Our Pastor: Rev. Darwin Edwards
Darwin and his family started attending Grace in 1980. As a member of the congregation, he served by teaching Sunday school, serving on the rebuilding committee after the fire, chairing the playground committee as well as being actively involved in many other church groups. In the mid-90’s he attended Lay Ministry Classes at Blackstone’s VUMAC. His call to ministry was affirmed at the event “Discover God’s Call”. In August of 2004, he left Grace Memorial United Methodist to enter Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg and received a Master of Divinity degree. In April of 2007 he answered God’s call as second-career pastor and has served at several churches. In June 2020, he was appointed to serve as minister to Grace Memorial. He has come full circle – leaving Grace in 2004 for seminary and returning in 2020 to serve as pastor. Grace is blessed to have Pastor Darwin and his wife Wanda, and his children and grandchildren as members of the Church.
To create disciples of Jesus Christ who live and share God’s love in themselves, the church, and the greater community.
Our History (Taken from a history written for Grace in 1999 by Tobey Edwards)
Sunday, April 29, 1917, is an important date in the history of Grace Memorial United Methodist Church. At 11:00 a.m. Rev. W. L. Burks, the pastor, and a full choir faced an attentive congregation as the organ pealed forth in a triumphant prelude played by the organist, Miss Lizzie Davis. Thus, the first service ever held in Grace Memorial United Methodist Church began. These pioneers of the Church had every reason to be proud of their accomplishment. They had built to the glory of God, not just a church, but a lovely house of worship that was an inspiration to those who entered its doors.
The Church was the culmination of the prayers, inspiration, dedication and hard work of a small group of people who had been meeting in the Sedley Grade School. What had started there in 1910 as a Union Sunday School had reorganized in 1914 as a Methodist Sunday School though some people of other denominations continued to attend.
In August of 1915, the Methodist Conference Evangelist, Reverend E.K. Odell, while visiting relatives in Sedley, was invited to conduct a revival meeting which resulted in a great spiritual awakening. He returned the purse of twenty five dollars given to him for his service asking that it be used when a Church was built. A decision was made to name the Church after his wife, Julia Grace Burgess Odell, who had died only two weeks prior to the revival services.
The Church was organized with fifteen charter members. Grace Memorial became the fourth Church on the Courtland Charge. In 1957, Courtland became a station church, and the three remaining churches became the Trinity Charge. At this time, a parsonage was built in Sedley. A few years later, Nottoway Chapel closed. Grace became a two Church charge with its sister Church in Sebrell. Sebrell eventually closed, and Grace become a station church.
On Christmas Eve 1986, Sedley Baptist Church joined Grace for a candlelight service. The Baptist minister had passed away the week before Christmas. This was the final service held in the original building. On the morning of December 26th, in spite of the efforts of the fire departments in the area, the building was destroyed by fire.
Mrs. Virginia Hancock’s words, “That building is not our Church, the people are, and we will survive.”
In February, 1987, the Woodman Hall Building on Maple Avenue became the temporary home of Grace Memorial. We worshipped there for two and a half years. During this time, members eagerly watched the rebuilding of the Church.
Since the old Church site was not feasible because of current building code specifications, a site on Peachtree Avenue was purchased and a ground breaking ceremony took place on Nov. 12th, 1988. Highlights of the period were the laying of the cornerstone and placement of the steeple.
The dedication of the new building finally took place on September 9th, 1989. The event was celebrated with a communion service, cake, and ice cream social. The first Sunday service was held September 10th. Rev. Weldon White’s sermon entitle “Determined Discipleship” inspired all who attended.
During the years we have expanded our parking lot, added a playground, a picnic pavilion and a pre-school. Throughout our life as a Church, we hope to encourage the precept that the presence of God in our lives is wonderful, exciting, life changing and even more beautiful when you reach out to share the knowledge with others.
The following is taken from a historical account written by our Church’s first Historian, Miss Virgie Williams, which was read at the Dedication Service, October 29, 1922.
“A Church may celebrate its origin, recite its history, announce its principles and purposes and give thanks to God for its existence. The Church of God is a great procession marching on to glory. We cannot close our eyes to our mortality, but if we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him. It was a greater day when this Church was founded, it is a greater day we celebrate and it will be greater still when translated to the Church of Heaven.”