Centenary UMC History

Centenary United Methodist church is one of the oldest churches in Hamblen County.  Centenary was established in 1881 under the pastorate of the Rev. Dr. Judson Hill (1854-1931).   Rev. Hill was a Methodist Episcopal pastor sent from New Jersey to Tennessee, in 1881.  Before serving in Morristown, Rev. Hill served in Chattanooga, Cleveland, and Elizabethton.  In addition to Centenary, Rev. Hill was also responsible for the organization and administration of a seminary and normal school for African Americans in the area, which would later become Morristown College.   Rev. Hill served as president of the Morristown College until his death.
The Sanctuary is the original church building, completed in 1886, with the exception of the Prayer Room, which was part of a later addition.  The church plot was purchased for $450 and with $300 in donations and a $700 loan, construction began in 1884.  The name “Centenary” is due to the centennial anniversary of the Methodist Episcopal Church (a forerunner of The United Methodist Church), which had its start in 1784 at the “Christmas Conference” in Baltimore, Maryland.

The sanctuary has retained its historic architecture, even as additions were made.  The most notable addition was completed in 1962.  This addition houses many classrooms, church office, and pastor’s study, as well as a fellowship hall and kitchen.  This addition began in 1955, under Rev. Lon Moneyhon.  Construction began in 1962 and was completed in 1963.

The next significant change to the sanctuary began in 1975, under Rev. Dwight Kenney.  While no additions were made, the older portion of the church was renovated.   Classrooms that had surrounded the seating of the sanctuary were opened up to create more space for the congregation.  In 1977, the stained glass windows were repaired, as the lead caning in the large circular windows was weakening and allowing the panes to bulge.  Additionally, many of the stained glass windows had suffered cracks and individual pieces of glass were replaced.   New pews and carpeting were also part of the restorations.  Exterior renovations were also made in 1977, as the original masonry was cleaned, waterproofed, and new joining was applied.

In 1982, additional restoration work was made to the roof and steeple.  Deteriorated wood in the steeple was replaced and the steeple roof was clad with new copper.  During this time, new appointments for the sanctuary were acquired: including, a new altar Bible and stand, flower vases, and communion set.

 The beautiful stained glass windows are original to the church building.  Although there are no surviving records of their purchase or manufacture; a recent appraisal of the windows date them to a time between the 1880s and 1917 – the manufacture of much of the glass used in the windows was discontinued during World War I.  Currently, there is a restoration project of these windows.  Again, deteriorating caning, cracks, and repairs made 40 years ago are being addressed.  The current restoration is being made by State of the Art, Inc., in Knoxville. 
The restoration is carried out by removing an entire window and transporting it to Knoxville where it is disassembled, ultrasonically cleaned, cosmetic repairs are made, and then the window is reassembled with new lead caning.  Care is being taken to repair cracked glass with ultraviolet glue (much like what is used to repair cracked automotive windshields).   Again, much of the glass is irreplaceable and the restorers are dedicated to maintaining the historic appearance by preserving, rather than replacing, the original glass. 
Centenary United Methodist Church has stood as a testament to faith and faithfulness for over 130 years.  The congregation has a rich history of service to the community, as well as supporting missions worldwide.