The following information is in no way complete. Memories have been challenged and dates from 1962 forward are best estimates.
Theta Methodist Church is a continuation of the Mt. Zion Church which was located in the Grand Valley (determined to be somewhere off Gravel Hill Road) soon after the beginning of the Civil War. Services were held at Mt. Zion from 1860 until August, 1905, when the congregation decided to move to nearby Theta. G. C. Hawkins, B. P. Dalton, E. E. Tucker, W. E. Cox, and K. S. Dalton purchased from John W. Bassham and wife, Minnie Bassham, a tract of land for thirty-five dollars in Theta upon which to erect a church building. The old Mt. Zion church was torn down and the materials were used in the erection of the new church in Theta.
On September 15, 1908, the trustees purchased additional land, one and three-fourths acres from Mr. and Mrs. Bassham for thirty dollars more. The total land purchased was three and one-fifth acres. When the church relocated at Theta, it was named Theta Methodist Church. The first pastor of the new church was J. G. Malloy.
The first mention of the Theta Church occurs in 1905 when the Tennessee Conference Journal of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, appropriates $250 for the “Theta Mission”. It is listed with Greenbrier and Pope for apportionments, and the church is valued at $1,600. The pastor’s salary for the year (for all three churches) was $250. In 1906, Theta mission is listed in the Franklin District (presiding elder was P. A. Sowell). Also beginning in 1906, Theta Mission is listed as consisting of four churches.
The parsonage was constructed in 1911 during the ministry of D. B. Coleman, and the Coleman family was the first to occupy it. The Theta Mission records the existence of a parsonage for the first time 1912, and it is valued at $1,500.
Theta is removed from the mission status in 1920, when it became self-supporting and is recorded as Theta Circuit. The circuit increases in size from four to four and three-fourths churches, and in 1921 to five churches.
In 1930 Theta records ninety-two members and an annual pastor’s salary of $225. The circuit parsonage is at Theta Church.
The Conference Journal lists each church, as well as the circuit, in 1931. At that time, the Theta Circuit consisted of Bethel, Burwood, Neapolis, Theta, and Union Churches.
Theta Circuit was rearranged in 1933 to consist of Garrison, Hillsboro, Neapolis, Theta, and Union.
The Circuit was arranged in 1937 as Garrison, Greenbrier, Theta, and Union. These churches remained in the same circuit and in 1962 the four reported a total membership of 332.
From the time of its listing in the Conference Journal, both “Theta Mission” and Theta Circuit have been a part of either the Franklin or Columbia District. It was placed from the Franklin District to Columbia District from 1923 until 1926, during a time that the Franklin District was dissolved. With the re-establishing of the Franklin District in 1927, Theta Circuit returned to the original district. The circuit became a part of the Columbia District in 1932 when the Franklin District was again dissolved. Theta remains a part of the Columbia District.
The year 1962 marked 150 years since the founding of the Tennessee Conference of the Methodist Church in 1812. To celebrate this great era in the history of Methodism in middle Tennessee special services were held at the Theta Church. A booklet was published by then pastor, Gilbert Beeson, which recorded that Theta Church had produced several ministers and missionaries which included F. L. Hawkins, Cultie Burns, Eugene Lovell, and Marshall Lovell.
(The above historical information was taken from the booklet printed in 1962 for the 150 year celebration of Methodism)
The circuit was restructured in 1967. The Theta Circuit was eliminated and Theta Church became a part of the Santa Fe Charge with Union, Bethel, Goshen, Godwin-Chappell and of course Santa Fe. The Santa Fe Charge was reduced to four churches in 1996 after Bethel and Union closed.
The parsonage served as a rental house between residing pastors. The last pastor and family to live in the residence was Edwin Moore in 1963. The house was sold in 1978. The proceeds were used in the construction of a new parsonage at Santa Fe.
In the 70’s, the membership lacked “man” power and the building fell into disrepair. Mr. Frank Marlin couldn’t do everything, although, he tried. The structure was sinking in the middle and was causing the roof to leak. In 1989-90, during the time of Darrell Hocker as pastor, a substantial anonymous donation was given to the church for the much needed repair. Robert George and his workers put the building back on a solid foundation. The roof was replaced and the building was painted. (Brother Hocker brought his guitar one Sunday. He and his wife taught us “Open My Eyes”. It became a favorite.)
The church bell was rung routinely before worship services until it became a concern that the bell might fall. Wally Beasley, a history enthusiast and member of the Godwin-Chappell Church, took it upon himself to climb into the bell tower and make the needed repairs. The bell rang again during the late 1990’s. Sometime after the turn of the century the bell was sounding as the ropes were being tugged and it is assumed that the bell hung on something and has not rung since.
