In the early days of the Methodist movement John Wesley formed groups that would study, fellowship, and meet for mutual growth in grace. He created a system with three different types of groups called Societies, Classes, and Bands. At this time the Methodist movement was a renewal movement of the Anglican church, of which John Wesley was a pastor until his death.
A society was a group that met to study and share. It would take a offering for the poor and they would have a message and maybe a meal together. They functioned, in many ways like a congregation. The Society would be made up of a series of Classes. These were groups of 10 to 12 people that would meet each week and share together about their faith and living it out in the world. They were very much like what we would term today an accountability group. They would ask each other things like, “How is it today with your Immortal soul?” and you would answer. They kept each other’s secrets, encouraged, and challenged as the situations warranted. If you wanted to go deeper, they had the groups called Bands that would be made up of 5 or 6 people all of the same gender that would meet weekly and delve even deeper into spiritual things.
This was primarily a movement lead by non-clergy or laity. They would share a weekly message and they would celebrate the Sacraments of Communion or Baptism when a clergy would be present. These Circuit riding clergy were few and far between, so their arrival was a very exciting thing for these groups of Christian neighbors and friends.
Through the 1700’s John Wesley sent missionaries over to the Colonies to encourage their spiritual growth in grace as a part of the Anglican Church. Societies and were formed and the movement grew. In 1784, after the American Revolution, John Wesley founded the Methodist Episcopal Church at the Christmas Conference in Baltimore. Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke were consecrated our first Bishops, and the church began to grow under their leadership. The same general patterns continued from the early days of the Methodist Episcopal Church. A group would start to meet at a house or a public building and they would form a Society. As the society grew they would break into classes. When the society grew to a certain point they would form a church, buy or build a building, and be made a part of a circuit.
There is no record of when Methodists started meeting, but they did meet and a church was built in the Shreve area in 1856. At that time Shreve was known as Clinton Station, and we were part of the Nashville circuit of churches. In 1869 the Shreve Circuit was formed including the churches of Shreve, Newkirk, and Bigelow. Our second church was built in 1871, and the third church, the old sanctuary was built in 1906 and dedicated in 1906. An education and Fellowship Hall addition was added in 1956. A second story was put on the building (the office, and choir area) in 1962. In 1974 the Newkirk United Methodist Church merged with Shreve and in 1981 the Maple Grove United Methodist Church merged with Shreve. In 2003 the
New addition was built including the new sanctuary, fellowship Hall and classroom space, and in 2011 the Activity Center was built.
It is important to remember where you have been and to celebrate God’s great faithfulness through all the generations. It is also important to look to prayerfully seek what God has in store next to touch His world. Please pray about our next steps in the church. I would love to see some new small groups form and for us to begin the process of seeking what our Mission and Vision for the future will be. I would encourage you to take part in one of the many educational opportunities in the life of the church. It can be Sunday School or one of the special classes or small groups.
May God greatly Bless Shreve UMC and your September. Rev. Mike