Jerusalem United Methodist Church began as a preaching place on the Brunswick circuit in 1773.

Robert Williams, an Irish street preacher and member of John Wesley’s conferences in England came to the American Colonies in 1769. He at first he labored with Robert Strawbridge, a lay minister and farmer in Maryland. Then the providence of God brought him to Norfolk, Virginia. His first sermon in Virginia was preached on the court house steps in 1772. He soon formed the Norfolk Society. In 1773, as a circuit rider associated with the Petersburg Society, he was assigned to the Brunswick Circuit along the Roanoke River.

circuit riderThere were 26 preaching places. Jerusalem was one of them. The travel journals of Robert Williams are sketchy and many of them have been lost. One record refers to a church meeting held in Brunswick County (Virginia) on July 31, 1772. The next day, he reports going up the river. "We moved up a narrow stream on the south side of the river for about five miles where we found a little building near a spring and received permission to start a meeting." We believe it was Hawtree Creek.

Oral tradition tells of Robert Williams crossing the Roanoke on a flat boat. He asked the boat man, ”Does anyone in these parts read the Bible and pray?” “Captain Coleman does,” the slave answered. He rode his horse up the ferry road and came to Ebenezer Coleman’s farm. His first sermon there was preached under an old willow oak that stood in its place for centuries. (It fell in 2007.) Later a brush arbor became the preaching place.

Old ChurchThere was a great awakening of faith along the Roanoke River. "On the last day of August," reported Williams, "we served Communion to more people than any church in Virginia would hold."

At Robert Williams funeral in 1775, Bishop Asbury said, “No one has awakened more souls for Christ, than has Robert Williams.” Crowds would gather from both Virginia and North Carolina.

The brush arbor became the center for camp meetings. Bringing their families, servants and livestock, persons would stay day after day. Some of these camp meetings lasted almost a month. In 1773, from this brush arbor meeting, Jerusalem Methodist Church was born. Their first gathering place was a log building near Highway One at the Herricks Mill Spring. In early1800, a log chapel was built about a mile east of this first location.

In 1843, a frame structure was built at our present site on Paschall Station Road. It is one mile south of the Virginia state line. A part of that old building has been incorporated into the present structure.

Over the years our church has undergone numerous renovations and expansions. About 200 yards from the sanctuary, the Robert Williams Oak stood for hundreds of years. It is on the eastern side of the Jerusalem Cemetery where many of our forebears have been laid to rest.

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