The original electric light fixtures were two very large globes hanging from chains. Near the end of the century, it was wondered aloud one Sunday, “How are the bulbs changed?” No one could recall it had ever been necessary. The job would require a very tall ladder or perhaps even scaffolding. The very next week one of the bulbs had gone out. The lights were replaced with lighted ceiling fans. The fans pulled the heat down in the winter and circulated the air inside so that the fragile original windows would not have to be raised during the warm months. The fans were hung low enough to make changing the bulbs less difficult.
Sister Elizabeth Stephens was our first female pastor. Our congregation was 80% female anyway so we had no problem accepting her. She gave the church a beautiful, larger communion table during her pastorate. Sister Elizabeth also taught us several beautiful hymns including “Hymn of Promise” (another favorite).
In 2001, the descendants of the Jarratt family contributed enough funds to have the building covered with vinyl siding. Additional funds were donated to have the front doors and windows replaced. The red stained glass above the front door was removed, the lettering repainted and the glass very gently returned to its place. A water meter and septic tank were installed. The Columbia District Volunteers in Mission committed to fitting a restroom in a portion of the Sunday school classroom. M. H. Patterson, son-in-law of Ollie J. Gooch, presented the church with a cedar cross he crafted to hang in the pulpit. A special service was conducted by Brother Dennis Meaker in appreciation of all our blessings.
This work on the building was completed in 2002 when the soffit area, steeple, roof and interior were painted and the carpeting replaced. During the painting, the very fragile red stained glass that was above the windows on the west side of the vestibule was broken and replaced with clear glass. The locust trees that grew between the church and the old parsonage where removed that year also.
Volunteers (led by John Oxley) from the Franklin First UMC responded to the 2001 call of “One Great Day of Service” and built a ramp making the building handicap accessible. In 2004, they answered the call again and constructed the hand rails and steps from the drive to the existing sidewalk. Friends (Eddie Watson, Marilyn Bartlett, Donny Walters, Mark Gandy, Calvin Cheek) of this church provided the storm doors and installed the handrail in the foyer.
The church’s piano that came from the Theta School building when it was closed in 1966 was replaced in 2002. Pastor Matthew Charlton, a gifted musician, arranged the donation from the Berlin Circuit. The old piano was given to a young girl who was beginning to take lessons. Our regular piano players have been Callie Mae Peach, Sara Jarratt Wells and Kacy Hall. Our songleaders have included Larry Peach, Frank Marlin and Anita Cheek. Our pastor or pastor’s wife has on several occasions had to take on the task when the song selected to support the sermon was not familiar to the congregation. We’re always willing to learn a new song. It might join our list of favorites. Our singing is often complimented. We try to follow John Wesley’s instructions.
November 14, 2004 our senior members, Sara Jarratt Wells, Ham Kinzer, Addie Peach and Carolyn Perry, were honored during a special service led by Pastor Earl Davis.
At the end of 2004, Theta Methodist continued to meet its financial responsibilities including Conference apportionments and 13% of the charge expenses. Our membership was twenty. Filling required board and committee positions consists of rotating the members into a different spot annually. Sounds simple enough but it can be tricky. A recent pastor, Dennis Meaker, instructed us “not to despair about the numbers at the church. God is in the resurrection business and always has the next thing in mind.”
The Methodist slogan has become “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.” That has always been the motto of Theta Methodist especially the open door part. During the summer months, it is necessary to open the doors and windows for ventilation. When corresponding with our past pastors preparing for our 100 year celebration some rather interesting visitors were recalled. A mule stuck his head in the window one morning and a chicken has joined us, but the black cat that visited frequently is the most memorable, especially the day he took communion. Our lay speaker that day was Terry Hunley, later (2004) became associate pastor at Goshen. Sister Elizabeth Stephens, an avid animal lover, was preparing to serve the sacraments. The cat began to rub up against her, which didn’t bother Sister Elizabeth at all. With one quick movement, the cat was on the table with his nose in a cup. “All are welcome at the Lord’s table” in the Methodist church.
We remember fondly our Sunday school teachers, Mrs. David (Francis) Roberts, Mrs. Hardin (Anna) Peach, and Mrs. Frank (Lorena) Marlin. Marilyn Bartlett began teaching the adult class “temporarily” in the early 1990’s).
