Administrative Council agreed to pursue the purchase. Once it became church property, it took most of a year to bring it up-to-code for a public building and to make it handicap accessible. Much of the work was done by church members, particularly Randy Callahan. As trustee chair, Mike Lakey signed many of the official documents and led the renovations.
The Hyder House, named for the generous donors who made it possible, is used for adult Sunday school classes and meetings during the week.
The Grove service launched on September 11, 2011. This third worship service occurs during the Sunday school hour of 9:45 to 10:45 a.m. in the Fellowship Hall. While it too, reduces the crowding in the Sanctuary at 11 a.m., it also was created to meet the needs of churchgoers interested in a different way to do church.
The Grove seeks to be a more contemplative and reflective service, according to Rev. Minnick. It’s adult-oriented, without the usual children’s time since children would be in Sunday school. He describes it as a non-traditional service, with music played by a small band including both contemporary worship music and popular music by artists like U2. (See Music section.) Weekly Communion is part of the non-traditional service at the Grove.
Attendance at the Grove services ranges from 70 to 100 people, with the room often filled to capacity. Many newcomers who became Grove regulars never entered or attended worship services in the Sanctuary.
Before the Grove moved into the Fellowship Hall, a fellowship time of coffee and snacks occurred during the time between Sunday school and the 11 am service.
In the first Visioning workshop in 2006, Dr. Weems had recommended a review every 5 to 10 years. In the fall of 2013, the Congregational Visioning Retreat was held to revisit the mission and vision statements and assess where the church stood. The vision and mission statements still inspired, but some problems had increased.
Since the last workshop seven years earlier, the buildings’ shortcomings had grown, even with the addition of the Hyder House. The workshop attendees listed the issues:
Lack of a dedicated space for hospitality and fellowship each Sunday so that members from all services could get to know each other.
More space for seating needed in the Fellowship Hall for the growing Grove service.
Sanctuary needed remodeling and updating of the sound system.
Multi-layered chancel area was a tripping hazard and made moving the grand piano difficult.
Small office area crowded the staff.
Restrooms in the Sanctuary building built in 1968 were cramped, inadequate for a larger congregation, and non-compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Expansion and renovation required for kitchen
More storage required.
The aging HVAC needed replacement.
These issues and others were shared with everyone at the Congregational Envisioning Day held November 23, 2013.
The Next Chapter
Next steps involved determining which renovations PGUMC could afford by knowing how much PGUMC members would contribute to a capital campaign. As chairperson of the Ad Council, Chad Simmons led an Envisioning process that began with the formation of three teams to address recommendations: Facilities, led by Larry Mosiman; Programs, Relationships and Generosity, led by Lucinda Sullivan and Kim Arwood; and Organization and Staffing, led by Bob Starkes. Through a series of meetings over many months, the groups considered what they wanted PGUMC to do and how to do it.
On March 29, 2015, the results of their deliberations were sent to the entire congregation in a Vision Report Bulletin signed by Larry Mosiman. It included suggested changes in programs, staffing and how committees are organized. But it was the listing of facility issues that the congregation wanted to further study.
The Facilities team, led by Larry Mosiman, considered ways to solve the facility shortcomings. On September 5, 2015, it was announced that Jason Byrd from Phillips Architecture had been selected to develop conceptual plans. Eight months later, on May 22, 2016, the master plan was unveiled.
Several meetings were held with the congregation to review the plans and make suggestions. Larger restrooms, kitchen and Fellowship Hall were appreciated. These early plans included expanding the Education building by extending the back wall to create a large activity room, and have a room dedicated to music.
Now it was time to see what PGUMC could afford. Capital campaigns require expertise not found in most congregations. Church capital campaigns are particularly specialized. After a search, in April 2016 Pat Luna from Alabama was selected as the capital campaign consultant. She had worked with several other North Carolina United Methodist churches and came highly recommended.
Ms. Luna got to know many church members by meeting with them one on one. By mid-2016, she had created a campaign team consisting of 18 groups responsible for, among other matters, prayers, worship, education, devotion, and youth. Many PGUMC members were involved. The theme was selected: God’s Vision: The Next Chapter.
The campaign logo appeared on brochures, pamphlets, and postcards. Smitty Harvell built a miniature church where each block represented one of PGUMC’s values, such as music and fellowship. A daily devotion guide given to all members offered reflections from a different PGUMC member for each day of the campaign, October 30 to November 20, 2016.
