The celebration started in August and will continue through September, culminating in a commemorative service by Senior Pastor Steve Lyle and guest speaker Larry Caywood. The festivities began with a family dinner and game night Aug. 21.
Games such as jacks, barrel of monkeys, jump rope and hula hoop roused nostalgia among celebrants.
A replica of an 1838 brush arbor, a structure held up by four saplings and covered overhead with foliage to block the summer heat, stands proudly on the church’s lawn, reminding its members of its vast history.
In addition, historical photos prepared and arranged by Linda Porter, line the walls of the Fellowship Hall. The photos show the church’s modest beginnings from 1833 to present-day, and all the transitions in between. They even display interactions with Native Americans well before the church’s establishment.
“In the narthex of our church, we have pictures and paintings of the church facilities and how they have changed over the years,” said longtime member and past church historian Harry Mickleboro. “But of greater importance are the pictures of church members who made up the congregation during the years of transformation. They represent the thousands of men, women and children that have been and are being blessed through the ministry of the Smyrna First United Methodist Church.”
The grand finale of the celebration will include a special worship service, where churchgoers are encouraged to dress in “fashions to represent any of the past 175 years,” at 10 a.m. Sept. 29 to unite the whole congregation. Lyle might grace the occasion in a black split-tail coat. At the service, church-goers who have been members for 50 years or longer — about 21 percent of the church’s total membership of 2,600 — will be honored with lapel pins.
The message of the service will come from scriptures Jeremiah 29:11 and Ephesians 2:10, which talk about God’s great plans for everyone. The theme focuses not only on celebrating the church’s past, but “believing that greater things are yet to come.”
After the service at noon, a barbecue luncheon will be in the Fellowship Hall. The luncheon will bring together church members of all ages and from all walks of life to play games, see the church’s involvement in recent activities and witness the rich history of their church. Homemade buttermilk pies and caramel cakes will be shared as well.
The church is committed to their purpose of “growing in (their) love for God and for all people” and sharing that love with whomever crosses their path.
Lyle, who has been with Smyrna First United Methodist since June 2008, epitomizes the dedication and acceptance that his church represents. Originally from Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, Lyle was told there was an opening as a pastor at the church, but had no idea he would be the one to fill the position. He said he felt God wanted him there.
Lyle said he is “blessed and humbled” to have such a non-judgmental, loving church family. He is touched by the genuine warmth of people in the church and believes the church is “an extension of the heart of Jesus Christ.” He recalls fond memories of his own spiritual development as a pastor and of the many people he has watched commit their lives to Christ. His experience with them has been encouraging to his faith.
The church is at 1315 Concord Road Southeast, Smyrna.