Jayden Fraley and Kaitlin Patterson light candles in the sanctuary of the historic Kedron United Methodist Church during the Sept. 14, 2013, homecoming services led by Rev. Angela Hawkins and choir director Larry Fraley. (TMP Photo/D. Whittle)
The old hymn “The Church in the Wildwood” could be heard resonating from the historic Kedron United Methodist Church recently as the congregation opened its Homecoming Day services in joyous praise.
“My mother has a saying, ‘Home is where the heart is,’” Rev. Angela Hawkins said, as she welcomed the former members. “Father had a saying, “Home is where we’re all together.’ At Kedron, we strive to maintain a church home that is warm and alive, and most of all, pleasing to Christ. … We strive to have an open welcoming door, with open hearts.”
Hawkins has a unique background to serve this congregation.
Hawkins is the daughter of a Methodist pastor and attended Trevecca Nazarene University, where she is working on a master’s degree in divinity.
“And she spent two years teaching English in Kyrgyzstan as a courageous member of the U.S. Peace Corps,” choir member Danny Fraley said.
But that isn’t the only interesting characteristic Kedron has to offer.
The historic church opened in the 1830s as a society along the beautiful meandering Rocky Fork Creek in rural southern-most Rutherford County between Smyrna and Nolensville.
According to church history, the first meetings started in 1838 as the Methodist Society in the homes of James Coleman. Joel Lee, William A. Coleman and Thomas Bennett were just a few of well-known families who joined with Lee to form the original Kedron community church.
The original property deed specified that the land be used to erect a building for a house of worship by the Methodist Episcopal Church, the original church name.
During the service, choir member Dot Presley explained, “Six generations of my family have attended Kedron,” one of the oldest Methodist congregations in Middle Tennessee.
At 92, Lytle Hodge said he cannot remember a time when he has not attended Kedron, which still comprises a congregation with roots that go deep in the former wilderness where the congregation was formed.
“I was born on a Sunday, and family lore has it that I came to church here the first day of my life,” recalled Hodge, whose cousin Elizabeth Hodge’s name is stitched into the homecoming quilt, sections of which are reportedly more than a century old.
“Elizabeth Hodge was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W.E. Hodge, my aunt and uncle who reared me after my mother died when I was 3 years old,” he said.
Danny Fraley explained that the “the 100-year-old quilt was rescued recently when church member Lynn Lee saw it at an auction sale and brought it home.”
Some of the names stitched on the quilt also include Mary Harris, Minnie Potts and Luvella Lee.
“It’s a beautiful creation and great significant part of history for Kedron,” longtime member Ernestine Clark said in reference to the quilt.
The Sept. 14 service began with Jayden Fraley and Kaitlin Patterson, both of who are granddaughters of Danny and Martha Fraley, marching forward to light candles in the sanctuary, built in 1875.
“Our first church building was a log building, constructed between 1842 and 1845,” Hodge said. “About 1900, our church building reversed directions, having a new entrance to the east, due to a change in the road that runs through the creek.
“As a boy, when Rocky Fork Creek flooded, I recall taking off my Sunday shoes and wading through the creek in order to get to Sunday School on time.”
Today, the church sits on Rocky Ford Road just off Old Nashville Highway in Smyrna, and its members intend to keep it that way for a long time to come.