- Associated Press - Sunday, March 12, 2017

HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. (AP) - After about two hours of digging, a group of First United Methodist Church members struck gold. Or rather, they struck a box with 100-year-old documents.

One member, Mike McGee said he felt like Indiana Jones while he was digging up the wall.

This started 100 years ago when members of the First United Methodist Church placed a time capsule into the four layers of bricks behind the cornerstone of their newly built church. The cornerstone was placed at the end of February 1917, and on March 3, 1917, the congregation had moved to the new building.

A number of items were placed in the box, which were documented in a newspaper.

Then, 15 years ago, a member, Warren Cornell told McGee there’s a box in the wall that needed to be dug up soon. He even showed McGee about where it was located.

“Don’t know how you’re going to get it out,” McGee recalls Cornell telling him.

But, McGee didn’t think about it after that until a couple of years ago when Tony Kirves, another member, told McGee about an article that was about the church and the capsule.

Then on Feb. 28, he sent out an email to the trustees, which he became chairman of a few weeks ago.

On March 2, they set to work at 6 p.m., tackling the project in the basement of the church and working from the interior wall. It was decided with the big crack in the cornerstone, they needed to work from the inside so they didn’t damage it further.

The members tried to find the box first with a metal detector to get an idea where it was, McGee explained. The detector went off, but it turns out it picked up on a different metal object in the wall.

It was hit or a miss, McGee explained.

“It was a treasure hunt,” McGee said, adding he thought it was very exciting.

They almost gave up an hour and a half in, but then it happened.

The workers had to excavate a larger house to find the box. But, three layers in roughly two feet, they found something other than brick.

“We chipped out a brick and saw the corner of the box,” McGee said.

They pulled out a metal box and found the only damage was a hole in it’s side, which was caused by the church members accidentally hitting it with a drill. Chipping was hard and was taking a long time, McGee explained.

The box contained documents about contemporary church activities as well as newspaper articles describing the news of the day. Former Rev. Lewis Powell’s bible was also present. All but one document came out in good condition. The one document was damaged by the drill, but it is fine otherwise.

McGee added that it was one of the most exciting times in his life.

“When you think about this,” McGee began, adding that it is “one of the most fascinating things” to think about the people who planned this through. On top of that, it bridged the gap of 100 years.

The contents from the capsule will be placed in a new box this coming week. A few items from this time period will also be added.

They also plan to put up a plaque on the wall to tell the next group where to dig. McGee also may pull someone aside in the next decade to tell them about the box behind the cornerstone.

He expects the next time that spot is dug up, the items of the time capsule “will look as old and different as the things we saw,” he said.

The church celebrated the 200-year-old congregation and 100-year-old building with tours of the building, discussions of the stained glass windows and carriage rides to visit former locations of the congregation’s churches. County Historian William Turner also spoke about the church’s history.

It took about a year to plan everything the congregation wanted to do to celebrate which included getting the building cleaned up.

The Rev. Paige Williams said it turned out to be a fabulous day and it couldn’t have been any better.

A service of celebration and thanksgiving was at 7 p.m. Saturday and opened with a hymn that was sung 100 years ago when they began service in the morning, “How Firm a Foundation.”

Williams helped those who came realize they share a few piece of the church’s history in common, along with sharing a few different stories from the book written 50 years ago for the anniversary then.

She added she’s been so humbled and proud to be their pastor during this big moment.

Williams explained they could have opened up the wall in February. But, since they opened it on March 2, it lit a fire underneath them, she said.

“It’s just so amazing,” Williams continued, that those people 100 years ago had the foresight to include so much information.

They were progressive for their time by including women on their committees.

Over the year of preparation, many came to Williams with stories and photos. She read a lot on her predecessors and how people looked up to them, including the man who was preaching for the congregation 100 years ago when the new church was being built, Lewis Powell. Williams hopes to leave a mark like they did someday. In someways, she started by having the longest tenure and being the first female senior pastor.

When asked how long she thinks the church will be around, Williams addressed the trouble and lack of attendance Christian Faith currently faces, but finds her church to be in a different boat.

“We are strong. We are resilient. We are proud of our heritage,” she said, adding that if God wills it, it will be around much longer.

She also jokingly said if God wills it, she will be there the next time they open the box.

___

Information from: Kentucky New Era, https://www.kentuckynewera.com

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