Dating back to 1853 and presently inhabiting its third building, the Bethel United Methodist Church is famous for at least two reasons.

“Our church was used in the filming of the movie, ‘Places in the Heart,’ and also our church was the first church in Texas to have a Lord’s Acre Festival in 1952,” church member Helen Sellers said.

The Lord’s Acre was begun years ago by farmers setting aside products from their best acre of land to support their church, she said.

“This product (cotton, corn and other crops) was donated to the church to be auctioned off,” Sellers said. “But our Lord’s Acre has grown to include a barbecue dinner, quilt raffle and an auction that includes not only agricultural products, but antiques, gift certificates, crafts, cakes and other unique items, too.”

This year’s Lord’s Acre festival will be held Oct. 20 in an outdoor tabernacle located across the road from the church building. This is the same tabernacle that housed the church’s first Lord’s Acre Festival in 1952.

“Our church has continued the Lord’s Acre for 55 years now,” said Pastor Mary Nell Partin, who has been the church’s minister since February. “The tabernacle originally had dirt floors with a thatched roof. In 1991, the church added a concrete floor and covered it with a metal roof, but the tabernacle is still supported by the same cedar posts that they used to build it 100 years ago.”

Partin said the church acquired the old Boz schoolhouse more than 50 years ago and today the building serves the church as a fellowship hall and kitchen.

“(The first Lord’s Acre) was used to underwrite expenses to have the parsonage moved next to the church,” Partin said. “It was located about two miles away.”

She explained that the Lord’s Acre Festival was begun in the heartland where wheat farming was predominant and the original idea of the event was for the farmers to give the crops of their most productive acre to the church to be sold, with the proceeds to be used by the church.

“Proceeds from the Lord’s Acre are divided equally between Bethel United Methodist Church and the Bethel Cemetery association,” Partin said.

The well-maintained, prairie gothic structure was erected in 1924 and has stained glass windows and hard wood floors. The only cooling the church had up until two years ago was when the people opened up the big “swing out” windows.

“It is real nice in the springtime to meet for worship with the big windows open,” Partin said.

“If you have never visited our little church, it is very picturesque and charming,” Sellers said. “We welcome you to come and visit anytime.”

E-mail Paul at paul.gauntt@waxahachiedailylight.com