Middletown Christian Church
(Photo taken circa 1915)
In 1872 the Hookerton Union engaged Josephus Lathan to serve as their home missionary to evangelize for two months. The time was mainly spent in Middletown resulting in forty-nine baptisms. With this substantial start, by October 12, 1872, when the delegates Captain G.M. Silverthorne, H.D. Cason, J. Montier Hall, and S.M. Silverthorne attended the Disciple's State Annual Meeting, the new church was enrolled with sixty members. Captain Gray M. Silverthorne was the first clerk.
Dr. C.C. Ware in Albemarle Annals (1961) records that George C. Respess, an articulate layman, on June 1, 1877, related: "The church at Middletown, with which I worship, has built a new house 40 x 27 feet. It is not finished but it is so we can meet in it . . . meeting every Lord's Day in Sunday School, and have a good attendance. We are learning more about the Word of God than we knew before . . ."
When the young Lexington-trained minister, Merritt Owen, arrived in the summer of 1899, he found the building in need of repairs. The church had been without a minister for some time. By July of 1900 the building had been finished, the belfry completed, and the church painted. The minister reported that the congregation was now able to help other struggling congregations. The property for the church was deeded by Benjamin and Eugenia Sanderson and Romulus Sanderson to Jeremiah P. Cox, G.M. Silverthorne and Samuel S. Gibbs acting as Trustees of the Christian Church of the Disciples at Middletown.
In 1925 the building was enlarged, adding classrooms and a baptistry which is filled with rainwater from the roof.
In 1922 thirty-four members were commissioned to form the Engelhard Christian Church. From the beginning these two churches were a pastoral unity, sharing the same minister. Together they have built two parsonages. The first one beside the Engelhard Christian Church which was sold after the church was sold and the congregation built on a new site. The new parsonage was built beside the new Engelhard Church in 1954. Mount Pleasant Christian Church at Gull Rock was a mission church of Middletown Christian Church until the middle 1950's when they no longer had services. In 1958 the interior of the church was remodeled, a choir loft built, stained glass windows installed as memorials to many former members, and a new communion table and chairs purchased. In 1964 the Fellowship Hall, which had been located in the village of Middletown, was moved to the church lot.
The church celebrated its Centennial during October, 1972, with special emphasis each week with the Engelhard congregation joining in the activities. The theme, "One Hundred Years in Christian Witness" gave opportunity to review the church history and doctrine, for the older members in mid-week luncheons to "Remember When", for the two "Timothys", W.J. Bryan Burrus and Margarette Silverthorne, to participate in one service, for a special menu for the annual bazaar and for a special local membership luncheon. The Centennial Homecoming Day, October 29, 1972, found the church packed to capacity and overflowing with all three of the N.C. Christian Church ministers in attendance. Dr. Charles Dietze, executive minister, brought the message. Alex Mooty, associate minister and former ministerial colleague, presented Miss Silverthorne with the honored minister's pin, given by Christian Church Pension Fund to retired ministers. Lunch and fellowship on the grounds followed, climaxing the Centennial program. In 1974 the baptistry was repaired, and wall-to-wall carpeting and new drapes were installed. At the present time with declining population in Middletown, the active membership is less than 100 but regular weekly Sunday School and twice a month worship services are held.
(The below was taken from The Coastland Times - Sunday, November 14, 1999; pg. 11B)
HISTORIC CHURCH DESTROYED BY FIRE DURING IRENE
After 127 years in existence, the Middletown Christian Church was totally destroyed along with most of its records in a fire during hurricane Irene.
A call to dispatch the Engelhard Volunteer Fire Department was made about 12:30 a.m., Monday morning, October 18, by Doris Weston - a resident living in front of the church. Within minutes of the call, fire chief Tony Spencer and Capt. Donnie Carawan were at the scene.
Firefighters, fire equipment and rescue equipment soon filled the churchyard. Also responding to the call were the Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department and the Swan Quarter Fire Department. Volunteer fire departments from Stumpy Point and Scranton were also dispatched, but the call was later canceled.
Futile efforts were made by many to salvage the church building, but high winds and heavy rains from hurricane Irene made a tough job even more difficult and dangerous. One firefighter was treated and released from Pungo District Hospital for smoke inhalation. On a good note, firefighters were able to save the fellowship hall adjacent to the church.
Many records belonging to the church were destroyed from the fire. An effort is currently being made to try to recreate as much of the church's history as possible. Anyone possessing pictures, newspaper articles, bulletins, or are a member of the church, baptized there, married there, or just have some relevant information about the church's history, contact Edna Sukeforth at P.O. Box 506, Engelhard 27824, or call evenings at (252) 925-9871.
The Middletown Christian Church, established in 1872 in the rural community of Middletown, is holding services in conjunction with Engelhard Christian Church. Pastor Scott Sukeforth currently serves both the Middletown and Engelhard Christian Churches. Plans are already underway to rebuild.
(Photo and information taken from Hyde County History published by the Hyde Co. Historical Society in 1976.)
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