PARKERSBURG — When a member of the Logan Memorial United Methodist Church at Sixth and Ann streets is asked what church they attend and they say “Logan,” more often than not the response is “Oh, that church is still around? I thought it was closed.”
It is still around and has been for 155 years as of Feb. 13, one of only three churches in Parkersburg on the National Historic Register, said Darcel Donaway, a member of the church and chair of the Finance Committee.
A year after considering closing the church and putting the property up for sale, the congregation has found a renewed determination to restore the historic building and boost membership, Donaway said.
Logan UMC is seeking grants and other sources to help with the restoration and recently was accepted into a program for historic churches in Central Appalachia through Partners For Sacred Places, a national organization and the nation’s only nonprofit dedicated to the stewardship and active community use of America’s older religious properties.
Logan UMC is among 10 churches in Appalachia to be chosen from more than 290 applicants, Donaway said.
“They are teaching us ways to engage the community in not only helping with the restoration of the building but in bringing people into the church to partake in the praising and glorifying of our Lord.” Donaway said.
Logan UMC is likely to receive matching grants requiring it to raise an additional third to half one-third of the grant. The church is reaching out to the community for help in raising funds and for new members.
“Another, more important reason for us to be here, is so that we can reignite the fire that this church has for the Lord and in doing so, shine bright enough that those in our families and community will see that glow and want to join it,” Donaway said.
Pastor Gene Full cites the history of the church.
“Have you ever walked into a historical building and you can feel the rich heritage and history that has occurred within? You can feel the passion and energy that have dealt with many discussions and raw emotions — but you have a sense that somehow and, in some way, you are right where you need to be,” Full said. ” This is how I felt the first time I walked into Logan Memorial United Methodist Church where I was assigned as the pastor in July 2020.”
Logan UMC is the first African American church established in the United Methodist West Virginia Conference, Full said.
“What really brings the church to life is the rich history demonstrating the true values of the American dream,” Full said. “The Black community in Parkersburg, W.Va., came together establishing Henry Logan Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church in the basement of the first Methodist church in early 1866, just a few months after having been liberated.”
Logan UMC also serves the community in many ways, Donaway said. The church hosts two narcotics recovery and rehabilitation groups, NARC-ANON, that meet weekly, is sponsoring a COVID-19 vaccination clinic to reach those in the community who may be at a higher risk, supports the needs of the homeless and provides a facility compliant with the Americans with Disability Act, Donaway said.
Renovations include improving access to the main entrance of the church, providing a ramp for easy access and ADA-compliant restrooms and the kitchen. Other renovations include shoring up the stability of the interior and exterior, roof and beautiful stained glass windows.
Logan UMC has gone through many changes in its 155 years. The odds were against it from the beginning. The Civil War was over, slavery had been abolished and West Virginia was a brand new state. The year was 1866 and President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated only a few months earlier. Racial tension was still high over the issue of slavery and segregation was commonplace and widely accepted.
It was during this time that two Parkersburg men, the Reverend P. Bowser and Charles Fisher, set out to organize a Methodist Episcopal Church for persons of African descent.
The first congregations met in the basement of the First M. E. Church, formerly at Fifth and Juliana streets. Within the next few months, the congregation outgrew that space and property was obtained at the corner of Sixth and Grant streets to build a new church. Local businessman Henry Logan and his wife, Lavinia, donated nearly half of the money needed to build the church.
Henry Logan was part owner of the Parkersburg Mill Company and was also involved in other business ventures. He was known to be a “friend of the black people” and supported the black community in any way that he could.
Logan and his wife continued to support the congregation by purchasing another property owned by a Baptist congregation. For the next 18 years, services were held in this framed structure until once again, Mr. Logan and his wife added to the funds that were being raised to build the brick structure which is the current location of Logan UMC.
As a result of the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Logan and their dedication to the black members of the community, the church was renamed the Henry Logan Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church and was dedicated on Feb. 14, 1892.
In 1916 stained glass windows were installed and over the next 70 years few structural changes occurred. The building has survived raging floods, storms and even a violent river barge explosion in 1972 that caused minor damage to the building.
Some restoration was done to bring out the historic beauty of the structure. The bricks were chemically cleaned and tuck-pointed. Foundation work was done to stop the rising damp. Plaster in the sanctuary was repaired and painted. The stained glass windows were repaired and a protective coating was added.
Although Logan UMC is a historically black church, the congregation is now racially and economically diverse. Logan is a welcoming church and believes that all people are children of God and are worthy of love and acceptance, no matter of race, color, age, or sexual preference, Donaway said.
“We identify ourselves as an inclusive, ‘rainbow’ or ‘welcoming’ church,” Donaway said. “We believe that this is how the Kingdom of God is meant to be and we thank God for this opportunity. Logan United Methodist Church is a beautiful, historic building and would welcome all who want to worship with them.”
For information about worship times and opportunities or if you wish to donate toward the renovation of the building, contact Full at 304 991-4572 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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