The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Heartland Happenings Come Worship At Durham

by Dessa Rodeffer, Quill Publisher/Owner

The ringing of the church bell outside, calls the congregation to worship God in the active United Methodist Church of Durham, located on the Durham blacktop right off Illinois Route 94 between La Harpe and Dallas City. Most who attend, come from the surrounding farming area.

The bell is special in that it is the only thing that remains from the first church that was built and dedicated in 1866 after a fire of unknown origin, burnt the church to the ground in December 23, 1951.

The bell was ordered from Philadelphia at the cost of $95.00. It was cracked in shipment and had to be recast and the belfry had to be reinforced to hold the heavier bell.

In those days, the country church bell proclaimed to all the people for miles and miles around when the hour for services arrived.

According to Durham's history account, The bell also rang upon a death, and rang out the number of years for that soul's life. "All the people far and near knew either a child or an adult had passed to the great beyond. At the time of a funeral, the sexton tolled the bell from the moment the procession came into sight until the casket and family were in the church."

When I arrived at the church, Dale Eppley welcomed me at my car as he pulled into park. Jayne Eckhardt was busy inside lighting the candles, preparing for the pastor, and she had been practicing the organ and piano music as she also is the accompanist. She came over and greeted me and gave me a booklet with the history of their church.

Families were coming in and signing up for duties to ready for their annual soup supper which will be held at 5 p.m. the La Harpe clubhouse on Saturday, November 14th.

The congregation is also working on Big Sunday and hoping many will join them in worship November 15th. At present, there are no children attending as they have all grown, but children are welcome to attend on occasion.

I was interested in reading the history where the early church had adopted an old New England custom of renting of pews to families who decorated them to their fancy and thus the revenue helped defray expenses of the church.

There was a partition down the middle with the women sitting on one side and the men on the other, it said.

I could see that it is no longer a custom but it sounded like a good idea.

The present church building was built a year after the fire in 1952 and the bell, once again cracked when it fell from the belfry. The bell was mounted in the church yard by Clara Rice in memory of her husband Merlind and is used each Sunday before morning worship begins.

Pastor Tom Wright comes from leading the Terre Haute United Methodist worship service at 8:30; to lead the 9:45 worship service at Durham and then goes to the La Harpe United Methodist Church to lead their 11:00 a.m. service.

His sermon was JESUS STOPPED. For ages, people have been asking who is this Jesus and why is he here.

The blind unschooled, undesirable, outcast sitting on the side of the road, got it right, Pastor Wright said. He called him by name - Jesus, son of David and he asked him to have mercy on him, which is the exactly what the mission of Christ is. (Mark 10:46-52)

Blind Bartimaeus prayed for healing, but he could have asked him for anything, for he continually throughout the Bible shows his mercy when his name is called. He is waiting for us.

Pastor Wright pointed to us and said, we need to be calling on His name in prayer with boldness and faith for everything concerning us. Jesus, Son of David will stop and he will show mercy.

"Are you going to just walk through life and lollygag around, or are you going to take the bull by the horn" and call on Jesus' name and ask for a miracle? Wright said. "This message is for you!"