By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
DALEVILLE – An idyllic country drive near Daleville, along the banks of the White River, gets you there. As you round the bend, your eye sweeps up the rising hill dotted with innumerable tombstones. Nestled among the gray stone markers, at the top of the hill, is the most unassuming of churches, charming in its very simplicity.
Mount Pleasant Community Church has watched over the hill for 134 years. It stood, with doors closed sometimes, throughout the decades. Today, it stands with its small but vibrant congregation putting out the welcome mat for newcomers. On Sept. 29, they’re also hosting a homecoming with former members, visitors or relatives invited to return for a special visit.
Musician John Gunter will be among those making the homecoming that day, and will provide entertainment bringing his brand of a little bit of country. The congregation will enjoy music, worship and a chicken noodles lunch following the service. Pictures, stories and memories are welcome.The congregation is small, but it’s tight, with a long history of families and friends intertwined through faith under the Mount Pleasant roof. No pomp or circumstance here. It’s an old-fashioned church family, with one important thing in common.“Every time you step in here you feel like God’s here,” said Darlene Smith, a Mount Pleasant member of more than 50 years. Her mother and grandmother came to Mount Pleasant as well. Smith was married at Mount Pleasant 44 years ago to her husband, Alan, who now serves as the worship leader and church board president.Mount Pleasant is a nondenominational church, shepherded by Pastor John Albright. “We’re completely self-contained,” said member Carol Wilburn. The church also boasts no debt. That’s not to say there’s not plenty of investment. Church members have carefully looked after the needs of the church, even to installing an elevator and stained glass windows handmade by church members in the basement community area.Member Paula Lennington made several of the stained glass windows after taking classes to learn how. “It’s kind of like everybody got their own vision,” said Lennington of the rich variation in the colorful windows.Seventy-nine-year-old Lennington was born in a house within view of the church. She has been a member of the church her entire life. As a child, Lennington sat atop a tombstone, eating a sandwich, to watch the basement being dug underneath the already existing church building. They dug the basement out with shovels, and hauled the dirt away with wagons and horses. That was in 1939.Lennington remembers the pot belly stove that used to warm the building for services.“Dad set me in the pew while he got it going – and I had to sit there,” remembered Lennington.There are seven acres of graves surrounding the church, with another two acres unplatted. Some of the stones date as far back as 1849.
Out in the vast cemetery, one structure dominates over all others. An elaborate metal gazebo, aged by sun and wind and time to a green verdigris, announces the crypts of the people underneath. “Neeley’s pagoda” holds three family members, the earliest of which was interred in 1855, and the last in 1911.
Lennington remembers as a child, “We’d knock to see if anybody was home.”
Although surrounded by acres of quiet cemetery, the church itself claims just 6 feet of the earth around its perimeter.“The only way we have to go is up,” said Wilburn, with a little bit a heavenly humor.
The church welcomes visitors every Sunday to 9:30 a.m. Sunday school and 10:30 a.m. worship. It is located at 4101 S. Highbanks Road in Daleville.
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If you go: What: Mount Pleasant Community Church homecoming, entertainment with John Gunter When: Sunday, Sept. 29, Sunday school 9:30 a.m., worship 10:30 a.m., chicken noodles lunch 12:30 p.m. Where: 4101 S. Highbanks Road, Daleville More info: Call 759-7068