Roberts United Methodist Church holds a special place in history as the oldest church in Denham Springs and the first for African Americans in Denham Springs.
The congregation and its pastor, the Rev. Kermit “K.C.” Roberson, celebrated its history and heritage with a Founders Day program. This year’s program focused on the developments in communication over the church’s existence, from a ringing bell to modern smartphones.
“We started with the bell and wound up now with iPhones telling Siri (the voice activated system) to call someone,” said Debra Keller, a member of the church congregation, an actress in the program and one of its organizers. She said the church began its communication by having someone ring a bell to make announcements.
“The bell was used to communicate and rang when Sunday School started, when school started and let the workers in the field know when to break working in the fields,” she said. “It’s also rung once when the undertaker took a body out of the church at a funeral and to mark New Year’s.”
The Founders Day program began 40 years ago during the tenure of Rev. Clarence Hilliard, but the church’s beginnings go back to 1894 when services were held in a log cabin that doubled as a school located on Cockerham Road.
“After about three years at that location, the church bought land north of Denham Springs,” Keller said, continuing the new church was built on land bought from F.E. Hill for $1 an acre. The church, with the new name of Plainview Methodist Church, bought two acres and Hill donated a third.
About 10 years later, the church purchased a half an acre near the Denham Springs City Cemetery for $35 and a church was built there, only to be replaced a few years later, now using the name of Robert Chapel Episcopal Church.
The land for the church’s current location on Julia Street was purchased in 1945 when the church was pastored by the Rev. J.C. Bibbens. After a number of name changes, by the time this property near the intersection of Range Avenue and Florida Boulevard was secured, the church took another name change, Roberts Chapel Methodist Church.
During the tenure and leadership of the Rev. W.B. Hackett, the church made its change to its current name. A new church began construction in 1977 and was completed by 1979.
Marking another historic milestone, Roberts United Methodist Church was assigned the Rev. Erica Jenkins as its pastor, the first female to hold the post. Another female pastor would follow, the Rev. Deborah Williams, who served from 2008 through 2015.
“We are proud of our church and our history,” the church published in its program for the event. “Today we celebrate our 122nd year in service to our Lord and Savior.”