Methodists United

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By Brad Bowman

The New Castle and Eminence United Methodist congregations showed faith requires sacrifice and vision.


The Kentucky Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church voted to merge the two congregations into one church in June. On Sunday, Oct. 6, the two congregations celebrated the merger as, ‘one church, two cities.’

For 135 years, Eminence United Methodist Church went through phases of growth. A congregation made of just eight families met in homes and later the opera house that was above Slaughter’s Department Store on Broadway.

The congregation’s first pastor was the Rev. E.C. Coleman and W.E. Poynter, president of the all girl Science Hill School in Shelbyville, served as the second pastor in 1883. By 1883, the congregation had

 54 white members and two black members.

A fire destroyed the frame building church and the neighboring Miles Livery Stable in 1891. The present Eminence United Methodist Church’s construction began in 1893. According to historical records, the limestone slabs which serve as part of the church’s foundation came from the

railroad turntable built by the L.C. and L Railroad, the Louisville and Cincinnati and Lexington Railway Company.

 The church originally had a steeple that was destroyed during a storm in 1922 which claimed the steeple of the Eminence Christian Church. The present day bell tower replaced the steeple and houses a Kentucky River boat bell.

For120 years, generations of families grew up in the church, celebrated holidays, weddings, baptisms and funerals. Names like Curtis W. Smith, Wilburn Roberts, Susan Jenkins and Wendell L. Trapp Sr. on the church’s stained glass windowsserve as landmarks of faith, devotion and a thriving part of the building’s history. Bishop Lindsey Davis honored that legacy in his message.

“I know today is a little bittersweet for you,” Davis said. “As you remember back, all of the professions of faith and special Sundays that this building has housed. But I want to congratulate you. Many churches today have to make tough choices. You’ve made some difficult decisions. You’ve done it not just for the sake of the ministry of this church, but for the young people in this congregation and the young who are yet to come.”

Davis emphasized that not every church can make the decision, do it well and put off the decision.

“I hope in the days to come that this isn’t a merger, but in fact, it will be a uniting of the hearts, minds and spirits that have come here and together you will cast a new vision for the future,” Davis said. “It will be a vision…that welcomes people into this congregation and that your best days are ahead of you and not behind you.”

The New Castle United Methodist Church offers a morning worship service at 9 a.m., Sunday school from 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. and a blended service of traditional and contemporary music at 11 a.m. The ‘one church, two cities,’ merger will continue under the guidance of the Rev. David Combs.

New Castle United Methodist absorbed 24 members of the Mt. Gilead Methodist Church in 1980 and Eminence United Methodist church’s congregation grew when Smithfield Methodist Church closed in 1959.

District Superintendent, the Rev. Dr. Jean Hawxhurst, collaborated with Combs for  the order of worship services that would ensue at the New Castle United Methodist Church.

“I look out in the congregation and it is quite a mix of the New Castle and Eminence Congregation and that is what we are about today. It is quite a blessing,” Hawxhurst said.

Eminence and New Castle United Methodists churches belong to the Kentucky Annual Conference of the Methodist Church. which is divided into 12 districts. Bishop Lindsey Davis oversees the Louisville area that includes both congregations.