Hearing about the 200th Anniversary celebration at Copper Hill United Methodist Church, Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton has announced his intention to visit the church on December 11. Excitement is increasing as no one remembers a United Methodist bishop visiting Copper Hill Church.
Bishop Bickerton was elected to the episcopacy in 2004 and served the Western Pennsylvania annual conference from 2004 to 2016. He began his service to the 447 congregations of the New York Annual Conference just a couple months ago. New York Annual Conference includes Methodist congregations in CT west of the Connecticut River. Bishop Bickerton has also served as the chairperson of the United Methodist Church’s Global health initiative which deals with the church’s response to the killer diseases of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. This effort, through the church’s Imagine No Malaria campaign raised over $70 million within the denomination to eliminate malaria-related death across the world. Copper Hill church participated each year in that campaign through their annual fundraising walk on the rail trail.
Bishop Bickerton will bring the morning message during the 9:30 AM worship service on Dec. 11. The service will be followed by a coffee hour to facilitate less formal conversations. Copper Hill Church is delighted to host this visit from our Bishop and counts it an honor to have him cap our 200th anniversary celebration by bringing his greetings and message to our church in person.
In this election year, and also our church’s 200th anniversary year, it is good to look back in Methodist history concerning suffrage. This article under this link gives John Wesley’s famous advice to voters and then highlights 6 women who have been advocates for the rights of women voters.
After service on Oct. 23, 2016, Cooper Hill Church 200th Anniversary Celebration culminated in the planting of a time capsule beside the bell.
We decided “plant” would be a good verb for the occasion for a church with green doors, agricultural roots and rural location. But whatever the word, the activity brought no shortage of excitement. Young and old gathered outside in the crisp weather for the occasion. People had contributed all kinds of things in be included in the plastic 5 gallon bucket. Two-hundredth Anniversary committee chairperson, Carol Griffin, collected the memorabilia and packed it away in zip-lock bags. Trustee chairperson Ron Prevost oversaw the picking of the location and digging of the hole. Special guest for the day, Rev. James Moore dressed as “John Wesley” stayed and viewed the event, participating in all the picture taking too. When the bucket had been lowered and the hard work of covering it had been completed, the group retired to the fellowship hall to celebrate with a chocolate 200th Anniversary cake. Thank-you also to Judy Holcomb for over-seeing the kitchen during our celebrations.
Thank you to Bob Stewart and Lisa Griffin for the accompanying pictures.
Copper Hill prayer partners and choir members traveled over to West Granby UMC for the third in the cooperative series of prayer services called Grassroots Prayer. Pastor Peter Preiser of West Granby UMC served as host pastor and Pastor Al Royal of Life Church also assisted along with Pastor Kelvin Jones of Copper Hill. The combined choir accompanied by Betty Guess and directed by JoAnne Jones performed a stirring number, “Here I Stand,” the words of which recall the famous words of Martin Luther as he stood firm for “Justification by faith” when he was being tried as a heretic. The congregation joined in various types of prayer for the nation, the election, for the churches and for those in need.
Suppose John Wesley could take a little side trip from heaven and visit some of his contemporary Methodists in our church today. What would he share with them? How would he relate? Well, that was the setting at Copper Hill Church on Sunday, Oct. 23 as Rev. James Moore came as John Wesley, dressed in the garb of a 18th century preacher, white wig and all. Rev. Moore is a retired Methodist District Superintendent from the Catskill-Hudson area.
Rev. Moore shared in the first person the faith journey of Mr. Wesley. “John Wesley” shared a good deal of his life story. Wesley recounted his rescue as a “brand from the burning” as a child, his trip to Georgia as a young man, and his assuring Aldersgate experience. He talked about how he had been very devout as a practicing Anglican, yet did not have assurance that his sins had been forgiven. Wesley shared how he moved from having religion to truly having a personal assurance of salvation by faith. “John Wesley” also reviewed some of the early history of Methodism from a first-hand perspective. He spoke of the Oxford “Holy Club,” his hymn-writer brother, Charles, and his saintly mother, Suzanna.
