Country circuit church to close its beautiful doors

Nearly 200 years ago, a small Methodist Church was organized to serve citizens in South Christian.

It started in a log structure and was first known as Robbins Chapel.

The church grew and later was moved to a new site, and the building we now know as Hebron United Methodist Church was constructed.

It flourished. Sometimes with as many as 130 members.

Today, there are only two active members and three or four that attend on occasion.

Today, that small group knows that the end is near. The church can no longer function without more members and funding.

It will close at the end of the year.

Mike Pyle has remained active in the Hebron church for many years, and had worked hard for the church that he loves and a place that has been part of his entire life and the life of his ancestors.

Pyle, a retired lab technician at Jennie Stuart Medical Center, said, “Everything is changing. I think transportation is the main reason, and today there aren’t as many families in the area of the church. The farms are quite large and the population has decreased.”

It seems a trend as Hebron isn’t the only small country church to close. It was many years ago when the Longview Methodist Church on the Clarksville Pike (Fort Campbell Boulevard) closed and was torn down. It had been on a lot where there is now a road leading to the Wal-Mart Distribution Center.

Longview and Hebron were on the Hopkinsville Circuit. This included a number of small country churches which were either ministered to by a minister who moved from one church to another to minister and preach. In some instances, a lay minister or church layperson has preached one of two Sundays a month as was the case at Hebron.

Christian County Historian William T. Turner says the Shiloh church, the little stone church on U.S. 68 at Sinking Fork Creek, is a circuit church, and “it is still going fine.”

Vaughn’s Grove Methodist Church is another circuit church that is still open. The churches had Sunday school programs, Women’s Missionary programs. Through the years, there have been outstanding members such as A.H. Gregory, a missionary, and John H. Smithson,

author of the book, “Both Feet On Earth and Looking Up.”

In 2008 and 2009, Saint John United Methodist Church and First United Methodist with Jim Wisby taking a major role, joined together to help finance and restore the building after it was severely damaged by a tornado.

“The building is still in pretty good shape, perhaps it could use a coat of paint, but it’s in good repair,” Pyle said.

The oldest member, Don Knight, a World War II and Korean Air Force veteran, was a faithful member with Pyle and a few others.

“Mr. Knight died recently. He was 99 years old, and Betsy Lazare is another long-time member,” Pyle said.

Pyle still regularly attends services at Hebron. Some of the names of families who have been members and leaders are Pierce (Pyle’s ancestors), Kimbroughs, Sivley, McGaughey, Russell, Adcock, Lander, Kings, Caudle, Wells, Lazare, Nemethy, Hammonds, Minton and Irvings, and there were others.

The church will be turned over to the Louisville Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Repeated calls to the Methodist district superintendent, the Rev. Gene Pillow, were not acknowledged or returned.

However, as to the future of the building, Pyle hopes someone will purchase it. It would be a beautiful venue for weddings and other special events and special occasions.

The church is 5 miles from Hopkinsville on Cox Mill Road.

Pyle says anyone is welcome to stop and visit in the church: “It is always open.”

It will be only a few months until the little white church will close its doors forever.

Husband, Russell, and I went out on a beautiful late summer afternoon to take pictures.

Neither of us had ever been in Hebron Methodist. It is beautiful. We took the time to enjoy the peace and serenity of what is a sacred place.

We marveled as the balcony with its pews that match those in the small sanctuary as well as the tall, wooden shutters at the high windows topped with triangles of stained glass.

We looked at the beautiful altar. You wonder how many couples said their marriage vows there, how many knelt at communion, how many found solace at a funeral of a loved one.

In that quiet place, there was so much history.

When its doors are locked, and Hebron United Methodist Church is closed, Pyle said, “That will be a sad day.”

Mary D. Ferguson is a staff writer and columnist for the Kentucky New Era. Her column runs every Saturday. She can be reached by telephone at 270-887-3230.

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