Easter sunrise service returns to site of original Clarkesville church

Rev. Matthew Henderson speaks at the Easter Sunday sunrise service at the Old Clarkesville Cemetery.
E. LANE GRESHAM/Special

Easter Sunday marked the first time since 1881 that worship services were held on the sacred grounds of the Old Clarkesville Cemetery.
Historic Clarkesville Cemetery Preservation, Inc., board member Brooks Garcia created an outdoor altar for the First Presbyterian Church of Clarkesville’s Easter sunrise service.
According to records found by the Historic Clarkesville Cemetery Preservation, the original deed to the cemetery site gifted generously to the community by Col. James Brannon in March of 1831 was to be the site of a chapel for use by the Methodists and shared by other Christians.
This small chapel was the first church building within the city limits of the village of Clarkesville. 
This donation of land, entrusted to a board of trustees, sparked citizens to lend a hand toward the erection of a community worship space,” the Historic Clarkesville Cemetery Preservation posted on its Facebook page.
Recently, the cemetery board discovered several large stones that weren’t associated with a gravesite. They suspected they are the foundation stones from the original chapel. 
With the help of the city of Clarkesville’s Joe Deputy, the stones were moved to a location in the cemetery believed to be the site of the original chapel. 
“It was nice to see the symbolism of gathering in a cemetery as our first disciples did, but being able to share this history with a community of faith for generations was even more special,” Rev. Matthew Henderson said. “We appreciate the history and community that has been a part of what Clarkesville has been about.”
The Methodists moved the chapel in 1881 to the Washington Street site of Clarkesville First United Methodist Church. It was removed to make way for a new church for the expanding and active congregation.
The history page of the First United Methodist Church describes the original chapel as such:
“The lovely church once stood amid the majestic oaks. The walls of the building were white, while the woodwork and old-fashioned benches were in plain drab coloring. A gallery ran along three sides of the church, with one aisle down the center to the pulpit. The two rows of windows gave light during the day, and the building was lighted by candles at night which were borrow from house to house.”
For Sunday’s service, Henderson said they did not have room in their sanctuary for everyone who wanted to worship on Easter Sunday, so rather than have a repeat service, they offered something unique instead.
“We wanted to hold an alternative celebration that both the embers of our congregation and those in the community who wanted to worship and gather with us outside could enjoy,” Henderson said. “It was a joyous celebration that we hope to replicate in years to come.”
By Matthew Osborne
E. Lane Gresham contributed to this report.

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