Barrett’s Christian Church hosts homecoming

Published 10:38 am Friday, August 30, 2013

The interior of Barrett’s Christian Church, which is near Sedley. -- MERLE MONAHAN | TIDEWATER NEWS

The interior of Barrett’s Christian Church, which is near Sedley. — MERLE MONAHAN | TIDEWATER NEWS

Merle Monahan/Contributing Writer

SEDLEY—Barrett’s United Christian Church, which was established in 1775 with one of the oldest continuous church congregations in the Sussex-Southampton County area, held its annual homecoming Sunday, with more than 100 descendants and friends of its founders attending.

This is one of only two services held at the tiny rebuilt historic church annually. A Christmas service is held each December.

Richard Simms, who is responsible for the up-keep of the church, said that until approximately 50 to 60 years ago services were held at the church regularly.

When attendance dropped off, however, the elders tried having services monthly, then quarterly.

“But so many people moved away, it just wasn’t feasible to continue. We started having homecoming about 30 years ago and then, we started having a Christmas service in 1996,” said Simms.

Simms added that the Christmas service was a dream of his father, John Simms, who cared for the church until his death in 1996. He died before he had the chance to see the first Yule event, Simms said.

The current church building, a small, one-story white frame structure, with the original pews, choir loft and pulpit, was built in 1888 on the same site after the original one burned. It is still heated by a space heater in the center of the sanctuary.

On Sunday, it was filled to capacity for the short service, following which those attending were invited to lunch hosted by the church at the Wakefield 4-H Center.

Simms said homecoming meals were served on the grounds of the church in the beginning. But it became more convenient to have the meal elsewhere.

According to information provided by Simms, details of the church’s beginning are sketchy. An old placard stating that the church was founded in 1775 was found, he said, and it is known that the original building, which had a balcony for slaves, was destroyed by fire.

“We haven’t been able to find much else, though.”

The younger Simms said his father loved Barrett’s Church and had been responsible for its up-keep for many years.

He said he knows his father would be happy the church continues to have these services.

“And we will continue to hold them as long as its members keep coming back,” he added.