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White Oak UMC hosting 85th anniversary celebration

White Oak United Methodist Church members welcome the community to attend the church’s 85th anniversary homecoming Sept. 30.

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White Oak United Methodist Church history committee members Celia Hill, 83, left, and Freddie Shirley, 83, are preparing for the church’s 85th anniversary celebration being held Sept. 30. The two hold historical church photos that Hill has been saving.

The event begins at 9 a.m. with coffee in the courtyard, providing a time to renew friendships and review 85 years of memories. At 10:45 a.m. a worship service will begin, followed by a covered dish luncheon at noon in the Jimmie Harris Fellowship Hall.

Retired Bishop Richard Looney, who served at White Oak UMC from 1968-1972, will preach at the celebration. The church library, hallways and fellowship hall will be open for attendees; people can look at displays of historical documents, photos and clippings from newspaper articles about the church.

Church historical committee member Freddie Shirley, 83, remembers when she first stepped foot in the church 40 years ago and heard Looney preach.

“In 1972 Bishop Looney preached the most wonderful sermon and sang the Lord’s Prayer and we felt we were home,” she said, referring to her family of three.

She said the church is rich with history and tradition.

“The church started from a tent revival on the corner of Memorial [Drive] and Lyndon Avenue,” said Shirley, adding that the church started in 1927 in a building called the Tabernacle. “From the Tabernacle they moved to a new sanctuary from 1943-1952 and added Sunday school rooms. They built the present sanctuary in November of 1960.”

White Oak UMC historical committee chair Celia Hill, 83, remembers the Tabernacle well. She joined the church at age 8 in 1937, when women wore gloves, hats and dresses to church.

“I remember walking up wooden steps into the Tabernacle,” she said. “They let the children ring the bell.”

The original bell and the steeple are still at the church today.

“I walked to church because we did not have a car,” recalled Hill. “You did not wait on someone to invite you to church back then, you just went. I remember everyone was kind at White Oak UMC.”

According to her, White Oak School burned down in 1958, so White Oak UMC members let students meet at the church for class. Prior to that, church members had met at the school for church services while White Oak UMC was under construction, she said.

Shirley said WOUMC members have always tried to help the community. WOUMC was the first church in White Oak to start a day care and the first to start a senior citizens group too, said Hill.

Currently the church’s members run a food bag program the last two Thursdays of the month from 10-11:30 a.m. Through the program, families receive enough food to feed a family of four for three days.

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