We continue this week the history of the village of Highland United Methodist Episcopal Church. The church building has large beautiful stained glass windows and fine, carved, oak benches and woodwork with a simple altar.
The congregation built the current church in 1900 and the current parsonage in 1903. The church celebrated its 100 years of service in 1937 with a weeklong program. The Rev. R.E. Linder coordinated the events.
An organ was dedicated on May 1, 1960 under the leadership of the Rev. C.S. Thompson. John Lebe of Dayton played for the organ recital and Judge Darrell Hottle of Hillsboro gave a tribute.
In 1964, the Methodist church incorporated and on Nov. 13, 1966, a new wing was dedicated for educational purposes.
One of the most famous people who has graced the aisles of the Methodist church is Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Peale (May 31, 1898 to Dec. 24, 1993) was a minister and author of the popular book “The Power of Positive Thinking.”
Peale was born in Bowersville, but his father ,Dr. C.C. Peale, became the pastor of the Highland Methodist Church when Norman was a small boy. Norman went on to 52-year tenure as pastor of the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. During this time the church’s membership grew from 600 to over 5,000. Norman became one of New York City’s most famous preachers.
On April 30, 1975, Norman returned to the community of his boyhood and was the key speaker for the Highland Methodist Church 75th anniversary celebration. The weeklong rededication service honored the church’s rebuilding in 1900.
On Sunday, Aug. 6 of this year, I sat quietly in an oak pew during the church’s bicentennial community celebration. Twenty-five families shared their history, bringing in photographs, old newspapers and such. The memorabilia lined the educational wing, now more often called the fellowship hall, and the edges of the church walls.
Dianna McKay led the service. As people shared their connections to the church and their family’s legacy of faith you could see tears well up in some eyes. While many country churches have closed their doors this congregation seems determined to carry on its legacy of faith and share God’s love with its neighbors. I applaud this community for preserving and sharing their legacy of faith and community. Thank you.
The next village of Highland bicentennial event is on Aug. 27. The day will include a ghost walk, driving tour of homes, an open houses at the village council room and the Highland Methodist Church. Elizabeth Edwards will be one of the “ghosts” that come back to tell her story. In her honor of Edwards, next week I will begin to share some of her diary entries from my book “Time Travels: 200 Years of Highland County History.”
Source: “Through the Years: A History of New Lexington-Highland” by the Heritage Committee of 1976 Bicentennial Commission.
Charlotte Pack is a local author and historian. She calls her column Time Travels.