As the Centerville United Methodist Church approaches 102 years old, its members continue finding ways to encourage area residents to attend and worship alongside them.
The church usually sees around 40 attendees during its Sunday morning services in the old, rock church at the intersection of Blythe and Shelby roads.
Two weeks ago, the church saw a hike in attendance during its annual Church at the Farm service.
The annual service saw nearly 100 attendees, who each sat on the lawn outside the Beasley Farm in Greenbrier. In a service that focused around friendship, Pastor Lana Gartner and her husband, Children's Church Pastor Rick Gartner, encouraged attendees to be more accepting and open to others.
The morning service, held out on the Beasley Farm lawn just a few miles from the church, encouraged attendees to stop being judgmental and accept others for who they are.
As Lana stood before church members, their families and other guests on April 29, she had each attendee take off at least one shoe.
"How long has it been since you touched your foot to God's green Earth?" she asked the crowd.
While each attendees foot may not be what others would consider "beautiful," each is essential and useful, she said as she reminded the group to show appreciation for what's in their lives.
To kick off the farm service, church members sang hymns before Rick asked the children in the crowd to come forward for a short children's service.
He encouraged the children to reach out to others and offer their friendship to everyone in their lives so that no one has to feel left out. As he encouraged the children to expand their circles, he ran a band of tape that eventually encompassed each attendee at the April 29 farm service. The remainder of the service was held from within the inclusive tape.
After the service drew to an end, the group was invited to take part in a potluck lunch. Children rode horses and caught fish in a nearby pond as the adults congregated on the Beasley Farm lawn.
Church member Jennifer Freeman said the church family is inviting to all and encourages county residents to stop by its services at any time.
The church's members are welcoming, inviting and understanding, she said, noting the small, country church has a heart that she encourages all to celebrate and worship alongside.
"It is a laid back environment where you will feel comfortable and feel like you are with family," Freeman said.
Members from around the small-town area as well as from Springhill and Conway flock to the church each Sunday to gather and worship.
Ben McNew, a Conway resident, is known as the church's history book.
The 86-year-old man offers "did-you-know" facts along with nearly every hymn the church members sing.
McNew said he joined Centerville United Methodist Church about 78 years ago when it was still called the Union Grove Methodist Church. Although he moved out of state for nearly 40 years, he said he never switched his membership because he always considered the Centerville church as his home.
The church was formed in 1916, he said. Living up to his "history book" reputation, he shared the background on how the church came to be.
"There was a church to the southeast of the present church called Pleasant Hill, it was a Methodist church," he said after the farm service on April 29. "McNew Chapel was about a mile northwest of the present church. They merged and formed this one, first called Union Grove — and still is on Google [Maps]. The named changed [around] 1920 or so to Centerville United Methodist Church."
Services are open for any to attend at 9 a.m. Sundays in the old rock building, located just a few miles past Woolly Hollow State Park in Greenbrier in the Centerville community.