Story by Michelle Baker
“Loving Jesus, loving each other, and serving the world with LOVE…since 1924.” -Willisville Chapel Motto.
The historic Willisville Chapel United Methodist Church celebrates 95 years of loving and serving others with three days of events in July. “We will have a revival service on Friday, July 12 at 7 p.m.; a concert at 3 p.m. on July 13; and a concluding service on July 14,” said Reverend Tracey Lyons, pastor of Willisville Chapel.
The guest preacher for Sunday is Bishop Timothy Warren of The Holy Sanctuary Church in Indian Head, Maryland. “I have deep roots in Willisville Chapel. My parents starting taking me there when I was a baby. As I grew older, I started attending Sunday School and learning more about our Savior. It was the love, nurturing, and support I received from the Sunday School teachers that laid the foundation for my faith that I stand so strongly on today,” said Dorothy Ford.
Willisville Chapel is located at 34008 Welbourne Road Upperville. Willisville Chapel, together with Mt. Zion-Hamilton and Mt. Zion-Leesburg, now form the Mt. Zion-Willisville Cooperative Parrish. “I look forward all week to going to my church. And at the age of 91, I am blessed to be able to walk there and worship with my church family. That carries me for the rest of the week,” said Ann Lee.
The history begins with the past of loved ones who devoted their time and concern for the “Blacks” in the community of Willisville according to church records and historians. The church bears the date stone, “Willisville Chapel 1924 – June 29”, however this church began its history shortly after the Civil War and was organized by 1868 for worship by many Christian faiths on Sundays.
(Above L to R: Daniel Dorsey and Ethel Smith)
During the week, it was used as education facilities for the community. By 1884, Willisville Chapel had become a Methodist denomination. The land and building were purchased for the sum of $40 from the late Lawyer Carter by George Evans to be used as a church and public school. The building served these purposes until it was destroyed by fire in 1917. From that time on, services were held under trees in fair weather and in the winter in a cottage owned by Mrs. Lemmon on Welbourne Farm. The street in front of the church is now called Welborne Road (Va. 743).
In 1923, the church began a new era when a piece of land was donated by the late Mary D. Neville. Neville was an artist and she designed the church, which she modeled after a French country chapel. Construction on the chapel began in 1923 and was completed in 1924 at a cost of $6,500. The members raised $1,000.00 and Neville donated $5,500. The church was built by John Allison.
(above L to R: Ann Lee and Dorothy Ford)
Today, the congregation leans on its history as it prepares for tomorrow. The pastor is growing the church roll, serving the congregation while partnering with Mt. Zion-Hamilton and Mt. Zion-Leesburg on events to attract new members. Lyons hopes that former members will return for the celebration to renew old friendships, enjoy the events, share their stories as part of the church family.
The oldest members understand the importance of family and the ties that bind us to others. “Willisville Chapel means a lot to me! It was the first church I joined. I really enjoyed singing in the choir over the years when I was able to. The members treat me like family,” said Daniel Dorsey.
“To me, Willisville Chapel means the remembrance of the beginning of Christ in a place to worship and to serve the Lord,” said Ethel Smith.
This article first appeared in the June 2019 issue of Middleburg Life.