When it was over, PGUMC members had pledged $1.2 million over three years.
Most of the year 2017 was spent creating a master plan that would fit that budget. Gone from the final design were the activity room and music room. The priority was given to building the Welcome Center, and expanding the Fellowship Hall, the kitchen, and the offices. The new restrooms would offer much more room. The sanctuary was remodeled to make the chancel area more accessible.
At a church conference on November 5, 2017, the congregation voted unanimously to proceed with construction and renovations.
Before Photo, 2017
Logistics and Construction
The year 2017 became the year of planning. Diamond Contracting, Inc. was selected as the builder in the fall of 2017.
Renovations would require all activities in the Sanctuary building be moved elsewhere, which included the offices. A construction site isn’t conducive to a preschool, so the preschool would have to move. Where would worship services be held? Where would the preschool go – or would it take a year off?
The Preschool committee voted unanimously that the preschool would remain on PGUMC grounds by moving to the Hyder House. Church staff would then move into the Education building. All worship services would move into the Fellowship Hall, even during the construction to enlarge it.
The final service in the Sanctuary before construction was Christmas Eve, 2017. Construction would start January 11, 2018. That gave the staff and congregation a couple of weeks during the holidays to move. This task was led by Bob Starkes who kept moves scheduled to the minute and managed the volunteers.
The playground had to be moved to the Hyder House and fenced in. And toddler-sized furniture replaced the adult furniture, which went into storage. Staff had to share the Education building classrooms which were turned into offices. Everything had to be out of the Sanctuary building.
Diamond Contracting said they would be finished by August 2018, which turned out to be accurate. PGUMC adapted to living as a church in a construction zone. Worshipping in the Fellowship Hall was cold in winter and hot in summer because heat and air conditioning weren’t hooked up. A heavy plastic curtain separated the worship area from the construction area. The annual youth dinner theater went on as planned but was held at Millbrook United Methodist Church.
During a thunderstorm one night, rainwater and mud escaped from the construction area that would become the Welcome Center and ran like a river down the Education building hallway and into the offices. Rev. Minnick captured the flood on video. The construction company cleaned up the mess with an apology.
Construction highlights can also be found at pgumc.org/the-next-chapter.
As soon as construction began, the Decorating Committee was considering what the final look would be. Mary Holroyd, Pamela Wimbush-Cady and Nancy Wegner decided on paint colors, countertops, floor coverings, bathroom and light fixtures. The greatest challenge was staying in budget, Holroyd said.
Contemporary spiral light fixtures had been selected for the Sanctuary, but once installed the design felt unfit for the space. They worked well in the Welcome Center, however, and the original light fixtures were cleaned, polished and returned to the Sanctuary.
Designing the new enlarged kitchen was the responsibility of its major users, the United Methodist Men and United Methodist Women, led by Bill Speri and Lucinda Sullivan, respectively. Thanks to a generous anonymous donor, the new kitchen was equipped with a restaurant-quality Champion Undercounter Dishwasher capable of washing dishes in a few minutes.
An early decision for doorless kitchen cabinets for ease of finding items turned out to be a mistake. Money from the cookbook sales went to purchase doors for the cabinets. The new stove was purchased specifically to fit some over-sized pans prized by the UMM, but while the new oven was wide enough, it wasn’t deep enough. “I miss those pans still,” said Speri. The end result was a working kitchen with a logical flow and best use of the space available.
In August, with construction completed, Bob Starkes led the move back to normalcy. He estimates 107 volunteers assisted with moving into the new PGUMC. It was, he said, “as if they were on a mission.”
On September 9, 2018, the new and expanded PGUMC held an open house and service. The problems with the facilities noted in the 2013 Envisioning process had been solved. The simplicity of the Sanctuary redesign made it brighter. The openness of the new Welcome Center offered potential for new forms of fellowship. The larger Fellowship Hall gave the Grove service room to grow.
The Next Chapter After Photo, 2018
A former Sunday school classroom that had been reclassified as a conference room on the master plan, turned out to be neither. With all meeting room needs met at the Hyder House and new Welcome Center, PGUMC got a Music room after all.
For the next six months, the Trustees wrapped up the final details found in any construction project. Led by Jeff Mann and Jennifer Williams, the Trustees tackled projects from adding grab bars in the new restrooms in the Welcome Center, to extensive adjustments of the new HVAC due to faulty installation. After several people walked into the glass walls instead of the glass doors of the Welcome Center, decals were added to the walls to make them visible.
