Emanuel Reformed Church celebrates 200 years
They’ll be looking to the past this weekend at Emanuel Reformed Church, where the congregation will celebrate the church’s bicentennial.
“This is an exciting time for us,” said the Rev. Rickey Payne, pastor of the church often referred to as “The Church on the Hill.”
“It amazes me to think this church started out as a brush arbor. There’s just so much history here.”
Although no specific date is known for the organization of the congregation, the church refers to the original land deed and recognizes Feb. 20, 1813, as the official founding date of what was then called Emanuel Reformed and Lutheran Church.
“We actually turned 200 in February, but we decided to wait until homecoming weekend to kick off the celebration,” Payne explained.
Festivities this weekend will include a hamburger and hot dog lunch and bake sale, a cornhole tournament, church history presentations and self-guided tours through the church’s historic cemetery, all on Saturday; as well as the homecoming service Sunday morning, followed by dinner on the grounds.
According to the official church history, the land originally featured a brush arbor — a shady shelter of vines or branches — under which worship services and prayer meetings were held whenever a visiting minister could be secured. That was followed by a log structure known as Bowers’ Meeting House — because it was built on land owned by Jacob Bowers — that was used for church services but also as a school.
More buildings succeeded that first structure. The current sanctuary was dedicated in 1953.
Payne, who has pastored the church since 2003, said he marvels at the church’s rich heritage over the past 200 years.
“Every time I go to the altar, I think that 200 years ago there were people kneeling at the altar praying,” he said.
“I think about what they prayed for — probably for their health, for their farms, for their crops coming in — and today we’re praying more for the industries in the area to pick up so people will have jobs and food. But just to think about how many people have knelt at that altar and prayed, it’s overwhelming to me.”
Nonetheless, as the church looks back this weekend, the congregation will also be looking to the future, Payne said.
“We’ve worked hard at planning something that’s going to take us back to our history and remind us of our past, but we’ll also be looking forward,” he said.
“And above all things, God’s going to get the glory in whatever we do. It’s because of His grace and His mercy that we’re still here 200 years later.”
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Emanuel Reformed Church, located at 1170 Emanuel Church Road in Thomasville, will celebrate its bicentennial this weekend, with activities planned for Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday highlights include a hamburger/hot dog lunch and bake sale from noon till 1:30 p.m.; a dunking booth and cornhole tournament throughout the day; church history presentations and self-guided cemetery tours from 4 to 6 p.m.; and a worship service with the Rev. Shane Roberts at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday highlights include the church’s homecoming service with the Rev. Dr. Bob Thompson at 10:45 a.m.; and dinner on the grounds at 12:15 p.m.
For more information, including a full schedule of activities, visit www.emanuelreformedchurch.com.