By MATT MASTERS
Nolensville’s Ebenezer United Methodist Church celebrated its 150th Homecoming Anniversary on Sunday, packing the church with believers and community members during two services.
The historic African American church with its white walls and steeple saw a full house during the 11 a.m. service, so much that folding metal chairs were place at the end of the pews to accommodate the turnout, many of whom were dressed in white.
Pastor John D. Alexander and the various church leadership led the congregation in prayers and reflections on the anniversary.
In between prayers, the choir performed songs of worship and songs honoring the past members of Ebenezer UMC who paved the way for the contemporary congregation.
The church was filled with people of different generations and races — bridging those generational divides and inspiring the younger members, Alexander said, is a constant goal for himself and the church leadership.
“Our biggest challenge is trying to keep our young people interested in the service, you know, they want to do something exciting, they want to do something different,” Alexander said. “That’s why we have the Youth Choir and the Inspirational Choir and Inspirational Dancing, to give the young people a chance to do what they like to do, but still give them word of God at the same time.”
Alexander has been the pastor at Ebenezer UMC for six years, a church with an average Sunday attendance of about 50 people each service.
One of those members is Jessie Brown, who has been attending the church that she called a home for 85 years.
Brown said that she’s seen the community change from farmland to the growing town that Nolensville is today, all the while the church stood as a fixture in her life.
“There’s been so many changes over my 85 years here,” Brown said. “This is a part of my life, this church.”
The church building sits partially hidden behind the restaurants and antique shops that line Nolensville Road, but it’s impact is far from hidden, having expanded in both size and relevance since the churches founding in 1869, just four years after the end of the American Civil War.
The church was deeded to the newly free African American community with the stipulation that it would be used for a church, a church that would be known as the Nolensville Methodist Church.
According to the churches own research on its history, a two story farms building was built in 1916 as a collaboration between the African American community and the board of education. The building served as both as the only black school and a place for worship services in Nolensville.
The current block-building was built in the mid 1900s, and in 1968 the church officially became known as Ebenezer United Methodist Church after a previous renaming and merger of two other churches.
Remodels and additions have continued into the 2000s including a “mortgage burning” ceremony in 2004 and a renovation of the sanctuary in 2017.
Alexander said that he hopes to expand both the building and the congregation
“This church has some rich history in this community, and I’m just glad to be a part of it,” Alexander said. “We just want to get out there more to let people know where we are. I think that once we accomplish that task, we’ll have more members coming in.”
After the 11 a.m. service the congregation gathered for a lunch of fried and baked chicken, ham, deviled eggs, green beans and, of course, a homecoming cake.
Pastor Derrick Jackson and the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Gallatin attended the 3 p.m. services as guests.
More information about the church can be found at nolensvilleeumc.wordpress.com.