The Hillsgrove Methodist Church continues as a positive force in Warwick
The Hillsgrove United Methodist Church on Kilvert Street has served the village of Hillsgrove well from 1884 until the present time. Over the years, it has seen the village change dramatically from one almost totally dominated by the enterprises owned by Thomas J. Hill to a community that has received the full impact of a state airport and, later, of Warwick's industrial expansion.
In the 1920s the church was redecorated, a new lighting system was installed, and a new central heating plant was added. Janice Place's history of the church, written in 1984, tells us that the year 1928 "...was a year of great changes in the community. Gas was installed in the church, city water was on the way, trolley cars were being replaced by buses and the Hillsgrove Airport was constructed."
The impact of the airport was enormous on all of Hillssgrove. In 1943, the U. S. Government asked the church to remove its spire because of the danger to planes landing at the airport. The church complied and remains, like other churches in the area, without a spire.
During the difficult times of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the church managed to survive and to grow. Once again, the W. G. James family, so generous in the past, gave additional gifts and the church was even able to build a parish hall addition to the church and a new parsonage. During this period, concrete walks, steps, a porch, and various other improvements were made by parishioners.
It was also at this time that the Ladies Helping Hand Society was replaced by the Women's Society of Christian Service. The Helping Hand group had conducted many fund raisers to aid the church and the new society was able to continue in this area. By the end of the decade, the church was able to reduce its debt and call for a "Debt Free Church by 1945" and this goal was completed in May of that year.
The Modern Church
During, and after, World War II, the Hillsgrove United Methodist Church joined the R. I. Council of Churches and, by 1959, the church had over 300 members. Once again, as it had done in the late nineteenth century, the parishioners accepted the challenge of meeting rising costs through a series of activities. The anniversary booklet on the church's history notes that, "Auctions, bazaars, suppers, cookie sales, and other fund raisers were held with great enthusiasm."
These efforts were successful as we are told, "In this time the church building was given new siding, an outside ramp for access by the handicapped, and the kitchen was improved and redecorated." In addition, "The sanctuary was newly carpeted and painted, all thanks to the dedication of the church membership."
The church today, while thankful for the generous support of mill owner Thomas J. Hill and mill superintendent William R. James in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, exists and prospers because of its many parishioners who have often given very unselfishly of their time and efforts. In 1984 when the 100 years of church history was written, it proudly ended by saying:
….on the 100th Anniversary of its founding, the Hillsgrove United
Methodist Church has a future bright with promises as we move
into it with courage and confidence, 'for God hath not given us
the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
In its 115th year, the church continued to move with increased vigor. Rev. Kenneth Miner, who succeeded Dr. Darrell L. Walton as pastor, went to Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard. His successor was the Rev. Edwin Jones of South Africa, who is currently studying in the United States. Rev. Jones attended the Southern New England Conference of the United Methodist Church recently and was invited by Bishop Herbert Skeete to become pastor at Hillsgrove.
In the true spirit of the people who built the church in 1884, the congregation has reached out to include some of the new immigrant groups. Today, the Reverend Hyuk Seeonwoo leads the Zion Korean United Methodist Church in the building once built through the generosity of Thomas J. Hill.
Photo Don D’Amato 2008