A stack of black and white photos sits next to a weathered Bible on a table.
Carefully, Naomi Speakman shifted through the images.
“These were our members who were air raid wardens during (World War II),” Speakman said.
There were many others, representing different eras — kindergarteners in the 1950s, well-dressed ladies donning hats from the 40s, a small co-ed group from the 1970s. Though they spanned time and generations, they had one thing in common — Grace United Methodist Church in Brunswick.
The congregation’s roots run deep in the community with the original location opening its doors in 1868, 150 years ago this Nov. 18.
“We held church in the white building on the Glynn Academy campus. Back then, it was just called ‘the church on the ditch,’” Speakman, a church historian, said.
That was the beginning. But building the church was no easy task, notes the current pastor, the Rev. Cleo Gilchrist.
“When this church was formed, it was slavery. These people have walked from then to now,” Gilchrist said.
Those first congregants were dedicated to the cause, laying the foundation for the future of the church, first known as Albany Street Methodist Church. The first pastor was the Rev. J.C. Cruse followed by the Rev. James Jackson, who took to the pulpit in 1904. Under his leadership, the cornerstone was laid at its present location — 1705 Albany St. — and the church’s name was officially changed to Grace Methodist Episcopal Church.
It held that moniker until 1938 when the Methodist Episcopal Church South and the Protestant Methodist Church joined together, uniting the Methodists. A later merger, 30 years onward, aimed at abolishing racial discrimination and brought the African American Methodist Churches into the fold. That is when the church adopted its present day name — Grace United Methodist Church.
Over the years, the church continued to evolve. But a constant throughout the change was the dedication of its membership.
“There are still some of the original families here … they’re still here. You don’t get any more blessed than that,” Gilchrist said.
Some of those families are the Quartermans, Martins, Robinsons and Colliers. Those pillars of the church helped to carry the congregation through the decades, the good times and the bad.
“The 60s were hard for us, you know, with the Civil Rights movement. Those were trying times,” Speakman said. “But Grace has always been a beacon of hope.”
Over the years, that hope has fostered faith in the hearts of its congregants. As they celebrate its heritage, Gilchrist says they are grateful for their forefathers — and too, as it is in the case of Grace United Methodist, their foremothers.
“There is a lineage of strong women here. They just had this aura about them,” recalled lifelong member, Ethel Quarterman. “When these ladies walked in, if the children were misbehaving, they’d straighten right up. They had a presence.”
That heritage continues today, with the leadership of Gilchrist and a team of devoted women who help navigate the church’s course.
Today, as Grace remains firmly rooted in its past, it is also looking to the future. The congregation has plans and vision. They hope to expand the existing location on Albany St., to add a new fellowship hall and offer more in the way of educational programming for students.
“Our vision is to make disciples of Christ, a new fellowship hall will be our vehicle to help the community by providing meals and educational services and resources for community children,” Gilchrist said.
Of course, that all takes money. The church is currently holding a fundraising drive, and they are grateful for assistance from their governing organization, which offers grants.
But Gilchrist isn’t worried about where the funds will come from — she notes that the church’s needs have always been met.
“The Lord carries Grace … and always has,” Gilchrist said with a smile.
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Source: The Brunswick News