Monthly Archives: August 2012

Gary United Methodist Church

That same day, June 20, I visited another church — Gary United Methodist Church. The pastor who pastored Thorpe had been the pastor here, as well. This was my first visit to this church. However, I have driven past it many times, going through the holler. It seemed to me that it wasn’t much larger than the houses. I was about to be surprised!

Upon entering the church, we went through the basement that is a large fellowship hall. Adjoining the fellowship hall, is a large kitchen that could be used to serve many people, as a cafeteria, if need be. The pastor told me that this church had also been designated as a place for residents to go to in case of an emergency. There are many Sunday school rooms in the basement area that have been set up to serve as a place for overnight stays.

Leading up from the basement is a staircase with a beautiful handrail. I had expected to walk directly into the sanctuary from the staircase, but this was not the case. At the top of the stairs is a large, framed document. The document is a charter that is a beautiful handwritten list of the charter members of the church and where they were from. It is dated June 19, 1964. The signatures look to read “R Howard Berg”, President, and “R.G. Mayfield”, Executive Secretary.

© Renee Bolden

Gary United Methodist Church, Gary, WV, Sanctuary

On this same wall is a door. That door opens up to the sanctuary. I was amazed at how large and beautiful it was. Extremely large and beautiful stained glass windows with inscriptions at the bottom from the Junior Missionary Society, the Young Peoples Missionary Society, In Memory of Mr. & Mrs. Eli Clemens, and Presented by Gary Lodge No 297. I can not explain the beauty of those windows.

The altar of the church sits back in a circular space with the offering/communion table, the American & Christian flags, and a pulpit on each side. When I stood in that area, the church seemed much larger. There was a large, opened Bible on the pulpit to the right.

There is a traditional piano, along with an electric one to the right, looking towards the altar. It looks as if the church had an addition as there are two large doorway areas to the back with additional pews. The front door is in the back of the church to the left. The front of the church has the most beautiful, heavy wooden doors. I’m sure those have been there since the church was built.

© Renee Bolden

Gary United Methodist Church, Gary, WV

We walked outside and I took some outside shots. Again, I had to be very careful not to step into the road. For the time being, coal is alive and well in Gary holler and the trucks run constantly.

We went back inside and in the hallway where the charter is are more Sunday school rooms and a large room that is designated as a smaller chapel. This room, also has a few pews, a piano, and a table at the front. This room could serve as a perfect place to hold children’s church.

© Renee Bolden

Gary United Methodist Church, Gary, WV, Small Chapel

In the hallway also, is a table that displays old photos of a children’s choir in the church and the combined youth choirs from Gary & Filbert Methodist Churches.

Across from the door to the sanctuary is another door that I thought was a closet. I was wrong. This door opens up to a small staircase and room that was designated for the choir to store their robes and to get ready for worship.

What I thought was a little church turned out to be anything but little! There is so much space and opportunity for this church to grow, be an asset to the Gary community, and most importantly, a beautiful place to worship.

“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” Psalm 96:9

Photos © Renee Bolden 2012.

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Thorpe United Methodist Church

On June 20, I visited Thorpe United Methodist Church. Buddy was working that day, and I went alone. This church is active, and I had contacted the pastor and asked permission to visit. He agreed and met me there that day.

© Renee Bolden

Thorpe United Methodist Church, Thorpe, WV, Sanctuary

I took a couple of shots outside as I talked to the pastor. When I walked into the vestibule, the first thing that caught my eye was a sign above a door that led into a room straight ahead. The sign said, “The cross made the difference for me.” There was a table to the left and a door to the right. The door to the right led into the sanctuary.

The sanctuary is small with a total of about fifteen pews. This little old-fashioned church is beautiful. There are two stained glass windows at the front of the church that has a cross in between them which is located behind the pulpit. There is a large, beautiful stained glass window in the back, as well as stained glass windows on the right wall. I would have loved to see the crowd that used to attend this little country church.

© Renee Bolden

Thorpe United Methodist Church, Thorpe, WV

On the left side of the church, there were two large wooden doors, and a smaller wooden door. The room that led straightway from the vestibule was where these doors led. The larger doors serve as a partition to the overflow room. A room to open up the sanctuary, if need be, to allow more people to hear the sermon. The overflow room has a large, beautiful stained glass window in the back. Today, this room serves as a Sunday school room, but the pastor told me at one time, this little church had been standing room only.

The smaller of the wooden door also open up to that room, but faced the stairway to the basement. The basement is set up as a fellowship hall with a new kitchen. It is a wonderful space for the parishioners to fellowship with one another. The pastor also told me that the church could serve as a place for McDowell County residents to come to in case of an emergency.

As we went outside, I took some more shots, but was careful how far back I stood. The highway goes right in front of this little church, and the coal trucks roar past every few minutes. Above the road is the train track that carries McDowell County coal, as well. Thorpe was a large community in the King Coal days. I don’t know of any other community that had as many coke ovens in a row as Thorpe. Those coke ovens can still be seen as you drive through. I’m thankful this little church can still be seen, also.

Photos © Renee Bolden


Switchback Memorial Baptist Church

Our next church hunting adventure was a rainy Sunday afternoon on May, 2012. We had decided to go over to the Maybeury and Switchback area. We rode across Elkhorn Mountain and then south on 52. I like to ride around first and see what churches are opened or closed. I knew there were no churches past Maybeury and I drove towards Me and Mr. Jones Estate.

Me and Mr. Jones Estate is an old mansion that was renovated into a bed and breakfast. (More information about it can be found here: http://www.meandmrjonesestate.com/index.html) Hatfield and McCoy trail riders are welcome there as a trail head is not far from that location.

