Nestled near the South Fork of the New River, Blackburn’s Chapel United Methodist Church has a rich history that can be traced back to one of American Methodism’s first bishops Francis Asbury, who was directly ordained by John Wesley, the founder of our denomination. Asbury preached and did ministry at a brush arbor meeting in the area in the late 18th century. Out of these religious meetings emerged Hopewell Methodist Church, the oldest Methodist church in Watauga County, built by Levi Blackburn. Blackburn’s Chapel’s first minister was Hamilton Blackburn, the son of Levi who with the Graham family built Blackburn’s first sanctuary in 1875 once Levi and his family moved to Todd.
Some of the family surnames common in Todd that are associated with the beginnings and history of Blackburn’s Chapel are the Blackburns, Grahams, Kryders and Stephens. Blackburn’s Chapel’s origins were true to John Wesley’s foundational commitments to personal and social holiness, a personal spirituality that is lived out in community through mercy, compassion and justice. Before Hopewell, Levi and other lay Methodist leaders met in the Jackson Meeting House, using this gathering space not just for religious worship but also schooling, meetings and public/political affairs.
In recent history, Blackburn’s Chapel faced the threat of having to close its doors due to declining membership. In 2006 the few members remaining began praying and planning for God's direction for the church. These leaders believed that God still had ministry and mission for the church to do in our community. Several key projects emerged to pursue congregational vitality. In 2007 the church decided to turn over the legal and administrative authority of its property to Boone UMC. Several members of Boone UMC went beyond this legal relationship to begin attending Blackburn's Chapel and volunteering to assist in its plan for revitalization. What emerged in 2011 from this prayer and planning was the Blackburn House project, a residential internship program for young adults pursuing ministry. Blackburn House's local missions led to the need to form a separate non-profit organization, Blackburn Community Outreach, which focuses on community development within Todd by engaging and mobilizing the Todd community for vitality. Blackburn's Chapel is now a campus of Boone UMC. The partnership with Boone UMC and the outreach ministry of Blackburn House and Blackburn Community Outreach have provided important resources for Blackburn's Chapel's members' commitment to revitalization. The church has grown since 2007 from a few members with little impact in the wider community of Todd, to now maintaining an average of 35-40 in attendance for Sunday worship and having a concrete impact within Todd through relationship-building, service and care.
Find out more about Boone UMC here.
Find out more about the Blackburn House program and Blackburn Community Outreach here.