HISTORICAL STATEMENT 2018
(Reprinted from the 118th Anniversary Program of Pilgrim Hill UMC)
The prime historical concern of the members of the organized church is to know the past, the ideas, the great events and the persons who made history. The importance of United Methodism transcends that of the local. However, the general church exists for the local. The historical statement in the 1956 Discipline states “The Methodist Church is a church of Christ in which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments are duly administered”.
This Congregation’s roots sprang from the endless line of splendor. Our heritage has been lived in the period of greatest and swiftest change which the church in the world has lived. December 21, 1784, Bishop Asbury, the first bishop of Methodism, held the first conference in America at Lonely Lane Church in Baltimore, Maryland. In the year 1865, the preachers in charge of the Negro work in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas in the Methodist Episcopal Church were called to a meeting December 25 at Wesley Church in New Orleans. Bishop J.P. Newman, presiding, organized the Mississippi Mission Conference. This was at the end of the Civil War. The Mother Church, St. Paul Methodist was organized in 1866 by Reverend Gilbert Brooks. The membership of this church came from all sections of the city east, west, south and north. Reverend Brooks visited outlying communities where groups were meeting in “Class Meetings” which were then and are now the heart of Methodism.
One of the “Class Meetings” was a group meeting in the home of a small village near Nelliburgh. Devout and dedicated in the gospel and in the knowledge of John Wesley’s “The World is my parish”, they learned the organizational structure of the local church.
In 1870, Mrs. Cissely Watkins gave the land for the building of the church. Reverend Brooks gave assistance to the group as they raised funds to build a building. A group of energetic officers, Jack Davis, Henry James, Alfred Shadwick, Ina Davis and Jordan Shadwick led the congregation into building the church on the main road. This group had a real sense of service and active concern for the neighboring communities. They served as Circuit riders and the congregation grew steadily. Under the leadership of Bishop A.C. McDonald, this church became a Methodist Episcopal Congregation and the church was named Pilgrim Rest Episcopal Church. It was placed on the circuit with Rose Hill Episcopal Church.
This building was used until Reverend Alfred Nelson was appointed pastor. Then the church was rebuilt. During his ministry, a deep well was placed in front near the road. Reverend Nelson was interested in the spiritual growth of the church. The Scripture ways that God is Love. This congregation knew that the only life that can be authentically lived is a life of love. In the height of its labor in evangelism, discipleship and stewardship, in 1967 during the Civil Rights Movement, the church building was burned, a total loss. This was to be another heart rending milestone.
Sam Hill, living in a community by the name of Complete, Mississippi was a leader in the Mother church, St Paul. Other families were also members, but it was a hardship for them to attend due to lack of transportation. Reverend Gilbert Brooks, pastor of St. Paul, was interested in church development although it meant loss of membership. He encouraged Sam Hill to seek organization of a congregation. This was 1870, the same year Pilgrim Rest Episcopal Church was established. As God acts to extend grace to all, this group of worshippers heard His call to work through witness and service in the outreach of the church triumphant. Margaret Emerson who owned much land around her home gave the land for a church building. Along with Sam Hill, as officers were Cicero Emerson, Jesse Emerson, James Edward, Press Hardy, Binus Larkin and Horace Hardy who finalized the organization of the local church. The men cut the timber from which the lumber was made for the building. It was a large building with an imposing pulpit and a large bell which was rung for the church services, funerals and other occasions. The church building was named Rose Hill Methodist Episcopal Church after Sam and Rose Hill for whom the community was named. Sam Hill had migrated from Virginia where he had been active in “Class Meetings”, to Mississippi. He was also well versed in the Discipline and insisted that the congregation must abide and live by the law. This building was used until Reverend W.P. C. Taylor was appointed pastor. Under his leadership a new structure was built with two classrooms and a pastor’s study. Reverend Taylor and Mr. Tom Smith were the carpenters. Reverend Taylor took sabbatical leave to attend school at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. His brother, Walter Taylor came to complete the conference year and completed the church.
In 1967, the community was awakened by a great flame of fire extending into the sky. The church building had been set afire. Thus, burning preceded the burning of Pilgrim Rest. Both were mysteriously burned by unknown persons. This total loss of both churches on the Rose Hill Circuit were such a tragedy many members lost hope and gave up. Others took the prayerful advice of District Superintendent L.R. McMillan and Bishop L.S. Allen. They both gave reasons for consideration of the merger of the two congregations, namely membership, finances and the heritage of the two groups having worked in Christian harmony and congeniality for over ninety years. Meetings of the church were held separately and together. On Easter Sunday, April 14, 1968, a decision was reached. Reverend C.J. Johnson, pastor stated since neither church had the membership nor funds to build the type building needed for living and serving in such an age. Thus, this Easter Sunday, April 14, 1968, Miss Mattie Larkin moved that Pilgrim Rest and Rose Hill churches merge. It was seconded by Mr. Andrew Parks. The vote was unanimous. The merger was confirmed by the Annual Conference in session at Gulfside United Methodist Assembly, Waveland, Mississippi May 1968. Throughout the four years of building the church Bishop Edward J. Pendergrass gave leadership, soliciting the cooperation of Superintendent S.L. Webb, Dr. Paul Smith and Mr. C.M. Jones in securing the aid of $10,000.00 from the Board of Missions.
After four years, the building was completed. Reverend Elijah Henry, a student minister from Rust College was appointed pastor. Bishop Mack B. Stokes was resident bishop and dedicated the church. It was a three-fold service. After the dedication service Bishop Stokes ordained A.W. Crump, Jr., an elder in the United Methodist Church and christened the Crump’s children. Reverend A.W. Crump was appointed pastor. He was stricken the first session of the Annual Conference at Millsaps College May 1975. He died in August 1975. He left a well-organized membership who carried the ministry of the church on with the assistance of Reverend J.P. Hill.
The Reverend Dock Everette was appointed pastor and served until this 118th Anniversary year of this church.
Below, we honor an alphabetical list of the pastors who have served the Pilgrim Rest and the Rose Hill churches during the formative years.
A.L. Bohanon Gilbert Brooks J.B. Brooks
R.L. Brooks Louis Bridges A. W. Crump, Sr.
T.E. Davis Dock Everett Elijah Henry
J.C. Hibbler J.P. Hill C.J. Johnson
J.J. Johnson S. Mills H.E. Morgan
Alfred Nelson H.K. Roberts N.W. Ross
W. C. Taplin L.P. Tate W.P.C. Taylor
C.M. Webb E.A.Wicks J.A. Williams
A.W. Crump, Sr J.C. Hibbler L.E. Johnson
J.M. Shimpert T.P. Leonard E.A. Mayes
Since the 118th Anniversary these pastors have served,
Pastor Dock Everett Pastor Peter Boggan
Pastor Verlena Johnson Pastor Carl Jackson
Pastor Samuel Anderson Pastor Preston Jones