“And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.”
The Wesleyan Methodist Church of America grew out of a separation from the Methodist Episcopal Church, the result of the connection of that body with slavery and the arbitrary character of its government. Several Godly men withdrew in November 1842. The first Wesleyan Methodist Church was organized in Providence, Rhode Island.
One hundred years later, God was paving the way for a Wesleyan Method Church in Covington, Georgia. He was calling out of several of the Churches a group of Spirit-filled women who were hungry for a place of worship where the full gospel of the saving and sanctifying power of God could be preached. Already they were meeting in different homes for prayer meetings. They had experienced something in their hearts after they had been saved that had set them aflame for God. This was the experience of sanctification, a second definite work of grace which God brings in the heart of a believer. As yet, they had no name for the experience because none of them had ever heard Holiness preached.
A young preacher from Social Circle, Georgia by the name of Ralph Day came to one of the Churches where several of the ladies attended. He preached and testified to the savings and sanctifying power of God in his life. Immediately, they knew they had experienced the same thing in their lives. Rev. Day was invited to come to the home of Mrs. Emory Smith for prayer service on a Saturday night. They continued for several Saturday nights, and many people in the community were coming and getting spiritual help. This made the devil mad, and he began to work through different individuals and many ways to hinder the prayer services.
As these believers lived in the “Covington Mill” area (off Hwy 278), they were told by the mill owners and officials that the prayer meetings could continue but no more out of town preachers could be called in. They thought that these people were being misled and becoming involved in a false doctrine. There was even talk of the husbands of some of the ladies losing their jobs in the mill if they continued. There was much criticism, many false reports, and false accusations. But the more people talked and ridiculed, the more determined this little group was to lift up their Christ in the beauty of Holiness.
They continued in fasting and prayer, believing God more and more for a Spirit-filled Church. The prayer meetings continued; many nights were spent in prayer and days were spent in fasting and prayer. Souls were getting saved and sanctified.
It was during this time that Mrs. Tom Greer, Sr. and her sister, Miss Lorene Moore, moved to Covington from Oxford, Georgia. They were attending the North Covington Methodist Church but were being used in other Churches as they would bring soul-stirring messages. Miss Moore had already experienced a second definite work of grace in her heart. Mrs. Greer was bringing a message on sanctification in the Covington Mills Church, and God spoke to her heart of her own need of this experience. She has testified that the message backfired on her, and God met her heart’s need and sanctified her holy. The two groups were brought together during this time and all were used in winning souls to Jesus.
Precious memories lingered in the minds of Mrs. Emory Smith and Mrs. Clara Watkins of the times they went into the home of Mrs. Fred Kinney for the early morning hour of prayer. This went on for several weeks. And one Sunday morning before going to Church, God gave Mrs. Emory Smith a vision of a little white Church in the Pecan Grove (facing Newton Drive). As she told her husband of God’s speaking to her and of the vision, he asked her if she knew that land was to be auctioned off the very next week. She said, “No, but I know God is leading in this.” Now the promise God had spoken so many times was made clearer than ever before. “Call unto me, and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not..” Jeremiah 33:33
After the Sunday morning service, Mrs. Smith told Mrs. Watkins of her vision of the Church. They were both rejoicing over this, and each felt led to put $25 which they had been saving for another purpose on the land. The words of Sis. Kinney as she was told of God’s opening up the way for a Church were, “I don’t work, but Jeannie will give me $25 to give.” They knew they could depend on that because Jeannie always stood by her mother in every need.
The following Monday while visiting in Mrs. Blandena Merritt’s home, Mrs. Smith had hardly finished the story when Mrs. Merritt said, “I’ll give $25 now and more later.” Mrs. Lillie Hackett gave $5 at first and said she would be giving more.
While talking with Mrs. Allie Sullivan the next day, she said, “I’ll give $20.” This brought the total amount up to $125. On Wednesday as Mrs. Smith went into the home of Mrs. Greer and told her of the vision and how God was bringing in the money, Mrs. Greer said, “I know God is leading in this and I have $25 I can give.” They were made to rejoice many times as God walked before them leading the way.
A telephone call was placed to Rev. Ralph Day in Social Circle. He was asked to come to Covington to bid on a piece of property that was being auctioned off. Rev. Day contacted Rev. H. A. Johnson, the Conference president of the North Georgia Wesleyan Method Church. Both of them came to Covington on the day of the auction.
They were unable to buy the lots which seemed ideally located for a Church. It could have looked like defeat. But the group was always on the victory side. They knew God was still leading the way, and all they had to do was follow. God, in His great wisdom, was looking down through the years to a time when the streets would be changed, when a big highway would come through Covington, and the back of the Pecan Grove would become the front. God makes a way when there seems to be no way.
Miss Lorene Moore and Miss Effie Kinnett were riding from the old Sockwell barn into town one day after a real stormy rain cloud. Just before arriving at Hooten’s Service Station, there appeared a little Church in the clouds just as the one that later stood in the Pecan Grove. They also saw Jesus with his twelve disciples in a boat rowing up to the door of the Church. Jesus stood up and went in; the disciples followed. Then a cloud covered the vision in the sky. Both the ladies saw the vision, and Miss Moore said that Ebenezer Wesleyan Methodist Church was given of God.
