The Olivet United Methodist Church congregation has planned a weekend-long celebration to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of its chapel.
The current chapel was dedicated Oct. 13, 1912, and the anniversary celebration was planned to take place exactly 100 years later.
Bob Evans, Olivet UMC’s lay leader, said the public is welcome to attend a “history night” from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, where historic photographs and memorabilia from the church will be displayed. The Rev. Faith Lewis, pastor of Olivet UMC, said the public also can see the church, which has a “small, intimate worship space,” a wooden bell tower and a wooden ceiling shaped similarly to a boat.
Lewis said a “birthday party” is planned for Saturday, with dinner from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Free-will offerings for the renovation of the fellowship hall will be accepted at the dinner.
A worship service, to which the public is also invited, will be Sunday. The Rev. Ken Bowen, who was a preacher at Olivet UMC in the 1990s, will visit the church and preach at 11 a.m., she said.
Lewis said the first church in Olivet was built in 1854. Before that, residents of what when called the “village of Olivet,” would have to go to Dowell or Solomons to worship. Once the town had its own church built, a pastor would travel by boat from Solomons to preach in Olivet.
As the community continued to grow, Lewis said, parishioners felt the need for a larger church and decided to raise money to expand. “It took them years, ” she said, to raise enough money for the new chapel, which cost $3,300. She said women in the neighborhood who had chickens would sell their eggs and give some of the money to the church to help.
Lewis said when she thinks about how important the church was to the people of Olivet 100 years ago, it helps her appreciate that it still serves as a connection for the community.
“With so many of the landmarks of Olivet gone — the store isn’t there, the post office doesn’t get used — people still have the church where they connect.”
The church recently discovered some history about the chapel’s bell, Evans said.
John Davis, who started attending the church in February, said he climbed up into the bell tower in June after Lewis asked him to and found the bell dates to 1852 and is from the ship
“It was kind of nostalgic . . . to see that,” he said.
The ship originally was on the Hudson River in New York, Evans said, and made its way to the Patuxent River in the Solomons area, where it was likely to have been used as a steamboat in the early 1900s. He said the ship was eventually taken apart and the bell “wound up in some fashion as the church’s bell for Olivet church.” Lewis said the bell was added to the church when the chapel was built in 1912.
Although he has lived in Lusby for about eight years, Davis said, when he joined the church this year, everyone welcomed him “with open arms.”
“The church is, of course, an old church and everybody that goes there . . . has lived in the area for a long time,” he said. “It’s a unique church; it’s real small, and I’m blessed to have found it.”
Davis said he is excited about the centennial celebration because the church has “stood the test of time” and families that have lived in the area for multiple generations still worship at the church. He said he is going to participate in the weekend-long celebration as much as he can.
Evans said many people who have lived in Olivet for a long time are excited about celebrating the 100th year of the chapel.
“Especially in the earlier years, after it was built . . . it was kind of a central focus” of Olivet, Evans said. “Some of the people who live there are very interested . . . in the ways the church can be again a central focus for the community.”
Bonnie Barrett, whose parents were married at Olivet UMC and who was baptized there 47 years ago, said she is excited to celebrate the church’s history with everyone who made the church what it is today.
“It’s an exciting time for our church,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of people I haven’t seen in many years.”
Barrett said she “always loves the history night” and is looking forward to viewing the old pictures from the church. She said she also is anticipating hearing Bowen speak Saturday.
“I always enjoyed Reverend Bowen’s sermons, and it’ll be nice to hear what he has to say again,” she said.
Lewis said “it’s wonderful” to be a pastor for a church that holds so much history.
“You walk into that church and . . . you can feel the prayers of 100 years’ worth of people,” she said. “People walk in there, and it takes their breath away because it’s so simple, yet it’s holy ground. You can just feel it when you’re there.”