Posts Tagged ‘ St. Paul United Methodist Church ’

St. Paul United Methodist Church, Part II – Visited on 11/6

On the afternoon of the 8th of November, in a room usually used for Bible study and Sunday School classes on the second floor of his church, St. Paul United Methodist, Pastor Brian Preveaux sat for an interview with Churchspotting.  Mr. Preveaux is an older man, heavyset with thinning hair and a congenial personal presence.  Though he officiates worship at St. Paul in sweeping black robes, for this meeting he favored a collared shirt and slacks.  We took our seats on plain wooden chairs at the low classroom table, the chatter of a meeting on the church’s pending Oyster Stew rattling up through the floor.

Mr. Preveaux is relatively new to life as a pastor; 2011 marks his fourth year as a full-time minister.  A native of Walterboro, SC he spent most of his life in commercial positions, first in management before transitioning into sales.  He described spending twenty years “running from God” before leaving his traditional professional life to become a Methodist minister.  He is still in the process of completing his ecclesiastic education, and attends Hood Theological Ceremony in Salisbury, NC to that end.

Preveaux’s tenure at St. Paul is brief so far—he only arrived at the Clover church in June of 2011.  Still early in his sixth month there, he has yet to fully assimilate the history of St. Paul, a church founded over a hundred years previous in 1891, a mere four years after the chartering of Clover, SC itself in 1887.  As such he could not provide Churchspotting with much detail on the history of St. Paul United Methodist, but he did share some of his hopes for its future.

As a freshly minted minister Mr. Preveaux is still establishing his rhythm and practices.  The All Saints Day ceremony observed by Churchspotting on 11/6 was the first such service Mr. Preveaux had ever attended, much less officiated.  The lighting of candles in memory of his congregation’s dead was his own initiative, rather than a standing tradition of the church.  In future he hopes to find a balance between the long-standing traditions of St. Paul United Methodist and more contemporary forms of worship, and mentioned in particular his desire to bring in more contemporary forms of praise music to augment St. Paul services.

Though he has not yet established standing relations with other churches in the area beyond St. Paul’s sister-church relationship with nearby King’s Mountain Chapel, where he also pastors, Mr. Preveaux voiced a desire to build stronger links to neighboring religious institutions.  He did mention that St. Paul has a longstanding link to the First United Methodist Church of Clover, ironically a slightly younger church founded in 1900, sited at the heart of the Clover township.

Concerning charitable works in the community, Mr. Preveaux cited St. Paul’s Oyster Stews and ice cream socials, the proceeds of which go to the Clover and York Area Assistance Centers, as well as school supply drives conducted towards the start of each school year.

Finally, on the proper relationship between Church and State, Mr. Preveaux “believe[s] it’s a distinct separation.”  He feels government has intruded into religious domains by such initiatives as banning prayer in school or removing copies of the Ten Commandments from courthouses.  He spoke of what he felt was a loss of religious freedom in America, with other groups being given preferential treatment by political authorities.  “When the rights of Christians,” he said, “are being set aside for the rights of Muslims or Catholics, that’s not right.”

St. Paul United Methodist Church, Part I – Visited on 11/6

Today’s update concerns one of the oldest churches in Clover, SC, St. Paul United Methodist Church.  Our coverage is broken into two parts: the first, published on the 6th of November, concerns the Sunday service performed on the 6th; the second, to be released later in the week, will focus on the church’s history and an in-depth interview with St. Paul’s pastor, Rev. Brian Preveaux.  Now, without further ado, St. Paul United Methodist Church.

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St. Paul Church Road winds past farm fields and suburban homes on the outskirts of Clover, South Carolina.  The church itself stands with its outbuildings on a shoulder of the swerving, unpainted country road named for it, all solid brick and neoclassical facades.

St. Paul United Methodist Church is not a large facility, but it shows a rare craftsmanship.  The floors are lacquered, paneled wood; the sanctuary is a white hall, its vaulted ceiling hung with glowing lamps.  A golden cross hangs at the rear of the sanctuary, burnished by lamplight; the cross and candlesticks upon its altar are similarly of worked gold.  Behind the pastor’s heavy wooden pulpit stand two flagpoles, one hung with the American flag, the other with an ecclesiastic banner.  Three rows of stout wooden pews fall in ranks across the sanctuary floor.  The only instruments used in the service Churchspotting observed were the human voice and a piano.

On the morning of the 6th the congregation of St Paul Methodist trooped in by couples and families.  It is an older congregation, mostly grey-haired couples sitting side by side with a handful of younger families, but on that morning they were enough to fill the aisles and pews with over fifty worshippers.

Gathering at St. Paul Methodist is a formal affair, and much of the congregation arrived in their Sunday best, though younger adult members tended towards more casual dress.  The choir, seven members strong, sits in green robes trimmed with gold; the pastor presides over the service robed in black.  St. Paul Methodist observes classical Christian rituals not seen in more contemporary traditions observed by Churchspotting—the congregation recites the Apostle’s Creed towards the beginning of the morning service, affirming their belief in, among other things, “the holy Catholic church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”  The congregation sings together from well-worn hymnals, directed by the choir and piano, and the mid-service prayer ends with a group recitation of the Nicene Creed.

That morning was a special one on the traditional Christian calendar: it marked All Saints’ Day, dedicated to remembering past saints and loved ones lost.  Accordingly, that morning’s sermon concerned death and the Christian doctrines of life afterwards.  Pastor Preveaux discussed a passage of the Book of Thessalonians, where the dead are described in the original Greek text as being merely ‘asleep.’  He emphasized that those his congregation had lost to death over the years were not gone from them forever, but that they would meet again in paradise before their God: “we will meet the Lord in the air.”

Following the sermon the congregation of St. Paul Methodist began its All Saints’ Day ceremony.  The families of six deceased members of the congregation arose, one at a time, to light candles in remembrance of their loved ones with flame transferred from the altar’s twin candles.  With each candle lit emotions in the sanctuary ran a bit higher, as spouses and siblings of those so commemorated returned weeping and shuddering to their pews, supported by their remaining loved ones.  When the last pre-arranged candle was lit the pastor offered a seventh to anyone in the congregation who wished to have their departed honored as well.

After the candle ceremony the pastor offered to let family members take their memorial candles home, and said that though the altar candles usually burn only during worship, to signify the divine presence within the sanctuary, that day they would be left burning in memoriam.  Their prayers and songs finished, the congregation of St. Paul United Methodist Church left their pews for the cold, November morning.