© 2024. Randolph Hub. All Rights Reserved.


The first Mt. Lebanon church building was a log cabin.

Church celebrates 175th birthday

RANDLEMAN — Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church has been serving the Randleman community for 175 years — and counting. 


The congregation will celebrate that anniversary during Homecoming Services on Sunday, May 5, with the Rev. Terry Routh returning to his “home church” to give the sermon. A potluck meal will follow. 


The year-long celebration will continue on Oct. 20 when the congregation will remember when the property was deeded to James Cooper, G.C. Lineberry and Howgil Julian, trustees of what was originally called the Union Society of Methodist Protestants. 


The Rev. Dr. Michael Brown will deliver the message at that service.


The church is located at 119 W. River Drive, Randleman.


The first church building, made of logs, was completed in 1850 and called Mt. Lebanon Methodist Protestant Church. It was older than the City of Randleman, known at that time as Union Factory.


In 1887, the structure was enlarged as the membership had reached 150. The second church building was constructed in 1898 and served the congregation until 1963, when the current brick church opened. The second building was moved but no one seems to remember where it wound up.


Recently about a dozen members gathered to recall fond memories of their years at Mt. Lebanon. Ann Hunt, the oldest current member of the church, said she grew up in a house beside the old cemetery. 


“I remember as a child going to church every Sunday,” Hunt said. “It’s the only church I’ve ever been to. If you didn’t go to church, you were in big trouble.”


Hunt said her grandmother, Sally Hall, cleaned the church and taught Sunday school. One of her aunts, she said, “got married at the hedgerow.”


Every year, Hunt said, the church would hold a revival with visiting evangelists and, being a young girl, “I thought they were old preachers. If you misbehaved, you would be called out. I did (get called out) once but never again.”


She said the visiting preachers would stay with a church family and “there was always chicken.”


For those who think young children don’t notice details, Hunt said, “I remember going down the steps to Sunday school class and saw a sign, ‘Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you.’ Children do remember things.”


Ann Burrow said the church “had potluck meals outside because we didn’t have a fellowship hall.” That issue was settled when the fellowship hall was built in 1978. 


Meanwhile, the annual homecoming tradition took root in 1976. The first Sunday in May, the congregation remembers those who have gone on before them during the previous year with lighted candles. This year there will be four candles lit.


Martha Jane Bonkemeyer recalled a time in the 1950s when two men’s groups held a contest to see who could invite the most guests to church. The winners were to be ridden by the losers around town in wheelbarrows.


Jan Routh said when she was a girl she and a couple of friends would run from the old church to a ladder that led up to the attic and the steeple of the new church under construction. She said they would hide up there and listen to what people down below were saying.


It was remembered that the last couple married in the old church was Ann and Ed Burrow in 1962. The first wedding in the new church was for Dewey and Susan Hardin in 1963.


Hunt had stories to tell about a senior group called the Cedars of Lebanon. “I took charge of them and would take them out to eat,” she said, adding that they also went to a concert in Greensboro, to Gatlinburg and other places.


“We took a van with 15 people to the beach for four days,” said Hunt, adding that each person was asked to bring just one suitcase. When many of them brought two bags, the aisle between the seats was crowded with suitcases. “We had to remove them (when we stopped) to go to the bathroom.


“But it was a good group of people. We never had an accident.”


Routh said she and David Caughron and Robin Millikan were in charge of a youth group. “We had a really good group for many years. We took them to the beach, to Mt. Shepherd. And we went to other churches and sang. There were about 25 of them.”


Bonkemeyer said the Methodist Women started selling chicken pies six or seven years ago to raise money for their mission work. “We made 815 pies last year, our biggest.”


Mt. Lebanon families count their years in generations. Hunt said her family goes back six generations while Nancy Redding, Bonkemeyer and Routh said their families go back five generations. But, as Redding said, “We need new people, new blood.”


Bonkemeyer agreed: “We have a history but we want to have a future. We don’t have many young people.”


Russ Brown said, “We may not have all the people but the spirit lives on.”


The group counted four young men who grew up at Mt. Lebanon who went on to become ministers. Besides Routh, there were Steve Brown, Gary Allred and Devere Williams.


During its history, Mt. Lebanon has had 55 pastors.


Terry Routh said his sermon on May 5 will be “Who do you say Jesus is?” He and his wife, Judith, will be visiting their old church from Providence Friends Meeting.


“Do you want to hear a love story?” he asked. The answer was a resounding “Yes!”


“I started coming to Mt. Lebanon in 1966 when I was 9 years old. I had two aunts coming here and they encouraged my family to come since it was closer (than where they were attending).


“On April 20, 1972, I accepted Jesus,” Routh said. “I needed direction.” Of course, Routh went on to become a Friends minister.


“I met Judith Trogdon, or Judi, at Mt. Lebanon when I was 9 and she was 7,” Routh said. “When she was 11 and I was 13, we held hands together.”


But they lost track of each other as they went about their lives. It was 48 years from the time they first held hands until they met again, both unattached. 


“We’ve been married for two years,” Routh said. “God saved the best for last.”