© Renee Bolden

Switchback Memorial Baptist Church, Switchback, WV

We rode around that mountain until we were in Switchback bottom. There is a white church over there that sits on the side of the mountain. The railroad tracks and Elkhorn River are to the left when facing it. There are a couple of old trailers that we passed before we got to the church and I had a bad feeling about them — not sure why. Maybe it was just the atmosphere that day with the rain and overcast sky.

As always, I was nervous when we started towards the church. This church sits quite a distance from any houses or major road and I wasn’t sure what we would find. Since it was May, the weeds had overtook the stairs that led up to the church. As I have stated before, I am completely terrified of bats, rats, and snakes. Buddy was the first to start climbing the stairs.

At the bottom of the stairs are two coal houses. They are quite a distance from the church. I’m not sure if they were used for coal for the church or maybe a house that used to be nearby. The stairs were so overgrown that there was one place where we both had to duck to avoid the weeds. We also had to watch our footing on the stairs (anyone that knows me knows that I am not graceful when it comes to walking, at times!).

We made it to the top of the stairs, and looked at the church to determine if it was safe enough to go in. One of the first things we look at is the steeple. If the steeple looks like it is still straight, then we know that the church’s foundation is still sound. This one looked ok, even though it looked like there had been a cross at the very top of it at some time.

© Renee Bolden

Switchback Memorial Baptist Church, Switchback, WV, Window

We stepped onto the covered porch as it started to rain and noticed a sign on the door. The sign read: “This church has an appointed trustee board that was effective June 2005. For more info call (304) xxx-xxxx.” Buddy checked the door, and again to our surprise, it was unlocked. Again, he walked in first. The first thing I do when I walk into an abandoned church is look up. Those churches have some old bells in those steeples and I like to make sure they are not going to fall on my head! Buddy stepped through the vestibule and into the sanctuary. As I looked in, I was shocked and then terrified! The entire sanctuary was glowing. It was glowing RED. I said, “Why is it red??!!” Buddy looked in and said, “The windows are red stained glass.” I immediately calmed a little and felt somewhat childish! I said, “Oh, OK”.

Like he always does, Buddy started going to the back of the church. Of course, I voiced my warning to him, like I always do, of which he pays absolutely no attention. I started taking photos from the back of the church as I had no intentioned on venturing any further. As Buddy was busy looking around in the back room of the church, and as I was taking photographs, I had the strangest feeling of something walking up behind me. I immediately turned around to see who was standing there. There was no one; however, there was a feeling of evil. I started singing, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know”! I yelled to Buddy to hurry up as we needed to get out of there.

© Renee Bolden

Switchback Memorial Baptist Church, Switchback, WV, Sanctuary

Buddy had found some things and asked if we should take them. I told him yes and I would find someone who would appreciate having them. Our impression of the church was that it wouldn’t be there much longer. I had taken pictures of the sanctuary and a closet to the right in the vestibule. As we were leaving, I tried to get a picture of the basement stairway that was to the left. My camera failed to focus on anything there. There was adequate light, but still no focusing. Buddy told me to hurry up and let’s get out of there.

We left and carefully walked down the weedy stairway. I turned around a couple of times to take a couple of more shots. I was unaware of what kind of church this was. At that point, I really wasn’t concerned. Once we were back to the safety of the Tahoe, Buddy showed me what he had picked up. There was some letterhead that said, “Switchback Memorial Baptist Church”.

We hurriedly got in the Tahoe to leave and search for more churches. We drove to Barlow Holler and I realized that I had to go back. Buddy said, “Go back for what?” I had forgotten to video.

We returned to the church, but I did not have the same feeling of an evil presence being there the second time. I told Buddy that I knew when I said, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” that whatever was there was gone. When I called on His name that day, He came to us, in that church, and the devil had to flee. We live in a world filled with spiritual warfare, and I know there were angels all around us.

Psalms 91:10-13

10. There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

11. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

12. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

When we got back to Mom’s house, I called the number that was on the door; however, I had to leave a message. Someone called Mom back and told me to call Tuesday.

On Tuesday, I again called the number on the door and spoke to a lady who had been raised in the Switchback church. She told me that the church had been closed and an attempt had been made to open it again. Before I told her my experience, she had went to the church alone one day and had the feeling of an evil presence. On that day, she had walked to that back room where Buddy had went and the door was closed. She had to push it hard to get it to open. When she started to walk in, there was a copperhead coiled in the corner ready to strike. She slammed the door and rebuked the devil. She later learned that the church had a history of being filled with snakes. At one time, there was one hanging from the ceiling before a church service. During our conversation, I also learned that there had been activities in the basement of the church that are against the will of God. That piece of information was confirmed by niece.

This lady also had me look this verse up with her:

“And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” Isaiah 58:12 KJV. She said, “This is what you are doing.”

Weeks before we visited this church, my sister had told me to be very careful. She had a dream where Buddy and I was in an old Baptist church and he had told me to hurry up and get out of there as there was an evil presence in the basement. She told me the church had a lot of rock around it, but she didn’t know where it was.

I called her when we got to Mom’s and told her to come look at my pictures. Before I told her where we were, I asked her if the church looked familiar to her. She said, “That’s it! That’s the church I dreamt about!”

© Renee Bolden

Switchback Memorial Baptist Church, Switchback, WV

***August 28, 2012 — I failed to add this which I should have.  It was evident that this church had done a great work for the Lord.  Inside, was a plaque awarded to the church for their donations in the 1980’s for “Toys for Tots”.  That, in itself, is a great work.

Also, people no longer respect the Lord or these houses of worship.  It is a sad situation and a clear reminder of the times that we live in.  The activities that I mentioned that occurred in the basement of this church were NOT by members.  This had happened long after the church had closed.

© Photos — Renee Bolden


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