White House Church

White House United Methodist Church on U.S. 301 south of Orangeburg, said to be the oldest Methodist church in the county, was named to the National Register of Historical Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior Parks Division in 1974.

“What we give ... is an indication of what we can give to the rest of the world: passion for God and compassion for people,” says the Rev. Dr. Frederick N. Yebuah, who will give the sermon at White House United Methodist Church’s 225th anniversary celebration on Sunday, Oct. 6.

Yebuah, a native of Ghana, West Africa, and new superintendent of the Orangeburg District of the United Methodist Church, will speak at the 11 a.m. service.

Small in number but big in spirit, the 115-member church usually only sees “45 members each Sunday,” said the Rev. Marie Ray, White House UMC pastor. “There are times when we have less than that, but the White House congregation is a wonderful group of dedicated and delightful servants of God.”

Following the great commission found in Matthew 6 — the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples that they spread his teachings to all the nations of the world, which has become a tenet in Christian theology emphasizing ministry, missionary work, evangelism and baptism, White House UMC has taken its rich history and reached into the local community and globally through its various charitable efforts.

“White House is known to go beyond the four walls,” Ray said.

Crossing denominational and ethnic lines, the church partnered with Catch the Vision International, and assisted in the construction of a church in the Peruvian village of Pucallpa in 2012.

“The church puts their money where their mouth is; they serve and they give,” says Ray.

Vera Stroman, church historian, has been a member of White House UMC for nearly 60 years. She says being a small congregation has its advantages.

“We are more like family. We are very supportive and when we see a need, whether it’s amongst ourselves or in the community, we take over,” Stroman said.

Every first Sunday of each month, congregants would bring perishable and non-perishable food donations to the now-defunct TRMC Hospice and Home Health to assist families. Currently, they assist the Cooperative Church Ministries of Orangeburg.

In recent months, the church “volunteered, along with others in the Orangeburg District, to help package over 80,000 meal kits” to be sent as part of an overseas mission, Stroman said.

Located off U.S. 301 south of Orangeburg, White House United Methodist Church is one of three churches of the Bowman Charge of the South Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Over the years, very few renovations have been made to the church. With the exception of the addition of the choir loft, memorial stained glass windows and the expansion and remodel of the fellowship hall, the integrity of the sanctuary has been kept in the original form it was in 1850.

Recounting her studies of Methodism and the life of Bishop Francis Asbury, a UMC pioneer and frequent visitor to White House UMC, Ray noted, “To minister at a church with such great people, who have such great a history, is an awesome thing to follow. It’s a blessing to be a part of this milestone celebratory moment in history.”

The church has preserved numerous record books, minutes of meetings and miscellaneous historical documents in the archives collection of the Historic White House Commission.

Included in the church archives is a sermon notation made Dec. 24, 1801, by Bishop Asbury in his journal based on 2 Peter 3:18: “We should have grace planted or sown in our souls.”

Asbury and other notable ministers visited the church to preach and often ministered from the stump of an oak tree to overflow crowds.

William Capers, who served the church in 1812, initially studied law but eventually became the first native South Carolinian to be elected to the episcopacy.

William May Wightman, who later became a bishop, served the congregation in 1829 at the age of 20.

Those ministers planted seeds of leadership in the congregation of White House UMC during its early period that are still evident today.

“Church is dead when it is not in mission,” Yebuah said. “If a church is not reaching out, it does not see the importance of making a contribution in people’s life.”

The church often contributes monetarily to assist the United Methodist Church’s’ Epworth’s Children’s Home for orphaned children in Columbia.

Joyce Axson, who has served as the church’s treasurer, as a trustee and on the nomination committee for over a decade, still finds time to assist with the children’s ministry. She says she enjoys working with “the little people.”

“I find joy in teaching children about Christ and how they can implement the teachings into everyday living,” she said.

Ray and Axson said it’s the little people and the help of the teenagers that have allowed the church to remain for 225 years.

“Whatever we can do to bless and love thy neighbor Is what I believe the good Lord would have us to do,” Stroman said.

Ray and the White House UMC congregation extend an invitation to the community to attend the Oct. 6 service of worship and celebration.

Contact the writer: kimberleinicole@aol.com.

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