First United Methodist Church to celebrate 195 years in Cynthiana

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By Joshua Shepherd

The First United Methodist Church of Cynthiana will warm up for its bicentennial by hosting a celebration of its 195th year this Sunday morning, Sept. 29 during regular morning worship services.

The Homecoming celebration will be a special time for this venerable church whose service to the Harrison County community has clearly stood the test of time. 

Bro. Mike Coppersmith and the congregation invite the entire community to join them in this celebration. There will be a pot luck dinner on the ground after the worship service in keeping with the nature of the old-fashioned camp meetings two centuries ago. 

The fellowship hall will be open and a tent will be erected in the lot behind the sanctuary on Church Street, Coppersmith said.

In addition to dinner, the Homecoming worship service will feature two special guests. The Wooten Family Singers from Somerset, Ky. will start the celebration off with an old fashioned gospel sing. 

The guest speaker for Homecoming celebration will be Lindsey Davis, the resident Bishop of the Kentucky Annual Conference.

“This is a very special honor for Bishop Davis to visit our church for this celebration. We’re very pleased that he has taken time from his busy schedule on Sunday morning to help us celebrate this event,” Coppersmith said.

There will be many other special dignitaries attending the service, including several  of the church’s former pastors who have all presided over the development of the First United Methodist Church over the last several decades. 

“The Homecoming celebration is an excellent way for members to revisit the home church which has ministered to the spiritual needs of thousands in its nearly two centuries of existence,” Coppersmith said .

According to First United Methodist Church historian and former Cynthiana Mayor Virgie Wells, the church’s beginnings are tied with the development of the first organized Methodist churches in  Kentucky. 

In fact, according to “A History of the First Methodist Church, Cynthiana, Kentucky,” the Methodist Episcopal Church, as it was first known, was the first organized church in Cynthiana. 

Wells said that there was no church building when the Methodist Episcopal Church began to get organized around the 1800s. In 1817, according to the history, “there was a meeting at White’s Meeting-House in Harrison County which attracted two hundred worshippers. Soon afterwards, LeRoy Cole [the first minister of the church] held a camp meeting in Cynthiana that won many converts and soon afterwards he began searching for land suitable for a church building.”

The land would be the lot upon which the First United Methodist Church sits today, Wells said. Cole and the first church trustees arranged for the purchase of that lot from Richard and Fannie Henderson for the sum of $250.

The first church building and all its records were tragically lost when it burned down in 1844, Wells said. Since then, there have been three other churches built upon the same lot. Unlike the first church building, these other churches were intentionally demolished in favor of new and more modern buildings constructed to accommodate a fast-growing church congregation, she added.

There is not enough space to list the many ways that the church and its congregation have served the local community in the past 195 years. But its historic significance in the spiritual history of Kentucky as well as in the history of the expansion of the Methodist church in this country cannot be overstated, she said. 

LeRoy Cole was a contemporary of such leaders as Bishop Frances Asbury whose circuit carried him on a constant ride from churches in the original 13 colonies to the first Kentucky settlements.

The celebration of the anniversary of the church is as much a celebration of the development of Cynthiana as an organized community as it is an anniversary of an established Christian denomination, Wells said.

 Both Wells and Coppersmith expressed the hope for as large public turnout for the celebration.