DUBLIN, Va. (WDBJ7) Mattie P. Holmes describes the day Mt. Pleasant Church closed in Dublin, Virginia as, “an opening day for Methodists in Pulaski County.” That day was in April of 1970, the day two racially segregated churches became one.
Holmes and her friend Ruth Howe were both there when it happened. Holmes, an original member of Mt. Pleasant, Howe, an original member of Dublin Methodist Church. The merger resulted in the first integrated church documented in Southwest Virginia. But Holmes and Howe have slightly different perspectives on the past.
“I don’t even remember that it had been an issue,” said Howe, who describes herself as a positive person. She said if anyone ever felt unwelcome she would want them to know they love everyone at her church.
Growing up in segregated Pulaski County, Holmes had a different experience. “If you're black and you live in this area...you see it one way or another. Whether they will get off the street or whether they look at you as a different person…” said Holmes.
Holmes and Howe are both currently members of Dublin United Methodist Church. And they are very active members. In fact, on the wall of the church is a picture of Howe’s daughter’s wedding. Right below it is a picture of Holmes’ daughter’s wedding.
The congregation gathered today to celebrate the togetherness that occurred in 1970. However, in the past 15 years the pastor says they have seen fewer African Americans in the congregation.
As pastor, Reverend Don Hanshew has tried to work towards a solution focusing on inclusiveness and building strong relationships.
“I wish I could give you a highlight reel of all the great decisions the church has made after the merger. That would be untrue. It was a hard decision and we have failed in many ways, but we persisted,” said Rev. Hanshew.
When the community broke bread together Sunday celebrating integration, the history of the church lined the walls. Pictures of the past served as a reminder, a lesson, and a goal.
“I believe Dublin United Methodist Church has the DNA to get at the meaningful issues, but it takes work,” said Rev. Hanshew.