By Janice Ganoe
When a small group of faithful followers met together in a home in 1831, no one imagined that 135 years later Ivey Memorial United Methodist Church on the corner of Jefferson Davis Highway and Harrowgate Road would flourish. Named Arrowfield Church by this group of Presbyterians, a building was later constructed on land conveyed by deed to the trustees stating it could only be used for the purpose of preaching, Sabbath school, and prayer meetings. The deed also stipulated that any minister of the Gospel could hold services.
Fast forward to May 1864 during the War Between the States, where a battle was fought around the church between the troops under General Butler on the one side and a detachment of North and South Carolinians on the other. Each side supposed the church to be occupied by a detachment of the other. Consequently, the church was so thoroughly riddled with bullets that there was scarcely six feet of weather boarding that did not bear the marks of the bullets. Indeed, it was so nearly demolished that the meeting house was abandoned as a place of worship.
Then, in 1882, J.J. Ivey and others obtained permission to renovate Arrowfield Church. Ivey undertook having the old church opened, but found that there was no clear deed, as it was owned jointly by the Presbyterians and Methodists. The Presbyterians declined to take any steps toward repairing the property and relinquished their claim, deeding it to the Methodists. Permission was received to open a Sunday school and work was started to repair the structure. In 1882, a Methodist congregation began to hold services in the old Arrowfield Church.
In 1888 it became evident that a new church building was badly needed. Ivey set to work to raise funds for this purpose, and the building was completed in 1891, a few months after his death. The name of the church was changed from Arrowfield to Ivey Memorial, South. This was so ordered in honor of and as a memorial Ivey.
About 1927 the church bell was secured from funds that the will of a deceased member provided for that purpose. The Swift Creek Mill was in the process of selling their bells, and one was sold to Ivey Memorial and the second to St. Ann Catholic Church. These sister bells still serve across Jefferson Davis Highway from each other.
Years of growth in membership and Sunday school attendance made it necessary for building renovations and additions, parking lot paving, and property purchases for expansion. The first parsonage was constructed in 1959 and later replaced in 1989. This growth also took Ivey from part of a ten-point charge on the Chesterfield Circuit to a two-point charge of Chester and Ivey Memorial. The church later became a single-station appointment.
The years went by swiftly, and Ivey Church entered into the usual activities of church ministry. The congregation continued to grow in spirit and to meet the needs of more and more people in the surrounding communities. Needs were met through visitation programs, family ministry programs, lay witness missions, and community activities. Today, Ivey Memorial sponsors the Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and supports their programs.
The community is supported by offering facility space to AA, AlAnon, and Narcotics Anonymous for weekly meetings. Ivey continues its community mission by supporting CCHASM and the Our Daily Bread Food Pantry with contributions and service. The church’s commitment to mission also extends to Stop Hunger Now with meal packaging contributions of over $25,000 since 2011.
This great history has led to a celebration of 135 years of ministry that will include a Tent Revival and Homecoming Celebration. On Friday, October 14 the first night of Tent Revival will feature the Rev. Dr. Rob Colwell, James River District Superintendent, leading the service. Music will be provided by Jimmie Faye Lundie and April Morgan. A second evening of Tent Revival worship Saturday will feature former pastor the Rev. Tommy Herndon, current Harrisonburg District Superintendent. Ed Pettersen will provide special music. On both evenings a light supper will be served at 6 p.m. and worship will begin at 6:30 p.m.
Ivey Memorial will welcome newly appointed Bishop Sharma Lewis as the guest speaker on Sunday. Now serving the Virginia Conference, Lewis last served as the District Superintendent of the Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford District in the North Georgia Conference. Special music will be provided by The Praise Band, Linwood and Tammy Gettings, Chris Ganoe, and The Homecoming Choir. Music will begin at 9:45 a.m. with worship at 10:00 a.m. A Homecoming covered-dish luncheon and games for all will follow worship service.
J.J. Ivey began work to keep alive a church for Jesus Christ, and the torch has since been carried by many dedicated people who have devoted years of service to the Lord and to Ivey Church. The members of the present congregation, led by the Rev. Jim Smith, look back upon this heritage and the foundations laid by former congregations as they celebrate 135 years of ministry. All are invited to join Ivey Memorial in this celebration of ministry and love, and to join in continuing to serve God and the community.