April 01, 2018

Connection Through Preserving History

When Aryana Rosen saw a small notice in the paper about an upcoming meeting regarding what to do about Brighton Methodist Church, she felt compelled to check it out.

“I thought maybe it was just a little country church that was struggling and needed some help,” Rosen said.

That was the case – 30 years ago. After first sentence, add: Brighton is a small community between Springfield and Bolivar. The congregation at Brighton dwindled to the point that the church had to close in 1988. At that time the district deeded the church to the board of the Brighton Cemetery that is located immediately behind the church. Now the cemetery board was debating whether they should take the building down. The roof was overdue for a replacement and had a couple serious leaks.

There was hesitation to scrap the building, though. The people of the community liked it there. It had always been there. And by always, it was built in 1882.

For Methodist historians, the story is even richer than just being old. The church was started by Rev. Jesse Mitchell and his wife Providence Norwood Mitchell in 1836. Jesse was a son of Rev. Morris Mitchell, known for spreading Methodism in Southwest Missouri in a prolific way. Morris Mitchell had 18 sons and grandsons who were Methodist ministers.

But the past is in the past. The question at hand is does the building that used to house Brighton Methodist Church have a purpose? The people at Rosen’s church, Fairview UMC, feel that it might. They’ve decided to dedicate proceeds from their monthly dinner to the church’s restoration.

A building inspector reported that he thought the church was worth saving. The first priority is the tarped roof. There has already been $1,000 donated for a new roof, which is roughly estimated to cost $4,000-$5,000.

Fairview is planning on having a special service at the church on Memorial Day and also plan to have services at the church in the afternoon of every fifth Sunday. They aren’t trying to develop a second site or start a new church, but rather are just trying to reach new people in the community via a recognizable community historical landmark.

“It will be nice to have the presence of a Christian worship service there once again,” Rev. Rex Warren said. “Any money collected in offerings there will stay in a fund for the restoration and maintenance of the Brighton building. If it is what the community wants, and we have an opportunity to be in ministry there, it is worth doing.”

It wouldn’t be the first time the people of that community have gotten excited about saving an historic structure. The Assemblies of God Church on the north side of Brighton built their new church around their old church, which had also served as a one-room school house.