Our regular attendance in 2005 consists of Addie Peach and her daughters, Marie Beard and Anita Cheek, Marie’s husband, Dorris, Anita’s daughter, Jackie Hall, and Marilyn Bartlett. Second Sundays there is an increase, because the pastor serves Communion. Sara Jarratt Wells, her daughter Jean Gunnells and Jean’s husband Stant, Miss Sara’s nephew, Donny Walters and his wife Margie are absent from their home churches to attend this service. Occasionally, Mrs. Bartlett’s daughter Vicki Bair, Jackie’s daughters Kacy Hall and Randianne Sears, and son-in-law Jay Sears (the Sears live in Livingston, Alabama attending [UWA] University of West Alabama) join us. Ham Kinzer’s grandson, Greg Dennis, brings him as often as possible. Greg’s family (Dana, daughters, Tara and Meghan) attend as often as their church responsibilities in Mt. Juliet allow. Carolyn Perry and daughter Cherrie Kelley also attend often.
Through a special offering, the church contributed $700 to the Wesley Foundation at UWA assisting Jay and Randianne Sears to join a mission team going to a Black Feet Indian Reservation in Montana during the month of May 2005. Randianne shared their experiences during Laity Day. (10/05)
May 22, 2005 Theta Methodist church celebrated 100 years with an 11:00 worship led by Pastor Earl Davis, covered dish lunch at the old school site on Gravel Hill Road (Theta Community Center, Volunteer Fire Department and Convenience Center). The celebration continued with singing at the church. Ninety-seven attended the celebration. Past pastors that attended were: Edwin Moore and his wife, Martha, Larry Helton, his mother and Sister Elizabeth Stephens. We were entertained that afternoon with congregational singing led by Brother Earl and Kacy Hall at the piano, Cindy Long and Sandy Hemphill (Burns Sisters), Thomas Culberson, Joe Tomlin, and Barbara Tomlin (Son Shiners), Earl Hamiliton, Mr. Carl Gardner and his sons, Dennis, Jerry, and Randy, and the Fire Side Pickers, Helen and Travis Warf, Sandra Adkisson, Charlotte Ann. The afternoon was concluded when the Fire Side Pickers led the congregation singing “Because He Lives”. It was a wonderful day. Overcast with temperature near 80 degrees. The windows were raised and hand fans were past out. All of the instruments were acoustic. It was much like it would have been 100 years ago.
The death of Hamlet Kinzer has been recorded on our membership roll. It was reported to the authorities that he was missing late Sunday evening. (09/05) Brother Earl responded to the call and was with the family when Mr. Ham’s body was found near his tractor in the pasture across the road from his home. He was last seen the previous Friday. We were all comforted that at 91 he was still doing the things he loved to do. His quiet presence will be missed. He had been a member since transferring his membership upon Union’s closing.
Brother Earl Davis and wife Diane were transferred to the Leoma-Dunn Charge in June 2007. Brother Larry and Barbara McGranahan were assigned to the Santa Fe Charge. The transition has been smooth for the Theta congregation. He will find that we remain a small family group. Addie Peach is no longer able to attend (since late summer 2006). Her sister Carolyn Perry has moved back to the Theta community and attends regularly. Jay and Randianne Sears have returned from college in Alabama to live in Nashville while Jay continues in Belmont’s Physical Therapy program. Kacy Hall plays the piano, Anita Cheek leads the singing, Marilyn Bartlett teaches Sunday school. Jackie Hall, Marie and Dorris Beard fill their pew spots. All serve on church and charge committees. Sara Wells, Donny and Margie Walters, Stant and Jean Gunnells still join us for second Sunday Worship to share communion. Greg Dennis and daughter Tara still visit occasionally. They all have home churches where they are very active. The church continues to meet its financial responsibilities.
Addie Peach, (92) our longest active member at the time, physically left this world April 19, 2008. Her devotion to God was a wonderful example to us all.
August of 2009, we welcomed Dr. Joe E. Bowers and his wife Ann. They are coming to us from the Clay Hill congregation in Marshall County. They reside in Nashville and we are excited about our future. Addie Adella Sears, born September 23, 2009, was also welcomed into our church family through infant Baptism in November 2009.
December 2010, we hosted a concert by the Friends and Family Choir, directed by Randy Gardner (Goshen). Cold night but enjoyed by all.
January 16, 2011, Carolyn “Diddle” Perry was called home. Carolyn was a faithful member since a child. She recalled how her dad would bring the girls to church in a wagon, about a five-mile trip from the New Hope community, but he didn’t attend the services.
For more history information contact Jackie Hall