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Church discovers history in 100-year-old time capsule

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Central United Methodist Church was demolished in May, but pieces of the landmark church's history were uncovered Sunday.

Members of Canaan United Methodist Church opened a time capsule from Central after their Sunday service. The time capsule had been placed under Central's cornerstone in 1913.

"Last week I was saying to the congregation, it's sort of like receiving a telephone call from a hundred years ago," Carr Grubb, the Canaan United Methodist's lay leader, said. "How would you feel if you answered the phone and on the other end was a voice from a hundred years ago?"

Canaan United Methodist Church was formed in 2008 -- an intended consolidation of Central and other Charleston United Methodist churches.

"[The time capsule] is the last physical vestige we have of Central but the folks of Central are very much alive," Grubb said. "We're all here in Canaan United Methodist Church."

Noble Conner Jr., an 87-year-old member of Canaan, opened the time capsule. Conner's father, Noble Conner Sr., was one of the Central members that put together the time capsule 100 years ago.

Church officials and members have known what the members left in the time capsule 100 years ago.

Items include a Bible, a hymnal, lists of members of the choir and of Sunday school classes and newspaper clippings.

Besides the time capsule, the church members also opened a safe that members of Central placed in 1992 with the intentions of it being opened in 100 years.

"Since that church does not exist anymore, we [went] ahead and open[ed] that today as well," Grubb said.

In the safe, church members found a VHS tape, pictures, a glass etching of the church and other items -- all in a bag from Cokesbury Bookstore.

The church has formed a committee to decide whether or not to make its own time capsule. Should the committee decide to do so, members will decide what to put in it.

"We decided since the capsule is being opened that now we are a new being in Canaan and it was time to start thinking about what we would want the future generations to know," Johnna Russo, the church's pastor, said.

That committee will also decide how best to preserve the items from the time capsule and safe that were opened Sunday. Much of the paper items in the time capsule had disintegrated. The church has an archive room and what can be put on display will be, Russo said.

"The only thing we can count on is that things will change," Russo said. "So it's kind of a comfort to know that no matter what's going to happen today, good or bad, it won't be the same tomorrow but that God is the same. So the people of God will always be a part of the world."

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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