A BRIEF HISTORY
- Of The -
INDEPENDENT METHODIST CHURCH
By John G. Holt, M.A., Th. D.
THE INDEPENDENT METHODIST CHURCH
In the year 1889, Rev. J. B. Wilkins and Rev. R. C. Bramlet, members of the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, were invited by tile people of the Garret community (later known as Macedonia), about four miles north of Macclenny, Florida, to come over from Georgia and preach in their community. The call was accepted, and immediately a short protracted meeting was held which resulted in the conversion of several souls to Christ. Before the end of the year these few converts, together with some others who had previously professed faith in Christ, were organized into a Methodist Church membership. There was no Church building in which they could worship, but services were held in various homes, under brush-arbors or in The shade of trees.
In the latter part of the year 1890, Rev. E. F. Dean was sent by the Georgia Conference to serve these people. Through his effective ministry many souls were won to Christ, and soon there was need for a permanent building for the Church.
At the first quarterly conference a Board of Trustees was appointed and approved by the organization, said Board members being J. R. Barnes, W. A. Hodges, G. W. Garrett, W. E. Phillips and S, M. Lyons. A tract of land consisting of two and a half acres was selected upon which a Church eventually would be built. It was a beautiful area shaded by large water oaks and murmering pines. Sometime in the distant past three men were killed by marauding Indians and had been buried on the lower border of the property. Surrounding the area of these graves a fence was erected and the land cleared for a permanent cemetery. The original deeds to the property, which at this time are in the custody A. J. Mobley, indicate that the land was purchased from C. B. Macclenny and conveyed to the Trustees of Macedonia Church on January 1 1892.
Because of an anticipated need for expansion, the original plot of land was sold and repurchased with an additional two and a half acres.
For several years after the church was organized, it showed remarkable progress. On Ordinary meeting days the building was filled to over-flowing with ardent worshipers. Many souls were saved and many new members were added to the rolls. Rev. E. F. Dean served the pastorate for many years, and successfully held the congregation together through many adverse circumstances. He worked as a faithful servant of God until advanced age prevented further service, and finally he passed on to his eternal reward on March 16, 1946 at the noble age of 93.
When the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South and the Methodist Protestant Church became united in 1939, the Macedonia Church was automatically merged with the Macclenny Methodist membership, and the Florida Conference assumed that it had jurisdiction over the property and the worship of the Macedonia Church. Sufficient investigation has been made, however, to indicate an error in such an assumption, for no records can be found to support any possible claim that the deeds were ever in the hands of the Conference. Furthermore, no person who was ever connected officially or unofficially with the Macedonia Church has any knowledge of the members ever being consulted in the matter of transferring their memberships to the Methodist Church in Macclenny. For this reason the Macedonia people have never had a feeling of allegiance to that congregation.
The sad state of neglect arising from what appeared to be an indifferent Conference soon set the little Church into a trend toward decadence, and the Macedonia community began to fear that sooner or later they would see their house of worship pass into oblivion, much to the distress of the older members who had experienced their first spiritual blessing before its altar.
But the nature of these sturdy people, who were descendents of substantial early settlers, was such that they were not easily aroused to a state of emotional imbalance, and they withstood the plight heroically, yet not accepting it as inevitable. They had utmost faith in believing that eventually they would find a means of freedom in religious worship. In families, or wherever two or three were gathered together, prayers of supplication were made to Almighty God to save them from this unseemly fate.
Almost without hope, in 1959 these people began to talk of reorganizing the Church into an independent body of worshipers, trusting in Almighty God to guide them in accordance with His Will. On September 23rd of that year, a group of thirteen men and women met at the home of A. J. Mobley in Macclenny for the purpose of reorganizing the Church. R. E. Thrift was elected leader of the group, and L. A. Barnes was appointed pastor. Mr. Barnes Was not a licensed preacher and had never been ordained, but he was filled with the Spirit and had a wide knowledge of the Bible.
Mr. Barnes held his first service on October 18, 1962 and the congregational response was encouraging. Soon there were some who wished to be baptized and to become members of the Church. The congregation also wished to observe the ordinance of Holy Communion, but since Mr. Barnes felt that he had no clerical authority to perform such services the Church was deprived of these privileges.
Mr. Barnes was aware of the high standards of academic and theological training required by the Methodist Church, and he also knew the attitude of all Churches in regard to ordaining ministers to serve in denominations other than their own. It was here that the Macedonia Church encountered its most serious obstacle.
As well as could be learned, no church felt that it was within its jurisdiction to ordain or grant authority in a case such as this. Mr. Thrift, ardent leader of the group, began to search for a solution to the problem. After some time and much praying it occurred to him that there was one man who might be able to help them.
On May 6, 1962 Mr. Thrift and Mr. Barnes called on Rev. John G. Holt, Th. D., a retired minister and missionary. He was much impressed by their sincerity and accepted the challenge to help them. After considering: their particular needs for some time he reached the conclusion that there probably was no church, then in existence that would completely satisfy their requirements. Since the organization of a new church seemed to be the only solution, Dr. Holt was given authority to draw up a constitution for the new organization. The Constitution was completed on May 20 th. and was submitted to representatives of the Church for approval. It was adopted, subject to revision within twelve month and on the following Sunday, May 27, it was adopted at the conference especially convened for the purpose. The members present agreed to the conditions of the Constitution, and also to the name of the new Church,- THE INDEPENDENT METHODIST CHURCH.
It was a day of rejoicing for the Macedonia people, since for fifteen years prior to 1960 there had been services in the Church only on rare occasions, such as annual home-comings or cemetery working days.
At the May 27th. Quarterly Conference Dr. Holt accepted the appointment of Presiding Elder to aid the new Church through its first year's operation. The following officers were elected to serve for a term of twelve months:
L. A. Barnes, Pastor.
R. E. Thrift, Supervisor.
Mrs. Barbara Chisholm, Secretary-Treasurer,
Letters were received from the Church for the ordination of L. A. Barnes and R. E. Thrift to the Ministry of the Gospel. They were accepted and approved by the presiding Elder.
On June 3rd., The First Annual Conference of The Independent Methodist Church was held at Macedonia. Among the various matters of business was the ordination of L. A. Barnes and R. E. Thrift. Assisting with the ordination and the Laying On of Hands were Rev. J. E. Kelly, Rev. Maxie Wilkerson, Rev. D. L. Griffis and Rev. John G. Holt. The charge to the newly ordained Ministers and to the Church was read by Dr. Holt who declared the Independent Methodist Church to be a legally organized body to which all members present, and those of the future should pledge their allegiance, and should invoke the blessing of Almighty God upon its life and its service.
George W. Garrett,
Andrew J. Mobley,
Notes From Lynn Barnes files are as following:
The first service in the new church building ( by the river ) was held on January 29, 1967.
Speaking that day was Joe Kirkland..
Sunday School begain on Feb. 5, 1967 with 34 attending.
Russie Thrift baptisted Randolph Chisholm & Joe Kirkland on Oct.7, 1962
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