M.L. Harris United Methodist Church in Columbus celebrates 141 years by making video

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 5, 2013 

Minnie T. Carlisle was honored to be asked to narrate a video about the history of M.L. Harris United Methodist Church in Columbus, but she thinks her voice is "too nasal."

Her pastor Walter C. Lundy Sr., however, disagrees.

"I think she is as good as Morgan Freeman," he said.

Recently retired pastor Earl S. James decided to make a video, rather than a book, to celebrate the church's 141-year anniversary.

"That way, people would be able to see the people talking, see how their eyes light up when talking about the church," said church member Joyce Leonard.

"Once we decided to do it, we realized we were not quite sure how to do it," said church member Patsy Thomas.

Thomas, a former newspaper reporter who is now a strategic sourcing analyst with Aflac, conducted interviews with past and present members for the oral history, "When Two Become One."

"Some interviews were done on lunch breaks," Thomas said. "This is a living history. It was wonderful to hear about what the church was like many years ago. As the people spoke, you could hear the sound of feet tapping, the smell of the fire in the potbelly stove."

The 45-minute video has been in the works for 18 months and will be shown for the first time at a 10 a.m. service at the church on Oct. 13. The "A Servant's Heart" revival will be held at the church on Oct. 14-16 with Lundy preaching each evening.

Lundy said James, who now lives in Warner Robins, Ga., has been ill lately and might not be able to attend the video's premiere.

Leonard said all of the interviews done were not used but may show up in another video.

A local actor and director, Jonathan Perkins, gave church members insight into lighting and video.

Retired Columbus State University professor Judy A. Rutledge Purnell pointed the way to historical documents such as original grants.

Naiche Brooks of ReignBig Media did the editing.

Singing by the church choir is featured prominently in the video.

"I like that," said Leonard.

The church began in 1872 with a group who regularly would meet in fields and elsewhere to conduct worship services.

In 1882, the Georgia Legislature enacted a bill that granted a plot of land located at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Seventh Street for the expressed purpose of building a church.

The act took place Feb. 15, 1882, in accordance with the Georgia Commission of Commons.

The original Simpson Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church was erected at 640 Sixth Ave. The church is believed to have been named after Bishop Matthew Simpson.

The church relocated to 4601 Old Cusseta Road in 1966 and was renamed M.L. Harris Church. United Methodist would be added to the name in 1968.

M.L. Harris was a resident bishop of the Atlantic Coast area of the Methodist Church who played a key role in getting the present church building constructed.

Leonard said many of the church artifacts used for the history were donated from people's personal collections.

"We found an original program from the church's first year here," Leonard said.

Bessie Lee Watson is a longtime church member who is proud of her church and glad the video has been made.

"Everybody is so loving here, so caring," she said. "You walk in the door and you know if you need help you will get it. It has always been like that."

"For a small church, we do a lot of outreach. We have a food pantry and do clothing drives," Carlisle said.

The church, which has a membership of 227, calls itself, "the church where everybody is somebody and God is all."

"The people who come to church here do naturally what Christ commanded us all to do," said Lundy. "This is not a church congregation that just gathers."

Lundy has only been at the church since June.

"This project is giving me an opportunity to learn about this church," Lundy said. "It is very interesting."

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