Church Membership Numbers
PGUMC continued to grow into the new space. As of December 31, 2019, there were 1,012 professing members at Pleasant Grove. Our 1,000th member was Elsa Kimbell. We’ve come a long way from 115 members in 1953; 390 members in 1984; 410 members in 1989; and now, 1,012 members in 2019.
MUSIC: MAKING A JOYFUL NOISE
Making a joyful noise on Sunday mornings is what Methodists do. Charles Wesley, the brother of Methodist founder John Wesley, wrote about 6,500 hymns. So, when a group of Methodists gathered in a “pleasant grove” near Raleigh for the first time in 1846, music probably played a part.
No records exist about which hymns were sung or what instruments were played. We don’t know where exactly those first services took place, whether in someone’s home where there may have been a piano or a country store where someone brought a guitar. But there must have been singing.
The one-room church built in 1855 probably had some hymn books. The church built in 1903 had a steeple, so it probably had a choir corner.
The first confirmed church instrument appears in an invoice from C.H. Stephenson Music Company in 1928 for a piano for the sum of $225. Mary Lynn was the first person to play that piano.
Organs: When the present sanctuary opened in 1968, an organ undoubtedly was included in the new building. But records exist only for the following two organs:
According to a plaque attached to the organ, it was dedicated on Sunday, June 6, 1993, by Vivian Edwards in memory of her parents, Iva King Edwards (1874-1961) and Charles Herndon Edwards (1856-1920). This organ was replaced by…
A three-manual Allen G340 Ginisys Organ dedicated in February 2020 as a gift from an anonymous donor. Additional speakers and an extra manual (keyboard) add depth to the sound.
Carillon: An electronic carillon was purchased in February 1975 from the I.T. Verdin Co. in Cincinnati, Ohio, as a gift from Mattie Bell, according to Bob Starkes. The electronic carillon played hymns on special proprietary cartridge tapes. Usually twice a day its music was broadcast over speakers at the top of a 50-foot pole behind the Sanctuary building. Over time, the system became too difficult to maintain and the church’s new neighbors asked for quiet. The pole and speakers remain, but the carillon is gone.
Bells: The three octaves of Schulmerich bells were purchased in 1976 from Bethan Neely of Schulmerich Bells in Hatfield, PA. Church members from that time remember them as a gift from Wilton Kelly, who made many generous donations to the church. In the last 25 years, the bell choir has been led by former Music Director Virginia O'Brien, followed by Ed Glaesner, and now the Director of Worship Arts, Chris Dodson.
Grand Piano: The Schimmel grand piano was hiding behind the pulpit one Sunday in December 2007 so that most in the congregation didn’t see it. Music Director Joe Lupton started playing the upright piano in front, to the side, as the choir entered. Suddenly he stopped playing, got up and walked behind the pulpit. As he lifted the piano’s lid, a gasp could be heard from the congregation. He started playing, and the PGUMC music program made a grand leap forward. Lupton went on to record compact discs of his playing on this piano. An anonymous donor purchased the piano under Lupton’s direction, according to Rev. Minnick. Lupton made two recordings on the piano to raise money for the music program: “Christmas by Candlelight” and “Centering Time.”
Musicians and Choirs
The few church bulletins that survive from the 1950s and 1960s show that the organ was played by a rotating team of volunteers, usually identified as ‘Mrs. (Husband’s Name)’. The organist accompanied the congregation’s hymn singing and usually led the choir in a weekly practice.
In recent decades the music leaders have been:
Debbie Campbell, Choir Director, 1987 to 1990
Virginia O’Brien, Music Director, 1990 to 1995
Joe Lupton, Music Director, 1996 to 2013
Chris Dodson, Director of Worship Arts, 2013 to present
Jill Boliek, accompanist, 2007 to present
Steven Hall, The Grove Band and Children’s Choir, 2017 to 2019
These music leaders and music volunteers provide PGUMC with a variety of musical worship experiences from Christmas cantatas to Christian contemporary.
The hiring of Chris Dodson in May 2013 marked a change in the PGUMC music direction. Before his arrival, all the church music directors had other careers that took much of their energy. Dodson, however, was hired to put the PGUMC music program first in his professional life. While he teaches music and performs in concerts, the PGUMC music program is his primary focus.