On May 12, 1945, a group of twelve consecrated people and two preachers met in the home of Mrs. Tom Greer, Sr. on 502 Conyers Street and organized Ebenezer Wesleyan Methodist Church. Ebenezer means “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us”. The thirteen Charter Members were:
Rev. Yancy Ralph Day
Mrs. Minnie Catherine Day
Mr. Willis Ellis Bray
Miss Myrtice Lorene Moore
Mrs. Ethel Viola Greer
Mrs. Mittie Inez Smith
Mrs. Clara Inez Watkins
Mrs. Carrie Lee Kinney
Miss Susie Blandena Merritt
Mrs. Allie Bell Sullivan
Mr. Joe Lucius Kent
Mrs. Sallie Mae Baugh
Miss Effie Lee Kinnett
Construction began on the Church building in the year 1945. The contractor who built the Church was Mr. Claude Peters of Social Circle. The cost was $3,750. The first service in the Church was held with Rev. H. A. Johnson and Rev. Sam Hanes as speakers. God met in a great way and a revival meeting began. Many prayed through to Holiness, one of them being Mrs. Lillie Hackett.
One of the memories that will linger with the children of the Church in those early days was the radio program on Saturday mornings on Station W.M.O.C. The theme song was “You May Have the Joybells”. The children sang songs and choruses, read poems and short stories, and gave their testimonies over the air.
The debt on the old Church was paid off in a very short while and a parsonage was then started. Mr. Harvey Crawford was the builder but died the day following completion of the building. Rev. and Mrs. Day moved into the parsonage in 1947. Rev. Day gave up public work to make the Church as a full time pastor with a salary of $35 per week. Rev. Day stated that he marveled at how the Lord blessed and helped during those days. He remained as pastor for five years and then moved to Winder, Georgia to pastor the Church there.
On August 6, 1950, Rev. Paul M. Lawrence preached his first sermon as pastor of the Church. He came from Winder and remained as pastor for one year.
A young minister just graduated from Marion College, Indiana was to serve the pulpit for the next five years. Rev. Clyde V. Hicks (brother of Rev. Raymond Hicks) and his wife, Dolly, were loved and appreciated for their labor in the Church. A building fund had been started and plans were being made to build a new Church as the old one had limited space. The Church and Sunday School increased as God blessed his work. Misses Grace and Stella Wood, two retired missionaries from India, came in 1951. They did a great work among the children of the Church and were faithful solders of the Cross.
God was working out His plan, and it was revealed to the Church why they were not allowed to buy the lots in the Pecan Grove that were desired at the time of the auction. The new owners of the mill, M. Lowenstein and his son gave land to the Church. The new Church and parsonage were then erected on that valuable property.
Rev. Ralph Day returned to Covington from Winder in August, 1956, and remained for another five years. It was during this time that the new Church was built under a contract with Hiram and Julian Ellis. The blocks for the Church were given by Mr. Emory Smith and Mr. Clifford Roberts. The first service was on September 22, 1957. The old church building was then used for the Junior Department.
Rev. and Mrs. M. L. Arnold were the next to serve the Church as pastors. They moved to Covington from Cordele, Georgia in August, 1961, and remained until July, 1964. Rev. Arnold helped to remodel the Junior Department. This provided additional Sunday School rooms. He, also, organized a junior choir.
On July 26, 1964, Rev. Wilbur V. Hartley preached his first sermon as pastor to the people of the Church. He and Sis. Hartley will always be remembered and loved by the Church. God would bless the hearts of the people as they would sing songs such as “Little is Much When God is in It, Labor Not For Wealth or Fame, There’s a Crown and You Can Win It, If You’ll Go in Jesus Name”. For three years, the Hartley’s pastored the Church.
In August, 1966, from Birmingham, Alabama, Rev. and Mrs. A. C. Clemens came to pastor the Church. They, with their four boys, moved and immediately the Church recognized the need for a larger and more convenient parsonage for the pastors of the Covington Church. A building fund had been established, but God wanted the Church to launch out and prove His promises.
A few were meeting at the Church in daily prayer meetings and God was working. One Sunday morning in November, 1968, Mrs. Clemens was very ill and unable to attend the service. As she watched the people leave the Church that morning, God spoke to her heart that He wanted to prove that “Nothing Is Impossible To Him That Believeth”; and He wanted the Church to launch out in faith. A building fund drive was started, and the people responded to “The Lighted Crosses Contest”. The new 4-bedroom parsonage valued at approximately $30,000 was completed in September, 1970, with a debt of only $7,000 remaining.
During this pastorate, the Church had 39 full members, 2 junior members, and 25 associate members. It had an income of $12,949.01 in tithes and offerings and $1,589.60 contributed on the building fund. An estimate $1,000 was given to Missions through the WMS, YMWB, and WY Departments of the Church.
Many people had come and gone through the doors of this Church. But several memorable areas of their ministry were:
- Reached 180+ one Easter Sunday
- Multiple musical cantatas
- Mile of Pennies
- Y.M.W.B. met on Tuesdays after school
- Multiple births, weddings, professions of faith, baptisms
To continue the Church’s history, please add any information and memorable areas of ministry that you remember. Your comments will be added and a copy sent to you, if requested.
Rev. and Cleo Anders
Rev. Ralph and Minnie Day were called for the third time to pastor the Church.
Rev. Dale and Anna Travis
Rev. Steve and Gail Hearn
Rev. Paul and Dot Coffey
Rev. George and Jane Turner
1993 – 2004
Rev. Tommy Joe and Shirley Neyman
2004 – 2006
Rev. John and Rene’ Hughey
Rev. Phil and Crystal Spriggs
Rev. Rick and JoAnn Shockley
Dr. Joe and Kathy Harmon
Pastors Bob and Sandy Lenz