Using both humor and dramatic skills, Rev. Moore encouraged the listeners to advance in their own faith journeys, saying, “Religion is not enough; but it’s the platform on which faith might grow.” The presentation was both informative and inspiring.
From the accompanying pictures, you can see the dramatic expressiveness of Rev. Moore as he played the part. Our thanks to Bob Stewart for the pictures. After the service, the congregation went outside for the planting of a time capsule, which will be reported in a separate article.
When our 200th Anniversary committee pondered how to celebrate the church’s two centuries of ministry, they decided to recommend that we set aside a 200 day period during the summer of 2016 and celebrate with a series of events rather than just one. So we began on April 10 in morning service with our first historical series called “Foundations for 200 Years and Counting.” We also scheduled about one special event per month not on Sunday morning. Now in October, we have arrived at the end of our celebration days and October 16 was the “official Sunday.” Our closing Sunday series is “Building a Bridge for the Next Generation.”
Dignitaries in attendance
District Superintendent, Rev. Ken Kieffer, was on hand to greet the congregation and encourage them, saying, “If the energy and excitement of this celebration carries forward, the heyday of this church will certainly be the years just ahead.” Tami Zawistowski, representative from the 61st district was scheduled to be with us but could not due to the death of a relative. She was ably represented by former 61st district representative Ruth Fahrbach who presented the congregation with a framed citation from the legislature honoring their 200 years of service to their community. We were honored to have Rev. Kieffer and former Representative Ruth Fahrbach celebrating with us.
Unique service components
The 200th was also celebrated in other ways on this significant Sunday. The first Scripture lesson was read by council chair Judy Holcomb from an 1839 Bible, especially significant since our sanctuary was built in 1839. Lisa Griffin shared the story of her personal faith and told why the church was important to her. Lay Leader, Robert Loomis, shared a little history moment to help us be a little more tuned in to our church’s history and how it ties in to Methodist history. And Jonathan Griffin sang “Keep the Flame Burning” a stirring song written by JoAnne Jones that encourages the church to maintain its witness and references the inner Pentecost flame of God’s Spirit that needs to always burn brightly in our hearts. All these service participants are shown in the pictures in black and white. Since the early part of our church’s history was during the Victorian era, people were invited to dress Victorian for this celebration if they chose. Some did including Pastor Kelvin Jones and his wife, JoAnne. Pictures of some of those folks are included too.
Fellowship time followed
Afterward everyone enjoyed dinner together in the fellowship hall where many historical items and pictures were on display. Photos for this article were contributed by Bob Stewart, Lisa Griffin, JoAnne Jones and Nancy Collins. Thank you all for sending such great photos.
It was a combined effort and also intentionally a local production. A fantastic Spirit of praise intensified inside Copper Hill Church during the afternoon Celebration Concert on September 25, 2016. JoAnne Jones chaired the event, inviting musicians she knew to participate, organizing some musical groups for the occasion and arranging some of the music herself. The easy response and the comments afterward have let us know that the near-capacity audience really enjoyed the experience.
The broad focus was on American sacred music over the past 200 years, since we were celebrating the 200th anniversary of the organization of Copper Hill UMC. Yet the concert featured a very broad and pleasing mix; from the early Shaker tune, “Simple Gifts,” rendered on harp and flute by JoAnne Jones and Celeste Canon to traditional hymns for piano and voice by Betty Guest and Barb Machietto; and on to the stirring melodies of the Civil War anthem “Battle Hymn of the Republic” performed by the brass quartet. (organized for the occasion by JoAnne Jones and Steve Okon). The patriotic theme also sounded as the brass played the prayer hymn “God of our Fathers.” Native son of Copper Hill, Thom Griffin returned to sing as well.
There was energy in the air even before the WNA Male Chorus from 3rd Baptist in Suffield got most everyone clapping and swaying to some good Gospel. The newest piece, which also added to the energy level, was the exciting and contemporary praise chorus “Faithful” written and performed by JoAnne Firla of Life Church especially for this occasion. Other than the brass tones to which I am partial, I personally really enjoyed the exquisite sound of the classical guitar trio directed by their teacher Laura Mazza-Dixon. It was so pure and peaceful.