Chancel Choir: This adult choir sings at most 11 a.m. services. They usually wear robes and sing a weekly anthem. The choir has always been led by the music director.
Coffee Chorus: The 8:30 a.m. service started in April 2005 without a choir. In August 2013, after being at PGUMC for a few months, Chris Dodson asked for volunteers to start a choir for the early service. About a dozen people responded. They agreed to practice at 7:30 a.m. on Sundays. They take turns bringing breakfast each week. Since it takes a lot of caffeine to sing that early, when Elsa Kimbell suggested the group call itself the Coffee Chorus, it was unanimously accepted. They sing at a service at least monthly and flatly refuse to wear robes.
The Grove Band: The Grove contemplative service that debuted September 2011 required a non-traditional musical approach. Those first services relied on videos and recorded music. Bree Wise and Tim Hazell performed occasionally. Rev. Minnick called a meeting asking for volunteer musicians to play at the Grove. Wise and Hazel began performing weekly, along with Scott Hanson, Mike Arata, Amy Surrette, Randy Richardson and Jeff Willey.
The Grove Band plays guitars, drums, keyboard, and, of course, sings. Words to contemporary Christian songs are shared with the congregation on a screen, not in a hymnbook. For those first years of Grove services the music was driven by the band itself, Hanson said, because Music Director Joe Lupton had little interest in contemporary Christian music, so the band grew organically.
“Being member-driven, the music choices were decidedly secular with sacred overtones,” Hanson said. “Every week, we'd do at least one song that you might hear on the radio, but had a deeper meaning placed in a church setting, such as “Waiting on the World to Change,” “Let it Be,” or “Lean on Me.” Band members would look up the chords online, figure out a key that worked for the singers, and their music library grew over time.
When Chris Dodson arrived in May 2013, he took over The Grove band leadership. Steven Hall arrived and directed the band from 2017 to 2019. The Rev. Carol Van Buskirk came on board in 2019 and took over when Steven left for California.
Children’s choirs: PGUMC has two choirs for children. The largest group, known simply as the children’s choir, consists of elementary-age children who perform for the major holidays and at least quarterly. Allana Minnick directed the children’s choir from 1995 to 2016. Mary Beth Young directed from 2016 to 2017. Steven Hall directed from 2017 to 2019, and the Rev. Carol Van Buskirk took over in 2019.
The preschoolers in the Cherub Choir have been directed by parent volunteers: Ginger Cannon, followed by Mary Beth Young, Jeannette Day, and currently Lindsay Osterhoudt.
In the pandemic that hit the world in 2020, the PGUMC music program switched to online performances. Whether in person or on YouTube, Methodists have to make a joyful noise.
MISSIONS AND OUTREACH
Service to others has always been part of the mission of PGUMC. Church members have worked with established programs to feed the hungry or serve other needs; created programs to bring Christmas cheer to children in an impoverished county or bring attention and support to children in nearby subsidized housing; and many times spent a week away from home on mission trips to rebuild homes damaged by hurricanes.
Established organizations that PGUMC members regularly support include:
Gleaning with the Society of St. Andrew
Home building with Habitat for Humanity
Blood drives with the Blood Connection
Providing snacks each week for school children with Backpack Buddies
Partnering with Millbrook UMC to support families experiencing temporary homelessness in the Family Promise program
Walking with the annual Relay for Life with the American Cancer Society
Two mission programs created by PGUMC members with strong congregational support are GreatMinds and the Young Disciples’ Christmas for Robeson County.
In 1999, the GreatMinds program emerged at PGUMC as an effort to connect with the neighboring community of Stonecrest, a subdivision of subsidized housing, by providing opportunities for growth and fellowship with the children living there. Donna Hill led the first 3 years of the program; Kim Arwood led the program for 9 years; and then Donna returned to lead for another 8 years. The program has evolved several times over the years to include tutoring, playtime and refreshments, arts and crafts, weekly dinners, and field trips. Dozens of PGUMC members volunteered over the years with GreatMinds. Britt and Leah Milner began leading the GreatMinds program starting in the fall of 2019.
