Palmyra United Methodist Church
Thursday, December 12, 2013
We come together to worship God, with eyes, hands, and minds of all ages to be an inspiration and serve all the people.
Who We Are
There are two kinds of history that together explain who we are. The Palmyra Story is all about local history and the United Methodist Story is all about doctrinal history.
The Palmyra Story of Local History
Although Palmyra United Methodist Church was established in 1830, its heritage dates to a much earlier time in American Methodism. Palmyra UMC is a continuation of the old Broken-Back Meeting House, which was the site of the regular Annual Conference of American Methodist Preachers in 1779. With America in the midst of a Revolution, current political tensions placed American Methodists in a tenuous position, particularly when John Wesley, their mentor, made a vocal stand against the Revolution.
However, these political tensions did not bring on the crisis of 1779. The issue of sacramental ordinances was the catalyst. Preachers and circuit riders of American Methodism were not yet ordained and therefore, could not administer the sacraments nor could American Methodists go to the Anglican churches for these sacraments as they had in the past. In addition, it did not seem that John Wesley would be able to make arrangements to provide for this urgent need.
While in a “preparatory meeting,” the northern preachers took the advice of Francis Asbury to wait until the political situation improved and thereby allowing Wesley to act, the Southern preachers, gathering at the Fluvanna Conference, decided to act, citing “critical circumstances” as their justification. Their solution arranged for the sacraments in a manner that was in direct contradiction to Wesley and Asbury – creating dissension in the Church. One year later, the Southern preachers desisted thereby restoring peace in the Church. With the War’s end, Northern and Southern preachers reconciled with The Christmas Conference of 1784 providing a solution for everyone.The schism formed in 1779 was to have effects that reached well into this century.
The original brick church building was erected on the court green around 1840 and served many purposes. During the Civil War, the building was used as a hospital. Fifty years later, a severe crack developed in the back wall of the building causing the building to be condemned and destroyed. As a result, the congregation was without a place of worship for a period of time. The congregation met in various buildings in the village of Palmyra until they were able to gather the resources to begin construction of a new building in 1888. Our simple, white frame building that continues to stand has been expanded many times over the years to fill growth needs.
Along with the sanctuary building, there is a fellowship hall building which is home to many fellowship events and learning experiences. Sunday School was and still is a vital part of our ministry. This building was originally built in the 1950s, and we are currently considering expanding the building. It is used for congregational events and for community events. We believe that we should reach out to the world, and we do this in many ways including opening our buildings.
The two buildings are connected by a breezeway. This breezeway is dedicated to Callie Gallery. Ms. Gallery was a member of the congregation and gave the money for the breezeway to be erected in 1975. She, an African American woman, also serves as a symbol of this congregation’s stand against racial divisions.
For many years the congregation was a part of a larger pastoral charge in which a pastor served multiple congregations. In 2001(?) the congregation made a decision to become a “station” church which means that they are one church served by one pastor. In this same year the congregation purchased the Ruffa House which is located behind the church. The land was subdivided to allow the church to expand its facilities. The house, with a down-sized lot was then sold in 2009(?).
The pioneers in the traditions that flowed together into The United Methodist Church understood themselves as standing in the central stream of Christian spirituality and doctrine, loyal heirs of the authentic Christian tradition. In John Wesley's words, theirs was "the old religion, the religion of the Bible, the religion . . .of the whole church in the purest ages." Their gospel was grounded in the biblical message of God's self-giving love revealed in Jesus Christ.
Wesley's portrayal of the spiritual pilgrimage in terms of "the scripture way of salvation" provided their model for experiential Christianity. They assumed and insisted upon the integrity of basic Christian truth and emphasized its practical application in the lives of believers.
This perspective is apparent in the Wesleyan understanding of "catholic spirit." While it is true that United Methodists are fixed upon certain religious affirmations, grounded in the gospel and confirmed in their experience, they also recognize the right of Christians to disagree on matters such as forms of worship, structures of church government, modes of Baptism, or theological explorations. They believe such differences do not break the bond of fellowship that ties Christians together in Jesus Christ. Wesley's familiar dictum was, "As to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think."
But, even as they were fully committed to the principles of religious toleration and theological diversity, they were equally confident that there is a "marrow" of Christian truth that can be identified and that must be conserved. This living core, as they believed, stands revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal and corporate experience, and confirmed by reason. They were very much aware, of course, that God's eternal Word never has been, nor can be, exhaustively expressed in any single form of words.
They were also prepared, as a matter of course, to reaffirm the ancient creeds and confessions as valid summaries of Christian truth. But they were careful not to set them apart as absolute standards for doctrinal truth and error.
Beyond the essentials of vital religion, United Methodists respect the diversity of opinions held by conscientious persons of faith. Wesley followed a time-tested approach: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity." The spirit of charity takes into consideration the limits of human understanding. "To be ignorant of many things and to be mistaken in some," Wesley observed, "is the necessary condition of humanity." The crucial matter in religion is steadfast love for God and neighbor, empowered by the redeeming and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Doctrinal Standards and General Rules
From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2004. Copyright 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.