Persons UMC celebrates 180 years

Published 10:41 am Wednesday, October 31, 2018

by Mark Person

Persons United Methodist Church, also known as Old Church, celebrated 180 years on Sunday, Oct. 7, with a festive crowd that came back to see friends, family and pay homage to those before us and reconnect at the church’s annual homecoming.

When Hurricane Florence headed up the coast a few weeks back, church members decided to err on the side of caution. The decision worked out well as the bright and sunny day welcomed the travelers to Southampton County.

The service was held at the church’s location in Drewryville, Virginia, on Old Church Road.

Some of those in attendance remembered the days of the parishioners coming up in horse-and-buggy as children before giving way to modern transportation when the car was introduced to America. The church’s first minister, the Rev. Joshua Leigh, traveled to Persons and other churches by horseback to deliver the Gospel back in the 1830s. The circuit-riding preachers would often stay with a member that night, eat a good meal and feed the horse before heading to the next church. The Rev. Leigh had 13 churches on his charge and traveled as far away as North Carolina. He married a Miss Musgrave in 1839 who was a member of Persons.

Sister churches Branchville UMC and Boykins UMC joined the festivities. All three churches are part of the Boykin Charge, James River District.

The Branchville and Boykins choirs added pleasing harmonies during the service. Members Horace Edwards, Linda Beatty, Milton Overby, Tommy and Amy Knight, Marsha Garris and Pastor Kyle Bass shared their talents.

Jean (Partridge) Drewry, who played the piano, also grew up in the church. Her parents, the late John and Carol Partridge, attended Persons, and there is a plaque in the sanctuary dedicated in their honor. Her children and grandchildren were at the gathering.

All in attendance were invited to participate in “Worship on World Communion Service Sunday.” Pastor Bass and the Rev. Al Green held the ritual. After the service, bluegrass gospel group, Glory Land, sang to the congregation, and many joined in the singing of old favorites such as “I’ll Fly Away” that got the crowd clapping and singing. The church also was presented an award for 180 years of service.

The congregation dispersed at noon to share in the traditional lunch on the church grounds. The food was blessed, and some old recipes came back to life as some southern favorites such as Brunswick stew, butter beans, fried chicken and some of grandma’s chocolate pie and other delights pleased all. Many confessed to heading back for second and third helpings to make sure they didn’t miss a sample. It’s not polite to miss a dish, they say.

The crowd said their goodbyes, many hugs and a few tears of joy as everyone headed home.

Jeff Person of Chesapeake said, “What a great celebration at Persons Church.”