140 YEARS OF MINISTRY
Long before the community, located four miles south of Nashville on Hardiman’s Cross Road (Nolensville Pike), received its official name of Woodbine (1939), a small group of young people were laying the foundation of a large church to be later called Woodbine Methodist Episcopal Church South.*
Each Sunday afternoon small groups met for worship, study, and fellowship on the lawn of Captain James M. Smith’s home, which was located on Nolensville Pike and Glenrose Avenue. In this group were Medora Hughes, daughter of Captain David Hughes, and Fannie Burch (later became Mrs. Lewis Waller). Through the efforts of these young women, a new church had its beginning.
Captain David Hughes gave the ground for the building. Medora and Fannie canvassed the neighborhood taking subscriptions. To the person giving the largest amount, they promised the privilege of naming the new Church. Joe S. French gave the largest subscription. He chose the name Woodbine, which was also the name of Captain Hughes’ home.
Raising enough money to construct the building proved to be an impossible task for the young people. Captain Hughes gave them the amount needed to complete the one room frame building. The original structure was completed about 1872 but remained a mission of Elm Street Methodist until 1875. It had a seating capacity of 99. The cost of construction was about $800. Captain Hughes’ son, Walter, went up the Cumberland River on his father’s steamboat to obtain a bell for the newly erected Church.
The Rev. R. A. Young dedicated the Church in 1874, and Bishop W. M. Wrightman appointed Walter R. Lambuth as the first pastor in 1875. This was Rev. Lambuth’s first and only pastorate. The only known charter members were John S. Brien and his wife, Rochie, Medora and Blanch Hughes, and Fannie Burch Waller. The first couple to be married in the Church was Linnie Straton and Alton Thompson in 1879.
Woodbine struggled to survive in its earliest years. The pastor’s salary was $500 to $600 a year and sometimes less. The average cost of operation was $75 per year. During the pastorate of Rev. Fountain E. Alford (1899-1903) 33 members were added, and during the following ministry of Rev. T. W. Noland (1903-1907) 102 members were added.
The church grew rapidly under each succeeding minister, and by 1909 the membership had so overtaxed the capacity of the little frame building that a committee was appointed to make plans and raise money for a new building. The goal was $20,000. Rev. John Durrett was pastor at this time (1907-1910), and Mr. Burrell Jackson was chairman of the building committee. The new church was completed in 1915 and by 1919 the Church was out of debt. Dr. Thomas N. Ivey dedicated it during the ministry of Rev. George L. Beales (1917-1921).
The first parsonage was on the north side of the Church and was used until about 1921. It was sold, and property was purchased on Elberta Street for another parsonage. In 1959 a new parsonage was bought at 411 Wimpole Drive. That parsonage was sold in 1999 and never replaced.
The first Sunday School Superintendent was James Vardell who served from 1873-1875. A pastor had not yet been appointed. Classes convened on Sunday afternoons with an enrollment of 15 to 25 pupils. By 1907 the Sunday School enrollment had reached 125. A period of growth began in 1922 and reached its peak in 1956 when the enrollment was 852.
During the ministry of Rev. John F. Baggett (1921-1924) there was a need for additional space for the Sunday School classes. The Church bought and remodeled a residence on the south side of the Church. The Church continued its rapid rate of growth during the three-year ministry of Rev. Baggett. A total of 516 members were added to the Church roll.
The Sunday School continued to grow as did the need for more space. At the end of World War II, plans were made for the building of an educational building. L. K. Notgrass, who knew the needs of the Church school, helped plan the building and H. E. Richards was the contractor. Many of the Church members helped in the actual construction. The building was completed and called the Memorial Educational Building, in honor of the young men and women who served our country during World War II. A plaque bearing their names was placed near the entrance in the lower hallway of the building.
The post World War II era saw significant growth of the Nashville suburb known as Woodbine. A publication of the Woodbine Chamber of Commerce in 1948 describes the area in this way: “Woodbine is Nashville’s largest suburb at the present time and is growing rapidly all the time… There are approximately 16,000 people living in Woodbine… and over 250 new homes under construction. It is conservatively estimated that within the next two years there will be over 800 new homes.” Woodbine Methodist Church also saw a period of rapid growth, and by the mid 1950’s the Church had reached a membership that exceeded 1100.
In 1954 and 1955 the sanctuary was remodeled. The men of the Church did much of the work. James Lyne designed the choir loft, pulpit and altar rail. Jewel Ballard and his crew of workmen did the carpentry work. J. B. Jenkins was responsible for the electrical work, and Robert Fly, Sr. did the plastering. Major Patterson made the communion table and flower stands. In more recent history, Mark Tanksley made two additional matching flower stands, and beveled glass lamps for the Sanctuary were donated “by Friends” in memory of A. Hugh Brewer (died July 28, 1982).
During the continuous growth of the Church School, the building known as the Southall property (former parsonage) was converted into classrooms and housed the Junior Department for many years. Other classes were held at the rear of the Church in an old house, which had been purchased for additional space.
These two houses were razed when a building program was begun. The John Wesley Educational Building was constructed on the north side of the Sanctuary in 1960. Ted Petty was chairman of the building committee. This undertaking was financed through the sale of bonds at a cost of $120,000. This was the last structural addition to the Church facility.
In 1975 Woodbine United Methodist Church celebrated its Centennial with the theme of “Pass It On.” The Centennial Committee was composed of: Rev. William T. Buckner, Marian and J. C. Buchanan, Bill Tankersley, Mary Christopher, William Welcker and Elizabeth Ann Jackson, Chairperson. This was a year of meaningful celebrations as we remembered our first one hundred years, with great anticipation for our future ministry.
During the five decades of 1960 – 2010, Woodbine has provided many excellent programs and ministries for both our congregation and the community. Over the last three decades there has been a significant change in our surrounding neighborhood as commercial property began to overtake residential property. Many of our members have moved to areas outside of the immediate Woodbine area. Some have continued to be part of our congregation, but others moved to congregations closer to their homes. The Woodbine community has also seen both economic and cultural changes as the population has become more diverse and international.
In 2006 we extended hospitality to the Primera Iglesia Metodista Hispana congregation who now share our facility for their ministries to the growing Hispanic population in south Nashville. Our two congregations are bound by a covenant that offers opportunities for us to work together in many ways to reach our neighbors in the Woodbine community.
Although our attendance and membership have declined significantly in the last ten years, our congregation has moved into the 21st century with great hope and commitment to ministry and mission in our changing community. There are still many families in the neighborhood known as Woodbine. We continue to look for ways to reach those who need the ministries of the Church and to have inspirational worship services. Our mission work, both locally and globally, is a fundamental part of our congregation’s identity. We pray for God’s guidance as we live into our vision of “Loving God, Serving Neighbor, Following Christ.”
All photography provided by Randy Neff