WMUMC History

Following the Civil War, Patrick Henry Wright, his wife Georgia Ellen Turnley Wright and their two small children moved from Surry Country, Virginia across the James River to Mulberry Island. According to Patrick Wright’s great-granddaughter, Elizabeth, her great-grandfather purchased farmland and built a general store, a lumber mill and a brickyard there. His wife was brought up in a very devout Methodist home, which resulted in the moving force that got the church on Mulberry Island started.

Methodist Societies met in homes in 1868 on Mulberry Island since no church building existed. In 1873, property was donated as well as material for construction of the early church. A one-room building with a very pointed roof was erected and preaching services were held once a month in the afternoon. Every Sunday morning there was Sunday School. Members who did not live on the Island were unable to go often as Route 60 was a dirt road and hard to travel with horse and buggy.

The church was known as Mulberry Island Chapel but officially it was Methodist Episcopal Church South. The minister from Williamsburg Methodist Episcopal Church South came to supply the pulpit.

The U.S. Government bought the property from the landowner and the church as well on Mulberry Island at the beginning of World War I. The property was purchased in order to establish what is now Fort Eustis. Furnishings of the chapel were moved in a mule drawn wagon to the Warwick County Courthouse where services were held until a new church could be built.

In 1920, with the money ($3,000.00) received from the sale of the chapel, a new church was built on a piece of land donated by Mr. George Sykes. It was a stucco church with a slate roof consisting of a sanctuary and four classrooms. The windows were of amber glass rounded at the top. Dr. G.G.C. Butts was the first minister. The church was dedicated on October 9, 1921 by Dr. R.H. Potts. The name chosen was Warwick Memorial Episcopal Church South. Cost of the new church was $7,000.00.

On September 26, 1931, the church was struck by lightening and burned beyond repair. While furnishings and hymnals were saved, record, which would have been of historical value, were lost. Membership at that time has been reported as about twenty-five in number.

The congregation, now without a building of their own then met in a nearby school for about a year until enough money could be accumulated to build again. There was no insurance on the church that burned.

In 1932, a one-room frame building was erected on church property located behind the former stucco building. The small church persevered in spite of many struggles and hardships with the help of dedicated Christians stationed at Fort Eustis and friends as well as loyal and determined members.

In 1950 ground was broken for a two-story cinder block structure, which would house a sanctuary and much needed Sunday School rooms.  This building came to be known as the “white building” and has since then been used by many community organizations including Denbigh United Christian Outreach, local Boy Scout troops and AA meetings.

                   The White Building

In 1957 a brick rancher-type home was purchased as a parsonage and was located next to church property. In 1960, Wesley B. Lucas was appointed as our first full-time minister and we were no longer part of a charge.  We had a membership of approximately 175 members. In 1962, construction of the currently used brick building was begun which consisted of a sanctuary, adjacent corridor of offices and classrooms and a fellowship hall/classrooms.

Membership and attendance increased and more classrooms were soon needed.  Construction containing 10 classrooms, current fellowship hall, kitchen and rest rooms was dedicated in 1967. In 1968, the church became known as Warwick Memorial United Methodist Church as a result of the merger of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church.

In 1975, the church purchased a new parsonage on Patrick Lane in Newport News. In 1981, ground was broken for a second addition to the existing church building.  This addition consisted of 11 classrooms and altar area renovation that included installation of a large stained glass memorial window.

In 1982, 17 memorial and honorary stained glass windows were installed in the sanctuary. In 1986, Warwick Memorial began a yearly missions program in the Appalachia Mountain area.  The first foreign mission project scheduled to Puerto Rico was accomplished.

In more recent years, Warwick Memorial has been able to become more mission oriented and we recently send our ninth medical mission team to Honduras through Friends of Barnabas Program.  Our youth have also participated in Harvest of Hope, Jubilee Programs and REACH.

In 2004 Warwick again found themselves in need of more classroom space and larger meeting facilities.

In 2007 WMUMC opened the doors of the Celebration Center in hopes that through this new facility they could foster more mission and ministry.

Through the Celebration Center Warwick Memorial has hosted Upward Basketball, Rhythm and Pews, Drama Productions, The Lampstand Emergent Worship Service (founded on September 10, 2010), and numerous community events. They even started a local mission camp “Operation 757” in the summer of 2010 for youth on the Peninsula District (now York River District).

In the 147 years of its existence, Warwick Memorial United Methodist Church has grown from a three-family church on Mulberry Island to a large church of around 1200 members.

Our church has known many hard times and many good times.  Now we look forward to the next phase of expansion.

May God guide us and help us as we undertake this, our greatest endeavor to date.

Special thanks to Elsie Bevins and Julia Frank for recording this history.