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History keeps Little Brown Church of Blyn strong
Off the road and up a ways, people keep finding their faith in Blyn.
About 30 families at the Little Brown Church of Blyn continue the legacy started in 1911 by Methodists and revitalized in 1971 by charismatic preacher Jefferson Jackson.
Attendees of the distinctly named and quaint-looking Little Brown Church of Blyn aren’t bothered that their aged building sits empty with its rows of pews and sometimes leaky roof. They just moved next door to the Blyn Schoolhouse.
Senior pastor Steve Devine said they moved to the schoolhouse for services and get-togethers more than 10 years ago after the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe donated the building. Members are saving to dismantle the old church and build new while including wood and the bell from the existing church.
Devine said members recognize the history in the building and that’s why they want to keep parts of it for the future.
“The more you dig into the history of the church, the more color you find,” Devine said.
The church almost dwindled to nothing in the early 1970s, said Mayme Faulk, unofficial historian and long-time attendee of the church. Little Brown Church actually went through a handful of fluxes.
Little Brown Church of Blyn, then known as Blyn Church, began in Blyn Hall, where neighbors held dances and potlucks. Methodists set up Sunday school and services whenever they could get a preacher from 1911-1914.
Sunday services became frequent in 1917 and the Methodist Church bought Blyn Hall for $500 in June 1919. That’s when the bell tower was added.
Then the highway department wanted a piece of the action — sort of.
In 1932, the church sat in the way of the proposed highway. Washington state didn’t want to budge on its plan, so the church sold the property for $1,000 and moved to the current site with two lots for $66.
Services were off-and-on for several years with another Sunday school beginning in 1940s.
In November 1959, Trinity United Methodist Church ministers rededicated Blyn Church as Blyn Methodist Church. However, decreasing attendance led the Methodists to close the church a few years later.
But one man’s closed church is another man’s passion.
Enter the Rev. Jefferson Jackson in 1970. He and his wife, Sydney, moved to Sequim from Kansas, where he had served as a pastor.
Sydney Jackson said her husband came from an impoverished family in Oklahoma and that his journey into the ministry was because he didn’t want to go into the military.
“He was drafted into World War II and he told God he would serve him if he didn’t have to go,” Sydney Jackson said. She said there was holy intervention — Jackson never went into the military. Sydney Jackson said upon moving here they learned nobody held a sunrise service on Easter, so Jackson felt Sequim needed one on Port Williams beach.
A small group attended. Liking Jackson’s personality and style, they encouraged him often to start another church. He held services at Sequim American Legion Post 62 before the opportunity to buy the Methodists’ Blyn Church presented itself.
In September 1972, community members chipped in and bought the church for $1,500. Jackson later coined the name — Little Brown Church of Blyn — an allusion to the song “The Church in the Wildwood,” which has a line about a little brown church.
It remains a nondenominational community church and was incorporated to keep the church as a place of worship through its life.
There are a number of Little Brown Churches across the nation with the original in Nashua, Iowa.
Devine began in 1976 as youth pastor under Jefferson, a time he remembers fondly.
“It was like being at home,” Devine said. “Sydney could whip up the church with her piano playing.”
Sydney Jackson said the church held potlucks that appealed to everyone.
“We made what kids wanted and they all grew up loving this church,” she said. “Some said they can’t find one like it.”
Jackson’s sermons were distinct, too, as he never wrote a sermon and never took a salary for his work.
“He always said God would provide for him,” Sydney Jackson said.
Cancer struck Jackson at the end of his life, paralyzing him from the waist down.
The last time he preached was from his bed the Sunday before he died in 1987.
Sydney Jackson said she no longer attends the church because it holds a lot of feelings for her. In 2000, she joined the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, doing mission work.
“It’s nice to see it (the church) still going,” Sydney Jackson said. “It’s just kind of sad. It used to be the happiest place on earth, but then Jefferson died. My son died. Then the other children moved away.”
Carrying a vision
The Little Brown Church remained despite the death of its leader and a fall in attendance. “After Jefferson died, we had eight people left, but we’ve continued on,” Faulk said. Church members and pastors filled in until Devine became senior pastor in 1993 after much humble resistance.
“I never envisioned being a pastor,” Devine said.
Church members kept asking him to do things which eventually led him to leading Sunday services. He was and remains a letter carrier on West Sequim Route 14. Sydney Jackson was the Sequim Post Office supervisor and helped him get a job.
Devine’s parents were ordained Assembly of God missionaries and his two brothers are ordained ministers in the Assembly of God denomination.
He’s found the ministry to be a great experience.
“I’m running across adults that I dedicated as babies,” Devine said smiling.
Faulk attended the church as a little girl when it was Methodist-run. Her grandmother insisted she go. She’s stayed because of the impact its made in her own and her family’s lives.
“It’s always about the people,” Faulk said. “I brought all my kids here. One was married here. It holds a lot of special memories.”
Always little and brown
Before Devine became senior pastor, an eager former pastor wanted to change the Little Brown Church of Blyn to Blyn Community Church. The intent was to modernize the church. It failed 9-4 in a board vote. Faulk said another discussion started about changing the name but nothing materialized.
The church continues its Sunday services at 11 a.m. or “sometime around there,” Devine joked.
The Little Brown Church’s mission statement is simple: “We think of ourselves as children who believe the Bible literally and its simple message to humans that Jesus is our only source of grace and eternal life.”
A number of activities and groups meet almost daily at the church. Upcoming and ongoing events are as follows:
• Celebrate Passover dinner, 7 p.m. Friday, April 15; call ahead for free reservations
• Easter sunrise service, rain or shine, 6 a.m. Sunday, April 24, on Port Williams beach
• Family Night, 6:30 p.m. third Friday
• Ladies Bible study, third Saturday of month
• Youth group, 6 p.m. Sundays
• Potluck, first Sunday of the month, after church
• Potluck and Bible Study, 11 a.m. every third Saturday
• Alcoholics Anonymous, 6:30 p.m. Monday, men and women; 7 p.m. Tuesday, men; and 7 p.m. Wednesday, men and women
• Al Anon, 7 p.m. Thursdays
For more information, visit www.littlebrownchurch.info or call Pastor Steve Devine at 683-9077.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.