On Thursday, October 11, my daughter, Emily, and I visited the Welch United Methodist Church. Elena Muckenfuss, historian of the church, had contacted and invited me to the church. I was excited as I had been wanting to visit this church for a long while. Those red doors seemed to beckon me to come inside. There is something about these churches with those red doors. Maybe it’s because they remind me of being covered by the blood.
As we entered the side door, I noticed the long hallway and figured that was where the Sunday School rooms were. Mrs. Muckenfuss led us up a beautiful staircase, with a chair lift, and through a swinging door. Not only does this church have red doors, but the carpet and pew cushions are red, also. A black baby grand piano sits to the left at the front. There is also an organ to the left behind the choir pews in the front. I was amazed at how large and beautiful this church is.
We went upstairs to the balcony and the church seemed that much larger! The stained glass windows behind the balcony are beautiful. Emily and I snapped pictures. (She uses my iPhone as her camera when it is time to take pictures!)
From what I understand, this church was the first in Welch. This history that Mrs. Muckenfuss sent me states that this church began in 1892 with the first pastor being M.C. Graham. This is taken from the history: Persons of all denominations not only attended the Methodist Church but helped to organize and run the Church until their own churches were organized. Several well known Jewish women were tireless workers for the Ladies Aid Society and Jewish men served on the Board of Stewards and helped support the budget. At this time the Methodist Church had a number of Italian members also. This was attributed to the fact that the Holston Conference Board of Home Missions supported an Italian Mission in the McDowell County Coalfields. A need for a church was clearly seen by everyone.
This building is the second one of the church. With the growth in population of the county and the congregation of the church, a new building was constructed. This is another excerpt from the church history: In 1950 a newspaper article announcing the consecration and formal opening of the new church building which we are in today, read and I quote “Welch can proudly boast of one of West Virginia’s most beautiful houses of worship when the First Methodist Church is consecrated and formally opened to the public here tomorrow. Of Gothic type architecture, every single item insures convenience and the height of beauty. The new Welch First United Methodist Church in Welch is one of the first major church constructions in West Virginia since the close of the war.”
As we were led through the halls and rooms of the building, I was amazed at the enormity of it. There were many Sunday School rooms, a choir room, a bell choir room, and the office (just to name a few). There is also a smaller chapel and a large fellowship hall (kitchen attached) with a play stage on the first floor. The tour of this church revealed to me at how much the Lord had blessed it. This church does not only reflect the religious history of our county, but history in general. This is part of our heritage.
I can imagine when this church was packed with parishioners with the Sunday School rooms overflowing, the choir dressing in their robes (which they still do), and the sanctuary filled to capacity. That was Welch, McDowell County, West Virginia.
Thanks again, to Mrs. Elena Muckenfuss, for taking time out of her day to show us this beautiful church.