by Cindy Cunnyngham
Soddy United Methodist Church was born in 1860 when a missionary named Miss
Holland came to Soddy. Her motivation for making the journey is not known, but it is
known that she gathered five others for a prayer meeting at the home of George Varner,
a prominent citizen. The others at that meeting were Mrs. James Varner, Mrs. Marie Brown,
and Hezekiah and Mary Varner. They were determined to succeed in building a new
church, in spite of the fact that the Civil War had begun. Like many men in Soddy, George
and Hezekiah enlisted with the Union forces, leaving the women to grow and lead a new
congregation that was called The Friendship Church of Soddy.
The women kept up their efforts, and slowly the new church was organized. In 1913,
the church gained status to become a Station, and the Reverend J. B. Kenna became our
first pastor. The church continued to grow under his leadership, and just one year later
the church purchased the building that it still occupies from the Cumberland Presbyterian
Through the years, women have continued to play a major role in serving the church and the community. The Christian Service Club, formed in 1937, made countless improvements to the church property and parsonages, supported missions, and always helped those in the community who experienced sickness or distress. This work is continued today by the United Methodist Women. In 2004, for the first time in the church’s history, a female pastor was appointed, Rev. Linda Bird Wright. Unfortunately, a number of people in the congregation were not prepared to accept a woman as their leader, and left the church. Nevertheless, her ministry was successful at Soddy.
Since its founding, Soddy UMC has provided a place of comfort and hope to all. The Soddy Daisy Food Bank, a vision of Rev. Bob Gilbert and a member, Gene Elliott, was established in the late 1980’s. It is still in operation today and has grown substantially, feeding hundreds in the north Hamilton County area it serves. Many volunteers from Soddy UMC as well as other churches in the area, including Daisy UMC, play an important role in the operation of the Food Bank.
Words like “warm”, “compassionate”, “giving” and “loving” have been used to describe Soddy UMC. There are many members who someone in the church has called “God’s silent partners”. These are the people who have quietly provided things such as warm clothes and school supplies for needy children, money for missions, funds for digging wells in third world countries, free medical care to those who couldn’t afford to pay, and Christmas gifts for children and adults. The church also provides a meeting place for community groups such as Boy and Girl Scouts, and the local AARP chapter.
Our history tells us much about our church and ourselves. It tells us that honest and controlled differences of opinion and a strong faith in God have stimulated the progress of the church. It tells us the grace of God and the benevolence of man have been the protectors of our church through its history. It tells us that it is proper that we occasionally look over our shoulder at the past, but it is the future, not the past, that holds the dreams of our church.