Gibson Memorial UMC celebrates 110th anniversary

Published 7:50 pm Sunday, June 2, 2024

Gibson Memorial United Methodist Church is an active Christian community where the members share close bonds with each other, host a living nativity scene at Christmas, create chocolate Easter eggs once a year and love music. Sunday, Gibson UMC celebrated 110 years.

The Rev. Mitch Cochran has been at the head of Gibson Memorial UMC for 12 years. The current location at 335 Oak Ridge Road has served the congregation since 1998, but the history of the church began long before.

Originally seeded by Crawford Street United Methodist Church, early records of the church note its organization to be around 1887, when the church began meeting on Sunday afternoons. Several years later, the church moved to a location on South Street, and the church was simply called the “South Vicksburg Church.”

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After experiencing rapid growth and several moves, a church was built on Washington Street in what is now known as the “Chapel at Cedar Grove.” At that time, the name was changed to “Gibson Memorial” in honor of Tobias Gibson, the young circuit-riding preacher who helped establish the Methodist church in central western Mississippi. The church would add “United Methodist Church” in 1968 when the Methodist Church became unified.

Although the current sanctuary is modern, several things from the old Washington St. church were incorporated. The altar rail was transported and modifications were made by cutting the rail into several pieces in order to fit the new church. There are also some antique furniture pieces from the original church.

The stained glass windows hold special meaning at Gibson Memorial UMC. Several were original to the Washington Street church. There is a circular window in the sanctuary featuring an open Bible with the words “A Light to our Path.” Cochran said that during the move from the old church to the new location, a box was found with pieces of stained glass inside. Church member Bob Gordon took the pieces and had the window remade into the current rendition that graces the sanctuary, a symbolic reminder of the history of the church. 

“It’s a great image, from the broken pieces we started something new,” Cochran said.

The church on Oak Grove Road is a robust church with activities for children, youth and older adults. This summer, the church will host an evening Vacation Bible School for children June 9-13. The older adult group takes frequent day trips to different locations.

Cochran, the son of a Methodist minister, graduated from Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Georgia. He and his wife, Marcia, are parents to three sons, two of whom are adults and have families of their own. Their youngest child is a student at River City Early College. Cochran is a talented musician who enjoys singing and participates in several singing groups.

Like most churches, attendance after the Covid epidemic has been down somewhat; however, the Facebook Live services shown each Sunday have seen a large increase in viewers. 

“We’ll have 100, 150 people watching at times,” Cochran said. “It’s nice to be connected to them.”

During Sunday’s service celebrating 110 years, the Rev. Dawn Douglas Flowers served as guest preacher. The main morning service began at  11 a.m. Following morning services, a “Christian Karaoke” time was held at Superior Crab Restaurant from 1 until 6 p.m.

Cochran recalled one guest preacher being struck by the feeling of welcome and belonging at Gibson Memorial UMC, adding he couldn’t agree more. 

“I tell people when they come to visit,once you’re here, you’re one of us.”