During the year 1908, a group of community pioneers led by Rev. J. J. Boone, pastor of the LaGrange charge of the Methodist church, held revival services at the Glenwood School. This led to the organization of our church. The ones that joined the church during this revival by vows and by certificate realized the need for a local church. It was a good distance to the nearest Methodist church and they only way of travel was horse and buggy or on foot.
Plans were made and action taken to build a church. Building materials were needed and also a plot of land. The necessary building materials were donated mostly by Mr. Ransom Garris and Mr. J. J. Sutton. Members and friends of the small congregation gave their labor. The land was given by Mr. Garris and it was in his honor the church was named.
We do not have any record of the officials of the church. The first official roll was recorded in 1910. We have been told of the faithful work of Mr. Ben Dawson and wife Georgia and Mr. Alex Dawson and wife Mary, and also Mr. Dick Whitfield in later years.
Some of the Sunday school superintendents were Miss Lizze Strickland, Grover Jones, Raymond Moye, George Wortham and Mrs. Lloyd Sutton.
Our church remained on the LaGrange charge until 1924. We were transferred to the Seven Springs charge with five other churches. We had one afternoon and one evening evangelistic service per month with Sunday school each Sunday afternoon. Our services went on like this for several years. Then we decided to try having our Sunday services in the morning, but in order to do this we had to have our church service before Sunday school so our pastor could get to Beston by eleven o’clock. For 25 years we remained on the Seven Springs charge. The many faithful pastors that served our charge worked hard and our numbers grew slowly.
It was during the pastorate of Mr. W. E. Howard that through his wife Bessie’s influence and guidance our Woman’s Society of Christian Service was organized in 1939. She was only with us about two months but the seeds were sown and we are still reaping through our present day Garris Chapel Methodist Women’s group. The Methodist Men’s Club was started with Mr. John Griswold as its first president.
It was the year 1943 that Mr. H. L. Harrell and family came to our charge. We soon learned we had a hard-working, devoted Christian pastor and wife. Little did we know of what he would mean to us in years to come.
The people of our church were beginning to become dissatisfied with our church set up and were ready for a change and improvement. So with the help of our district superintendent, Mr. B. B. Slaughter and commission on rural work, plans were made for a two point charge. It was during Annual Conference of 1950 that we were taken off the Seven Springs charge. In the Fall of 1950, Mr. H. L. Harrell and family were sent to serve out church for a second time. When he came, he knew he and his family would not have a modern parsonage to live in or a large salary, but he was willing to make the sacrifice and endure the hardships that it required for the church and community to accomplish the goals we so desired. The need of a new and larger church became the concern of our members but ours was a poor church. Just prior to this, our Woman’s Society of Christian Service had accumulated a small treasury. This was the beginning of our building fund and to this other funds began to be added. During the first two or three years, Rev. N. B. Hill, Alfred Bartlett and Sadie Moye served as treasurer of the building fund. Then Lloyd Sutton was elected and served until Mr. John Griswold was elected treasurer of the unified budget. We had fundraising suppers, Lord’s acre projects, Harvest Sales and asked for donations from members and friends.
It was decided by the District Board of Church Locations and Buildings (to build) on the present site since the location was better, size of lot and more desirable than the old one.
The building committee was appointed and they estimated carefully the building facilities needed to house the church’s program of worship, education and fellowship. Several churches were visited and the final plans for this church were drawn by Mrs. H. L. Harrell. A parcel of the land was purchased by the Baker family and a parcel was donated by William Green Uzzell.
In March, 1952, we had the ground breaking for the new church building. After much hard work by Mr. Harrell and the men and women of the church, we were able to begin having worship services and Sunday school in the fellowship hall in August, 1954. Then Mr. Harrell was moved and Earl Tyson became our pastor.
In March, 1954, we received $1,250 from Duke Endowment. Later, we received a $500 donation from the Mission Board.
In 1957, we received the final gift from Duke Endowment of $1,250. These gifts, along with hard work and sacrifice on the part of our members, pastors and friends, enabled us to finish all but the interior of the sanctuary. McGee Creech was our pastor at this time. It was through him, the work of the building committee and district superintendent Mr. Howard McLamb that we secured a $5,000 loan from the Board of Missions. This was used to finish the interior of the sanctuary. Our beautiful windows were donated by members and friends.
We held our first service in the sanctuary on Sunday, February 24, 1957 with McGee Creech as pastor. During the pastorate of Rev. T. C. West and Douglas Ingram, we continued to work to pay off this debt. In 1959, Thurman Wiggins was made superintendent of Sunday School and he was followed by Bill Creech who is still serving very efficiently.
In 1961, Mr. Leon Lewis became our pastor. A credit is also due him for his untiring efforts. His influence and example caused our Sunday services to grow in numbers and in finances. During this time, Norwood Mozingo served as treasurer and at the present, Clara Garris is treasurer. The final payment on the loan was made in October, 1962. Today our church building is free of debt. We have people coming to services now that did not come for years and we are so thankful. Estimated value of the church is in excess of $30,000.
We are so thankful to Bishop Garbor of the Richmond area of our Methodist church for coming to preach the dedication sermon and leading in the dedication service of Garris Chapel Church.
By: Mrs. A. K. Holmes
As time went on, we continued to make improvements and additions to the church. In 1964, a heating system was installed and air conditioning in 1969. Carpet was installed upstairs in 1972 and installed in the sanctuary in 1977. After realizing the need for further enlargement, in July, 1980, the building committee for the present fellowship hall was formed. The first estimate of the cost was written on the hack of an envelope. Estimated cost was $42,000. Actual cost was over $100,000. In November, 1980, we met with Al Fisher, representative from Duke Endowment. This was the first step in building our new fellowship hall. Duke Endowment gave $24,000 payable in 3 installments. September 19, 1982 groundbreaking ceremonies were held at the church. We borrowed $40,000 from Herman Harvey Vinson, a faithful member of our congregation, on February 15, 1983. We had until October, 1986 to repay this loan. The building was completed by Easter of 1983. The debt was paid in full on September 18, 1984.
In October, 1985, a dedication service, with the burning of the note was attended by many happy past and present members and friends who had helped complete a “labor of love.” The fellowship hall was named in honor of Rev. McGee Creech. We had taken on the task with commitment, dedication and willingness. We set out in faith, believing we could accomplish anything we wanted to in Jesus’ name. We thank God for those who have worked to make Garris Chapel what it is today.
In 2000, Rev. McGee Creech retired and Rev. Jerry Mitchell became our pastor. Under God’s guidance and Jerry’s leadership, we have continued to have unprecedented growth. In August, 2000, a building committee was formed to study the needs of the growing congregation. A new sanctuary was built and the old sanctuary renovated into offices, bathrooms and classrooms. The $650,000 project was completed in 2002, with the first service in the new sanctuary on August 25, 2002. The church became debt free in 2007. However, due to continued growth, it became necessary in 2006 for the building committee to reconvene and begin discussing options for more classrooms and a larger fellowship hall. The final plan for a new Family Life Center was presented to the finance committee in September, 2008, and was approved at the September 28, 2008 council meeting.
By: Rosa Wiggins