Historic church to celebrate its 200th anniversary

 

Shaeffer's Chapel United Methodist Church in west Lowndes County will celebrate its 200th anniversary and homecoming Sunday, Oct. 27 at 10:30 a.m.

Shaeffer's Chapel United Methodist Church in west Lowndes County will celebrate its 200th anniversary and homecoming Sunday, Oct. 27 at 10:30 a.m. Photo by: Courtesy photo

 

This photograph of Shaeffer's Chapel in 1914 shows how similar the present-day church is to its origins.

This photograph of Shaeffer's Chapel in 1914 shows how similar the present-day church is to its origins.
Photo by: Courtesy photo

 

 

Jan Swoope

 

 

For the past two centuries, worshipers have gathered at Shaeffer's Chapel in the Lowndes County Prairie to share their faith. The first services were held under a woven brush arbor shaded by spreading oak trees. On Sunday, Oct. 27, the Shaeffer's Chapel United Methodist Church congregation invites the community to join in celebrating the 200th anniversary and homecoming at 10:30 a.m.

 

In the church's earliest days, there was no evident denomination. Those who assembled in a simple log cabin built in 1820 -- a few white settlers, African-Americans and Native Americans -- were soon ministered to by the Rev. George Shaeffer, a Methodist circuit rider for whom the church is named. Shaeffer was noted as one of the most successful pastors and revivalists of his day in Alabama and Mississippi.

 

By 1878, the surrounding community was growing and a chapel was erected. In August 1965, the current education building was completed. As the church continued to grow, it extended the sanctuary. The Christian Life Center was built in 2003 at the chapel located at 1007 Shaeffer's Chapel Road, 3 miles south of the intersection of Highway 82 and Highway 45 South.

 

 

Since its founding, Shaeffer's Chapel has had 42 pastors; its current membership is 270. Just 10 minutes from downtown Columbus, members enjoy a rural, country setting as well as a growing church evidenced by seven baptisms during 2019.

 

New members John and Annette Perry said, "When we walked into this church it almost took our breath away -- the feeling of the love for Jesus Christ spilled out from every person. People at Shaeffer's don't worry about who you are or where you've been, they are just glad you are there."

 

Member Wilda Thomas shared a quote from the late Rev. Dr. Walt Porter: "Whatever your situation, I urge you to seek out a caring church, a group of loving people who will put their arms around you and through Jesus Christ you belong. We are with you and God is with you."

 

Thomas said, "I am truly blessed to have found Shaeffer's Chapel. After my first Sunday I knew I had found my church home. The members are so welcoming and genuinely care for and about each other. Our pastor is a great leader and teacher whom I thank so much for helping me grow as a Christian and inviting me to participate at the church as I have never been with any church I have attended."

 

Shaeffer's congregation embraces three primary dimensions they hold important: worship, nurture and outreach. Worship encompasses the celebration of life in its joy and its sorrows and gives order to life and brings individuals in contact with God. Nurture fosters a loving environment in which to grow. Outreach, Thomas shared, is inspired because "the life of Christian community is too good to keep to ourselves."

 

Members, former members and guests are invited to share in the 200th anniversary and homecoming Oct. 27. A sermon written by the first pastor, the Rev. George Shaeffer, will be part of the milestone event.

 

 

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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