One hundred years ago, Kannapolis was a thirteen-year old mill village. Just half-a-mile south of the mill, on a two-lane, dirt state Old Wagon Road (now South Main Street/old State Highway 29) next to a major railway line, a new community developed. The homes were all private residences.
The community was midway between the Kannapolis Post Office and the Glass Post Office (the town of Glass and its PO no longer exist). Midway United Methodist Church has been celebrating its 100th Anniversary throughout the year with the theme “Sharing Christ’s Love.” Their grand celebration will be on September 22.
Today, Midway is a vital congregation that serves its members and neighbors throughout Cabarrus County in significant ways. And they are casting a vision for the next hundred years.
In the 1860s, Smith’s Chapel was a small Methodist congregation in rural, northern Cabarrus County near Big Lots on Cannon Blvd. The cemetery of Smith’s Chapel now is overseen by Midway. Only a few farmers lived in the area. Then, as Kannapolis arose, the new workers needed congregations.
In 1918, Preacher T.E. Pierce was assigned to the Kannapolis circuit of Methodist congregations. A Methodist parsonage stood across the street from the current sanctuary. The small congregations included Mt. Mitchell (east of Kannapolis), Asbury in Huntersville, and Oak Grove in north Charlotte. Sunday School was every week and preaching only a few times a month. Also nearby were the Methodists at Trinity in downtown Kannapolis and Bethpage in the countryside. Most people walked to church.
The Methodists then built a church in Midway for its growing population. In 1919, the first services were held in the abandoned Umberger theater across the street from the church’s current location.
The members first built a wooden sanctuary at the corner of Main Street and Bethpage Road where its fellowship hall now stands. The congregation received its first full-time pastor in 1939. Charles Cannon, President of Cannon Mills, was present at the dedication of the current sanctuary in 1946.
During World War II and soon thereafter, the current sanctuary was literally constructed by members of the church when they were not working at the mill. The originally-planned stained-glass windows, being shipped from England, were lost via a German U-boat attack and remain under the Atlantic Ocean. A second shipment of stained glass was received and the sanctuary was completed in 1946.
Over the years the property increased in size and the buildings expanded. Major renovations throughout the sanctuary in 2007 included the addition of a steeple. Members of the congregation donated much of the labor for this renovation. The steeple was constructed in Troutman, delivered on a tractor-trailer, and its installation a community celebration. The fellowship hall was renovated in 2008 to house a contemporary worship service upstairs and a youth ministry downstairs.
Opportunity House and Narrow Gate Mission Church
In 2007, a small Bible study had a vision from God. Members of the church including Dan Talbert, Ron Deloney, Nancy Woodard, Pastor David Cash, and others caught the vision to establish a ministry for persons overlooked or undervalued by most people. In 2008, with strong support by the Midway congregation and other churches, a ministry began that provided worship, meals, training, counseling and more. The mayors of both Kannapolis and Concord were present at the opening.
Opportunity House is the non-profit agency and Narrow Gate the missional church side of the ministry.
Soon, over 200 people including 40 volunteers were gathering for worship and meals each week in Midway’s fellowship hall. Over 75,000 meals have been served. More space was needed. In 2014, an additional meal and worship for Narrow Gate was housed at Forest Hill United Methodist Church. This service now meets at the former Kerr Street United Methodist Church in Concord. The primary social services part of the ministry are now housed on Corban Ave. in downtown Concord.
Midway still hosts a 6:30 p.m. Thursday night Narrow Gate supper and worship. This ministry has been so successful that other congregations in North Carolina have followed this model. Dan Talbert, who recently died, and his wife Susan received United Methodism’s highest award for this concept and work.
Ministries include foreign mission trips, work with Shady Brook Elementary School, cooperative work with the other United Methodist congregations in Kannapolis, and even distribution of free produce grown in the church’s backyard community garden from the front yard of the church.
Staff include Rachel McMillen, Program Director, Janet Stack, pianist, and more recently Pat Kluttz as Worship Arts Director.
Midway’s Sunday 10:30 a.m. worship is a blend of contemporary and traditional elements. You may hear hymns, modern praise songs, southern gospel, melodies of all types, or something you never expected. The chancel choir and praise band work together to provide worship for the multi-generational congregation of over a hundred people.
Anita Sain is Midway’s newest pastor. Sain has ten years of pastoral experience and began her ministry at Midway in July. She brings her large personality, collaborative spirit, and clear communication skills to Midway. Listening Circles are providing a way for Sain and her congregation to meet one another and set some future directions.
Thanks to Sharon and Ron Deloney, Terry Prather, Jon Steele, Nancy Woodard, and Anita Sain for help with this article.
Andy Langford is a retired pastor, who most recently served Central United Methodist Church in Concord. He has lived in Cabarrus County for over 15 years and loves our community. His brother-in-law is pastor of National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.