Years ago, Swain Memorial UMC worked with the Development Company to refinance an existing loan. After a loan is made, it is customary for the loan officer to visit the church on several occasions, while staying in close contact with the leadership. It’s extremely important to continue to know our church leaders and maintain a trusting relationship. Recently, Swain Memorial UMC welcomed members of the Foundation team to their beautiful sanctuary, built in 1899 on Tangier Island, a one-by-five-mile span in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, accessible by a two-hour passenger ferry ride from Reedville on the Northern Neck. About 80% of the island is marsh so the 400 people who live there are in close proximity to each other. There are no cars, and streets are narrow; everyone uses electric or gas powered golf carts to get around. There is an airport on the island, important if there is a medical emergency.
The Church’s steeple is Tangier Island’s highest point. The stained glass is original to the structure. Interior doors can be pulled down to have Sunday School rooms. The Fellowship Hall is next door, and there are more classrooms and meeting space plus showers and two dormitory rooms with bunk beds for work teams. One of these teams, led by Rev. Sam Nesmith and John Morse, built the bunk beds a few years ago. Work teams help residents maintain their houses and build things like ramps to get into their homes.
Swain is pastored today by Rev. Nona Allen, and she has been there for about a year and a half. The parsonage is close by and it is a lovely four-bedroom home. Rev. Nona says she has fallen in love with the island and its people. It is easy to see why! Among the highlights of the visit was lunch at the Chesapeake Seafood House, which was served family-style with potato salad, coleslaw, pickled beets. corn pudding, green beans, homemade rolls, ham, applesauce, crab balls and clam fritters. To top all this off there was homemade pound cake. There are several other restaurants on the island where you can order off the menu.
The prior weekend, Swain had held their annual homecoming where there was a reunion of former pastors. This church has produced more than 30 preachers in the United Methodist Church. Rev. and Mrs. Ed Pruitt were there for the weekend who are both from the island and have family there. Rev. Bob and Rev. Fran Cooper were also there and we had the pleasure of riding back to Reedville with them and the Pruitts. Bob is from the island, also. Rev. Bob and Susan Parks were not there for Homecoming but Bob is from the island and his parents live there and are active in Swain Memorial UMC.
The Virginia United Methodist Foundation and Development Company are excited to be a part of this wonderful church on Tangier Island. Tangier Island has been home to many United Methodists for many generations. It is known in the past for having major revivals where everyone would come by boat and stay for several weeks. Tangier Island has supplied many of our Virginia pastors and continues to be a wonderful place to grow up and worship in beautiful ways at Swain Memorial UMC.
Submitted by Tommy Herndon