Clyde: My church — time to visit some graveyards

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 21, 2022

My church, my church, my dear old church. “Built on a rock, the church doth stand.”

Church graveyards attest to the fact that we have all been here a very long time. The oldest are the stones of John and Wm. Brandon at Thyatira with the date of May 1756. Who knows about all those unmarked graves or the ones in the pioneer graveyard under the asphalt in Rufty’s parking lot on East Innes Street?

The Germans arrived to build their “kirche” just like they had in the old country. In 1757, the Hickory Church was built of logs on land that is now the graveyard of St. Peter’s Lutheran. Sometime in the 1750s a church was built on Second Creek.

The tide of immigration actually commenced in 1710 when 3,000 Germans, chiefly oppressed by Romish intolerance, went from the Palatinate to England in 1709 and were sent by Queen Anne to New York. By 1710 the governor warned “great numbers of foreigners, strangers to our language and our constitution had lately been imported into the province.”

The first Lutheran pastor ordained in North Carolina wasn’t until 1772. At the first Synod in 1748 there were only 11 ministers in the United States. It was not until 1787 that Paul Henkel delivered an English sermon from a pulpit of a German church. There were about 30,000 families and about 20,000 Scotch-Irish by then. You can still read their names in the phone book, if you can find one.

John Thompson was the first preacher and did the most to establish Presbyterianism in Rowan in 1775. Samuel Young, like the mountain, helped form a meeting house, a graveyard and a congregation called Third Creek on May 4, 1792. The oldest grave there is for twins dated July 1776. A unique example of a vernacular meeting house surrounded by a dry laid stone wall held its first consecration service on Aug. 30, 1840. You can still see what it was like, when you attend Homecoming on the last Sunday in August each year at St. Andrew’s in Woodleaf.

In 1777, Rev. Samuel Eusebius McCorckle was installed as pastor of Thyatira Church, ran the Zion Parnassus Academy and 45 of his students entered the ministry. He helped build the infant University of North Carolina and gave the address for the laying of the corner stone. How did he travel so widely and with so much conviction? He married the daughter of Elizabeth Steele, had 10 children and was stricken with palsy in the pulpit.

Meanwhile, back in town in 1768, John Lewis Beard had deeded to the Lutherans the lot on which his beloved daughter was buried, for this, the first church of any kind in Salisbury. Dr. Freeze says that this unchurched town finally had a building that was rebuilt later and was used by the Episcopal and Reformed members. They got along.

Accordingly, in lower Rowan, work started in 1774 for a rock church which had a handmade organ by John Stirewalt that caused the name to be changed from Zion. The Reformed separated over the question of transubstantiation, went down Old Beatty’s Ford towards Gold Hill on land from John Lipperd and began their own church in the summer of 1795. They called it Cornerstone Unity Congregation in Woodleaf in 1800 and acquired an acre of land from the Trott family and set aside one-half acre for a burying ground.

The first Sunday school was opened by John Wesley in Savannah in 1736 before the Sunday evening services for children. In Salisbury, an old newspaper of Monday, September 16, 1935 reconts “a large crowd attended the union meeting of all adult bible classes in Rowan County, Sunday afternoon at the First Methodist Church.”

It was at the Chavier House at 408 S. Yadkin Ave. in Spencer that the Spencer Methodist Church was organized in the living room in July of 1897. First Methodist in Salisbury had the largest number of black members “standing in the need of prayer.”

“Is there trouble anywhere?”

Mount Zion for many years worshiped in the same house with the Lutherans at “Savitz.” Years later, in the minutes of the Lutheran Synod Archives of 1913, it is noted that Lutheran Chapel gave $7.32 for a school in Japan.

Christian Reid, a convert to Catholicism, gave her garden lot to Sacred Heart on North Fulton St. The museum has the first marble top dresser used as an altar. They improvised and lit votives. She wrote books and dedication poems. Now, everyone fold your fingers together. Here is the church, here is the steeple. Open the doors and not so many people. Now-a-days with only about 5 marriages per 1,000 people and all those wedding “venues,” there is not much need for church ceremony “in the eyes of God.” Any old barn will do.

Remember the third commandment in Luther’s Small Catechism that wasn’t translated into English until 1761; “That we should fear and love God, as not to despise his word and day, and the preaching of his gospel; but deem it holy, and willingly hear, learn, obey it.” This is most certainly true.

Most childhood memories begin with the church; bible school, offerings in your pocket, church suppers with homemade potato salad, sweet pickles and ice tea. We are a part of this passing. “Jesus still lead on till our rest be one.” Singing hymns has got to be the birth of spirituals, soul, or even jazz and rap. Even out of tune, sing from the heart.

So, go visit cemeteries. Get out and walk. Latin from coemeterium, meaning sleeping chamber. You can learn a lot about where you come from and think about where you might be going. “May the circle be unbroken.” What’s the next line? Amen.

Clyde is an artist in Salisbury.