The oldest known continuous church congregation in the River Region is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year.
Founded in 1820 by Elisha Milton Cain, Cain’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Holtville has called the grounds at 96 Lightwood Rd. home for 200 years.
“The origin of the church predates 2020,” Cain;s Chapel pastor Gary Stringfellow said. “The first church on this site dates back to 1820. Elisha Milton Cain built the first church in 1817 and it was about 5 miles from here.”
Stringfellow said the first structure Cain built in 1817 was more of a community building as several church congregations used it.
“We started on the grounds here in 1820 and we are still a church today,” he said. “What’s unique about us here is that we do not have 200-year-old buildings because our first building in 1820 was a very simple wood structure. In 1890, 70 years later, they built a white wood-framed structure.”
Today, there are multiple buildings on the grounds with the oldest building dating back to 1953.
While Stringfellow highlighted the physical history of the church’s buildings, he said it is the congregation and community that make the church a special place.
“There’s something about the sense of community here among people who have never been connected in any other way,” he said. “For me, coming here as an outsider a little over two years ago, the church has been so welcoming and loving. They’ve been that way to anyone who moves here. My wife and I love it here. We’re just really blessed to get to serve.“Even in its earlier days there was a strong membership. Today, we have almost 400 members. It’s not your typical little country church. It’s a large membership.”
The church has a total of 15 events commemorating its 200th anniversary.
Kicking off the year-long celebration is the dedication of a new stained-glass window that was recently installed in the worship center.
It will be dedicated Jan. 12 during church services.
Stringfellow said an anonymous donor, who is a member of the church, provided the funds.
“We came up with a design based on what we see in our other windows,” Stringfellow said. “Those windows were built in 1988 by a company in Birmingham. They still have the same glass, have our account and were able to create a similar design.”
The church will also erect an Alabama Historical Association roadside marker that details the church’s history on Jan. 12.
Other events include an old-fashioned wedding followed by dinner and dancing; an afternoon picnic and brush arbor service; several presentations by recognized historians; a showing of the movie The Story of Holtville; and guest speaker Sean Dietrich.
For the complete listing of events the church has planned in 2020, visit www.cainschapelumc.org.