Wineka column: Bible, Methodist doctrines among items in capsule at Bethel United Methodist

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

DUKEVILLE ó Bethel United Methodist Church qualifies as a country church.
On Sundays, its members park their cars along the driveway or completely in the grass.
Across from the front of the church is an open field. On the side, Dukeville Road stretches back to the Buck Steam Station, which after all these decades along the Yadkin River has a significant expansion under way.
Long Ferry Road seems to rise toward the brick church, built mostly by its members 60 years ago.
Duke Power donated the land for the new edifice back then, when most men in the congregation worked at the steam station or Spencer Shops.
To raise money for the new building, which cost about $45,000, the women of the church constantly cooked special meals, including oyster, chicken and Brunswick stews.
Bill, Bobby and Jim Gilland were youngsters then, living in a house just down the road from the church.
They helped in carrying brick and mortar during the church’s construction. Bill recalls unloading a tractor-trailer load of brick from the Isenhour company in East Spencer.
The Gilland brothers were among the current and former members who celebrated the 125th anniversary of Bethel Methodist on Sunday and the 60-year anniversary of the church building.
It was All Saints Day at the church. Pastor Julie O’Neal gave the message, and the handbell choir ó the Belles of Bethel ó played special music.
At the end of the service, the congregation poured down the front steps to watch Bill Gilland, Larry Edwards and Bud McClamrock gently ease the 1949 cornerstone out of the building, so they could reach a “time capsule” planted there at the building’s construction.
The capsule was really a modest, metal box bound together by duct tape. The box appeared as though it had been fashioned from left-over metal flashing, which had held up amazingly well.
The men asked for something to cut through the tape, and Bobby Gilland fished into his pants for his trusty pocketknife, which did the trick.
Pastor O’Neal and Bill Gilland sorted through the box, announcing their finds as they pulled out the items.
There was a Bible, of course ó one of those zippered versions in a black cover. Next was a copy of the 1948 Doctrines and Disciplines of the Methodist Church.
“The discipline now is much, much bigger,” someone mentioned.
The box also contained a list of Bethel church officers from 1948-49 and several copies of “The Christian Advocate.” The last item was a photograph of District Methodist youth.
And that was it. Bill Gilland acknowledged he was a bit disappointed that the Bible included no inscription, message or words of wisdom for the present-day church.
Looking over the list of Bethel Church officers from then, Nancy McDaniel noticed her mother, the late Florence Welch, had been superintendent of the children’s division. Her father, John, was a steward.
Ann Harris Mangum, who moved away from Dukeville when she was about 17 and now lives in the Lake Norman area, also looked for a mention of her parents, Margaret and Gilbert Harris.
Both Mangum and McDaniel were 5 years old when the church was built, and they had only vague memories of its construction. But their memories of growing up in Dukeville remain strong, as they relived their Tom Thumb weddings, a rhythm band, square dances and school.
“We got to do a lot, coming out of little, tiny Dukeville,” Mangum said.
O’Neal ended the opening of the time capsule with a prayer, and the congregation set off for a big feed in the basement fellowship hall.
Before he joined the luncheon, Bill Gilland talked about attending the original church, which was located about a mile-and-a-half east on Long Ferry Road. The church cemetery is still there, but the congregation dismantled the 1884 structure and used its materials to build a house for somebody.
That old church cost $364 to construct, according to church records. It had two front doors and, after electricity was available, an exterior light in the middle. Inside, two woodstoves heated the building.
The men and women sat on opposite sides of the sanctuary on Sundays.
Wanda Gilland, Bill’s wife, said discussions already have started about what to place in a new time capsule, which will go behind the cornerstone when it is put back in place.
Suggestions have included a 2009 penny, the annual budget, a list of church officers and a church directory, which includes photographs of all the members.
I would include an expansive exterior photograph of the church, as it looks from a distance on Long Ferry Road.
It makes you wonder. When that next time capsule is opened 60 or so years from now, will people still describe Bethel Methodist as a country church?
I hope so.