The note of praise was very clear in the Copper Hill Choir’s rendition of Andre’ Crouch’s “My Tribute” under the direction of JoAnne Jones. On an interesting historical note, the choir contained members of three generations of the descendants of the founder of Granby, John Griffin. The congregation then had a chance to join the celebration by singing together, “To God be the Glory,” a famous hymn of praise written in 1875 by Fanny Crosby, and still very popular today.
Afterward, everyone gathered in the fellowship hall to get better acquainted and enjoy light refreshments. Photo credit goes to Robison Imagery. Thanks Christian.
Other history articles have talked about the circumstances surrounding the founding of Copper Hill United Methodist Church. In this article we want to ask the question, “Who were the people involved?”
The founding pastor
In the Methodist church, pastors are appointed during the summer and reappointed annually. The summary history that comes down to us from the church’s 50th anniversary tells us that Rev. Billy Hibbard, serving the Granville circuit in the conference year 1816–17, organized Copper Hill Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816, likely in the summer or early fall. According to the East Granby history book, it was soon enough that year for the new church to make a decision to reject the War of 1812 rebate that the Federalists passed down to all the churches in October (p. 108). Apparently the new Methodists were not Federalists in politics!
The founding family group
The history book simply lists the names of the three men involved in that church start-up and includes without names “their wives” as also involved. We wanted to know. Who were these early ladies who were so crucial to our church? Research into the cemetery records of Copper Hill Cemetery (made available by Harrison Griffin) has helped us to understand who the wives were and how the six people were related. The person who was by mutual consent elected as the lay leader of the new congregation was Aristarchus Griffin, a direct descendant of John Griffin, first settler of the town of Granby. The church met at his house. Aristarchus’ wife’s name was Jael (Gillet) Griffin. So she would have been the first hostess for the church. Aristarchus’ father was Seth Griffin, another of the founders. And his wife was Mary (Brown) Griffin. Seth was a Revolutionary war veteran who died in 1817, the year after he helped found Copper Hill church. The third male founder listed in the history records was Calvin Gillett. Research shows that Calvin’s wife’s name was Thankful (Warner) Gillet and they were Aristarchus’ wife Jael’s parents. So it was a family group, a man and his wife, and all four of their parents who founded Copper Hill church.
Preparations are continuing for an excellent festival of music at Copper Hill UMC this coming Sunday afternoon. Practicing has been ongoing for weeks as instrumentalists and vocalists prepare for this next event in the celebratory series marking the 200th Anniversary of the organization of Copper Hill Church. The repertoire will be diverse with songs ranging from the early 19th century tune “Simple Gifts” to late 20th century and even 21st century worship songs. We’ll also hear renditions of some classics such as “God of our Fathers” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” both of which will be played in new arrangements by brass quartet.
Vocal and Instrumental
Other instruments represented will include harp, guitars, and flute. Two choirs will perform: the WNA Male Chorus from Third Baptist in Suffield and Copper Hill UMC Choir. The organizer for this event is JoAnne Jones. JoAnne says. “Overall, there will be participants from eight or nine local churches helping us to give praise to God and celebrate this anniversary.”
Free with refreshments
Admission is free; freewill donations toward expenses will be appreciated. Light refreshments will be served in the church fellowship hall following the concert.
After the storms passed on Saturday, September 10, the weather was hot and humid at Suffield on the Green. Thanks go to volunteers Ron Prevost and Judy Holcomb for setting up the booth and to Judy, Joanne Jones, Harrison and Carol Griffin and Pastor Kelvin for manning it for the two day event.
There is more preparation for such an event that one would think. Judy and Joanne had prepared bookmarks, cards to advertise our upcoming celebration concert on Sep. 25, lists of 200th Anniversary Activities and more. Pastor Kelvin had prepared brochures and business cards. Thought was given to items to display such as Bibles (we gave away one), an antique picture of our church, posters advertising the tag sale next Saturday, etc.
On Sunday afternoon, the weather was much cooler and more pleasant. Everyone was more relaxed. We offered children who passed by bracelets or pencils and gave parents info about our church. More than 200 people were touched in some way by our booth volunteers.