Monthly Archives: January 2013

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Powhatan WV

© Renee Bolden

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Powhatan, WV

The first church I was able to visit this year was Sacred Heart Catholic Church, located on route 52 in Powhatan. Emily and I went on Thursday, January

10.

Sacred Heart was dedicated in Powhatan in 1895, making the church 118 years old! The land was donated by the Crozer Coal and Land Company. Sacred Heart will celebrate their 100th parish anniversary next year, as they became an official parish in 1914.

Mr. Jim Copolo met us there to give us a tour. We walked up the many stairs to the front entrance and into a vestibule. I did not notice the stained glass windows in the vestibule doors at first; however, they are beautiful. On each one, there is an angel. Under each angel is a dedication. The one on the left says: “In Loving Memory of Annie Fortuna Brant By Her Family”. The one on the right: “In Loving Memory of Giustina B. Simplicio By Her Family”.

Sacred Heart is deeply tied to the McDowell County coalfields. Mr. Copolo brought my attention to the stained glass window in the back of the church to the right that says: “Donated by J.J. Tierney and Family”. J.J. Tierney was president of the Crozer Pocahontas Company and Powhatan Coal and Coke Company. Tierney had also been a partner of Jairus Collins, one of the Bramwell millionaires. On the other side of the church is a window that bears the name of L.E. Tierney. L.E. Tierney was Treasurer of the Elk Ridge Coal & Coke Company, President and General Manager of Eureka Coal & Coke Company, and Treasurer and General Manager of the Powhatan Coal & Coke Company. These two men donated these windows to Sacred Heart, and were a great influence to the coal mining of our county.

© Renee Bolden

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Powhatan, WV

We walked up a small set of stairs that led to the balcony. On the balcony is an organ that sits in front of another beautiful stained glass window. From the balcony, one can ring the church bell and look out over the sanctuary.

The sanctuary has been enlarged and remodeled as the years have passed. There are two long rows of wooden pews. To the right, at the front, sits a piano and organ. To the left, are the prayer candles and then a small chapel. An entrance to the small chapel leads to the back of the church, which is handicap accessible. At the front is the altar. On the altar is a beautiful picture of the Lord’s Supper. On the back wall is a stained glass window of the Sacred Heart. Beneath the window hangs a large wooden crucifix, carved by hand in Vietnam.

Because our visit coincided with the Epiphany of the Lord, the church’s Christmas decorations were still present. There was a nativity scene in front of the altar, as well as Christmas trees on either side.

© Renee Bolden

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Powhatan, WV

Mr. Copolo showed us the rectory that is attached to the church and the fellowship hall underneath. The fellowship hall has a large room for dinners and gatherings, a kitchen, and rooms for the children for religious education classes.

It is evident that the people of Sacred Heart genuinely care about their beautiful church. As all churches in McDowell County have experienced a decrease in attendance, Mr. Copolo told me that the church started praying. As a result of those prayers, the church is once again growing! Parishioners who had to move out of the county due to the flood, but are

© Renee Bolden

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Powhatan, WV

close enough to attend, have remained loyal to their parish. During the flood, Sacred Heart was able to deliver food prepared by Sacred Heart of Bluefield to those in need in the county. Because there were so many displaced after the flood and in need, Sacred Heart was a blessing to those in the Powhatan and surrounding areas.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.

Thank you, Mr. Copolo, for the tour and history of your beautiful church.

**Note: God answers prayer. There are a couple more churches in McDowell County that I am aware of that are growing, also!

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Review of 2012 Churches

“This little light of mine I’m gonna let it shine”…….

On January 7, 2012, Buddy and I started this adventure of visiting the churches in McDowell County, West Virginia. Unfortunately, we did not get to visit as many as we would have liked. We still have many more to go.

This is what I have seen….in reality and in my mind’s eye.

All of the houses that we passed to go to one of the churches are standing. The houses are occupied, lights are on everywhere and the community is filled with life up and down the streets and rows! We are prosperous.

First Missionary Baptist ChurchKimball, WV

First Missionary Baptist Church
Kimball, WV

McDowell County is supplying the nation with coal, as we ARE the nation’s coal bin! Welch has one of the first parking garages in the nation built, downtown is full of banks, shops, and theaters. The lights from downtown light up the night sky! It is Little New York, the Free State of McDowell!

It is Sunday and in all the churches, I see people sitting in the pews and standing all around as there are no seats to be had. The children sing, “This Little Light of Mine”, the Gospel is preached, then the pianist plays “Amazing Grace” as the congregation sings. I can see them even now, as their light shines bright into the community.

Time flies as the hands on the clock circle unimaginably fast.

There are some empty houses now in the community, and not as many lights shining on the streets and rows. Many people have moved to find work elsewhere, due to the fact that there are no jobs to be had or because of the raging waters that claimed their home. Coal is still being mined, but the people are not benefiting from it as they once were. A few shops in town have closed and the theaters. Lights are still shining downtown, though!

© Renee Bolden

Long Point Missionary Baptist Church, Spencer Curve, WV

It is Sunday and my view is heartbreaking to say the least. I see a few empty seats, here and there. The hands on the clock continue to move. Then I see a few more empty seats. The hands are never failing on that old clock. It keeps ticking.

In half the churches, I see a few children still singing “This Little Light of Mine”, the Gospel is still being preached, and the pianist still sits at the piano playing “Amazing Grace” as the small congregation sings. I see them leaving now to come back next meeting time to this church house. It’s light continues to shine in the community.

In the other half of the churches, I see a handful of parishioners gathered with the pastor. I hear “Amazing Grace” being sung, but with no music as there is no pianist. I hear them talking. I’m not sure of the words that are being said, although I can tell they are words that these few never wanted to speak. I can feel the ominous meaning of them. I see them leaving now, not to return next meeting time to this church house. It’s light goes out in the community.

That old clock keeps ticking, just the same.

Many of the houses in the community have fallen in. No one has lived in them for years. Just as a body that has no life, the earth claims them with gravity, decay, and flood. There are a few standing. Some are occupied. There are a few lights on the streets and rows. Coal is being mined. There are not many people left to mine coal as machines now do what men used to. Mining is now all evaluations and regulations. Only a dress shop and a consignment shop now remain downtown. There are a few professional offices. The lights still shine at night….though somewhat dimmer.

© Renee Bolden

St. John Baptist Church, Pageton, WV

It is Sunday, and some of those churches that had to close their doors are as the houses in the community. Gravity has pulled in the walls and ceilings. Their steeples have crashed into the pews and beautiful wooden floors beneath. Pianos are underneath the collapsed walls, ceilings, and steeples.  Those ivory keys will never again play “Amazing Grace.”

Down the road, just a little ways, though, I can faintly hear sweet little voices in harmony: “Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.” A pause as I hear the clanking of a coal train in the distance. Then much louder I hear someone starting to play old ivory keys to the tune of a beautiful song, and on cue, voices singing in unison: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound”…….

Tick, Tock, Tick.

I have always considered myself an optimist; however, before I reviewed the churches we had visited, I was convinced there were more closed churches than open. I was surprised to learn that they are even. We visited 35 churches. Of those churches, 16 are open, 16 are closed, 2 are used for missions, and 1 moved to another building. Those churches that continue to operate are still letting their light shine!

By doing this project, we have met and talked to so many wonderful people. For those of you I have I have met and talked to, thank you for your help, stories and encouraging conversations! For those I have yet to meet, I can’t wait to visit your church! Remember to keep your light shining as we still have amazing grace!

Thanks to all who have read the blogs and newspaper articles, encouraged us to keep going, and those who went with us on the journeys!

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.


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