By Rev. Andrea Kersh Johnson
Special to the Advocate
Two years after its original building was deemed unsafe, Kilmichael United Methodist Church plans to break ground on a new sanctuary on Aug. 10.
Kilmichael has had a Methodist church on the site since the 1840s and the previous building was completed in 1895.
The new sanctuary incorporates some elements of a “green” building. It will be a timber frame structure with scissor beams overhead and a tongue and groove ceiling. Some features will recall the style of the old church, such as gothic windows and white lapped siding. The building will seat around 80 people, have improved handicapped accessibility, an improved parking lot and a room that doubles as parlor and pastor’s study. The organ, stained glass window, chandeliers and pews from the old church were saved and will be reused.
This small congregation on the edge of the Greenwood District took on what seemed impossible to some and questionable to others. The oldest church in the community, its members were determined to continue the Methodist presence and worship tradition there.
The United Methodist Church in Kilmichael had been a landmark for over one hundred years. Like many other small towns in Mississippi, the population of Kilmichael has shrunk, and the membership of Kilmichael UMC was down to 44 people at the end of 2007. Many of these members live at a distance, but some continue to support the church.
Ties to the home church are strong in the Mississippi Conference, and this congregation is no exception. They were originally Friendship Methodist Church, built near the present-day Kilmichael cemetery around 1850. As the town grew, the church moved to its present location; a new building, Kilmichael Methodist Church, completed in 1895, was a center of worship until it was demolished in 2007.
The members of Kilmichael UMC have continued worship in the fellowship hall as they worked diligently on raising funds and choosing a plan for the new church. During this time, they have been blessed with many donations and memorials. They were also able to receive part of an endowment, through the United Methodist Foundation, from the former Stewart UMC whose members joined Kilmichael in 2003. The church members hope that, with continued donations, they will be able to complete the building with little or no debt.
A renewed spirit of fellowship is present as this congregation works together, and they are experiencing a new birth. A desire to offer community worship events and other outreach is now growing along with the plans for the new building.