High Point United Methodist Church

Decatur County, Iowa
Des Moines Register
Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa
April 25, 198_

A visit to an interesting country church
By Evelyn Birkby - Up a Country Lane

It's been a long time since I got a note from a fella, but a year ago Chuck Offenburger passed me such a message in the Inn of the Six-Toed Cat in Allerton, Iowa. Church and I were both there for one of Bob Finley's Sunday radio broadcasts.

"Did you notice the High Point Methodist Church west of here?" Chuck's note read. "It is maybe eight or 10 miles on Highway 2. Seems like a natural stop-over for you (or me) for a Sunday service and a column. Maybe we can do it together."

It would have been fun for us to go on the same day, but Chuck's busy schedule interfered, and I had to take Robert along instead. We were again headed for a radio broadcast at the Inn of the Six-Toed Cat, but we timed our travels this time so we could stop at the church and attend the 10 a.m. services. It was everything Chuck had imagined and more.

We quickly discovered some of the early history of the area. By the mid-1800s, High Point was a good-sized settlement of log buildings located on the Mormon trail and the stage coach line from Des Moines ot Mount Ayr. Across the road from where the church now stands were a number of cabins people called a "Hotel."

All about were the homes of pioneers. According to the High Point Church history book, by 1858 the residents began searching for a minister to come preach to them.

In the pattern of many Methodists of that day, the Rev. Berry T. Williams was sent out to organize a "Classic Meeting." He then turned its leadership over to local lay people and an occasional circuit rider.

The class met on Sunday evenings in one of the homes until the new schoolhouse was built at the southwest corner of the High Point Cemetery and the Sunday school began to meet in that building.

By 1880, the members started a fund drive to build a church. The hotel buildings were purchased and torn down so the land could be used for the church. The lumber and building materials for the project were hauled by teams and wagons from Allerton. A pastor was assigned to the parish. In October of 1881, the new church was dedicated.

As the years went by, the members added Sunday school rooms, paneling and modern improvements to the building. In 1960, the church was relocated on the west side of the Garden Grove Highway when construction on Highway 2 threatened the site. Even with all these changes and improvements, it still maintains the atmosphere of a pioneer country church.

As the congregation gathered on that recent warm Sunday morning, the service began with an excellent liturgist - member Denzel Bethard. The special music for the day was presented by the Celebration Brass Choir from Osceola. This eclectic musical group is made up of volunteer musicians.

Among those who played that day were a high school media specialist, a high school student, a member of the High Point Church, and the leader (who is presently a postmaster [Ross Fromm of Osceola]) who at one time was a high school music teacher. As the brass choir played "Onward Christian Soldiers" and three lively spirituals, our feet tapped the floor in time of the music and I sensed the spirits of the pioneer founders of the church clapping their hands in approval.

The sermon by the Rev. Robert Cumings stressed the fact that we are all Easter people, a part of the heritage that continues along after the celebration of the day is concluded. The scripture he used is one of my favorites - Hebrews 12:1-2 - that includes that energizing sentence, "let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us . . . "

It was a fine sermon, motivating, encouraging, stressing renewed dedication and effort. And when I thought of the effort the Rev. Cumings expends serving the four churches in his parish, it made me realize that the days of the circuit riding preacher are not over.

The members of the church were exceedingly friendly to Robert and me. Loretta Pierson, a member of the High Point Church and secretary for all four churches of the parish, gave us a warm greeting as well as a fond farewell.

Sheryl Chambers, a real estate salesperson and local crafter who lives in Leon, explained her presence. "This church is my rock. I miss it when I am not here." Sheryl also told us that the favorite hymn also of the church is one the members of the congregation request whenever appropriate - "I know who holds tomorrow . . . ."

Thanks to Sheryl, Robert and I left the church and stepped out into the quiet, sun-filled countryside with the words and music of that beautiful hymn filling our minds.

 I don't know about tomorrow,
I just live from day to day,
I don't borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to gray,
I don't worry o'er the future
For I know what Jesus said,
And today I'll walk beside Him
For He knows what is ahead.

Chorus ---

Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand,
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

(By Ira Stanphill)

Thank you Chuck, for guiding us toward such an inspiring experience. Wish you could have been there.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, July of 2013
 By the mid-1880's, High Point was a fair-sized settlement of log buildings located on the Morman Trail. It was a station on the Des Moines to Mount Ayr stage line. Around the year 1858, the residents of High Point settlement began to look for a minister. Rev. Berry T. WILLIAMS was sent out by the Methodist Church to organize a meeting. The congregation meet in homes. In 1880, they began to raise funds for a church building. The hotel buildings were torn down to make way for the new church. Lumber and building materials were hauled in by teams and wagons from Allerton. The High Point Methodist church was dedicated in October of 1881.

High Point was later the station for the Pony Express Hotel and Post Office. Today, the High Point Methodist Church and a couple of houses are all that remain.

The High Point Methodist Church is located approximately 5 miles east of Leon on the north side of Highway 2. It is in impeccable condition, lovingly and devotedly maintained. In the late 1970's and early 1980's, I used to play the piano for church services there. It has since been carpeted and the plaster walls have been paneled. The belfry has been removed and the bell placed by the front entrance. A handicap entrance has also been built. It was good to see this church and its little congregation faring very well. ~ August 29, 2009, SRB

Photographs & submission courtesy of Sharon R. Becker, July of 2013 
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