Christmas in Robeson County
The Young Disciples Sunday school class has brightened Christmas for impoverished children since 2005. These fourth and fifth graders, led by teacher Cindy Hardy, start in November to raise funds to help the poorest children in Robeson County, which has among the highest poverty rates in North Carolina. The Young Disciples do extra work and ask church members to support them. Over the years they’ve raised more than $30,000, which they use to buy toys and other gifts. A highlight is the shopping afternoon when the entire class goes together to buy presents for other children. A record was set in Christmas 2019: the combined total given to the project by the Young Disciples class and the PGUMC congregation was $4,668.
When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf states, when more recent hurricanes wrecked much of eastern North Carolina, when pockets of poverty persist in Appalachia, PGUMC members have gone on mission trips to serve. They took vacation time and paid their own way to spend several nights away from home, often in rustic places, to go with their PGUMC family to provide help. Some trips were open to any PGUMC member who wanted to go. Other trips were made by the Youth groups and their adult leaders.
PGUMC Major Mission Projects
This list was compiled with information from Noel and Kevin Currin, who led many of the youth mission trips; Lucinda Sullivan; Chelsea Brown; Elsa Kimbell; Eileen Anderson and Ashley Yohman.
2005 – United Methodist Relief Center/Second Spring, D’Iberville, MS – Hurricane Katrina Relief. PGUMC general trip.
2006 – United Methodist Relief Center/Second Spring, Biloxi, MS – Hurricane Katrina Relief –PGUMC general trip.
2006 – United Methodist Relief Center/Second Spring, D’Iberville, MS – Hurricane Katrina Relief – PGUMC general trip.
2007 – United Methodist Relief Center/Second Spring, D’Iberville, MS – Hurricane Katrina Relief – PGUMC general trip.
2007 – Appalachian Service Project in Butler and Sevierville, TN – home repair and roof Replacement.
2008 – United Methodists Volunteers in Mission project in Guatemala. PGUMC team served in a medical clinic and helped with building homes and classrooms.
2010 – United Methodist Relief Center, Charleston and Georgetown, SC – PGUMC Senior High Youth trip.
2012 – Black Mountain Home for Children, Black Mountain, NC – PGUMC Senior High Youth trip.
2013 – Shiloh United Methodist Church, Stumpy Point, NC - weekend trip working on a church after hurricane damage and replacing sheetrock, home repair rebuilding a porch.
2014 – REACH, Roanoke, VA – PGUMC Senior High Youth trip. REACH is a service organization based in Roanoke that stands for Real Experiences Affecting Change.
2015 – Hinton Life Center – Hayesville, NC – home repair
2016 – City of Brunswick Housing Authority, Brunswick and St. Simon's Island, GA– PGUMC Senior High Youth Trip.
2017 – Hinton Life Center – Hayesville, NC – home repair
2018 – Society of St. Andrew End Hunger, Lynchburg, VA – PGUMC Senior High Youth Trip.
2019 – PGUMC Churchwide mission trip to Tarboro, NC. Insulation, sheet rocking, home repair and painting in Princeville for Hurricane Florence relief.
EPILOGUE: IT'S NOT THE END
The COVID-19 Pandemic
The lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our church will be written by future historians. We’ve included this brief overview to provide a starting place for them.
March 13, 2020
The following email was sent to members from Pastor Jay Minnick:
Last evening, your Administrative Council met and decided, after weighing all the information at its disposal, to discontinue worship and other gatherings for the next two weeks beginning on Sunday, March 15. Bishop Ward noted that public health leaders are very concerned that we are on “the cusp of a significant increase in the contagious virus” and “social distancing is the most effective means of slowing the spread of the disease.”
In lieu of church attendance, I would encourage each of you to spend some time on Sunday, listening for a word of peace being spoken into your life during the chaotic times. Sit on the porch with a cup of coffee as you listen to the birds singing songs of life. Rest on the couch as you find comfort in the sacred cadence of the rain against the window. Find something to read that will deliver you from the grip of anxiety. Maybe, just click on the church website (pgumc.org) to see what’s going on there. No matter what, try to hold on to these words of Jesus:
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid (John 14:27).
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward closed all Methodist church buildings in the NC Conference, including ours, on March 15, 2020, to be in compliance with orders from Governor Roy Cooper that all nonessential places be closed in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19. Pastor Jay began to record video church services for us to watch from home. Jay also conducted many Bible studies and discussions via Zoom, and most committees and Sunday school classes have continued using Zoom as well. The program staff contributed to online content to help people stay connected from home. A task force was established by the Administrative Council to plan the eventual reopening of the church.