UNION METHODIST CHURCH CELEBRATES 100 YEARS
After the passage of 100 years, the pews and sanctuary railings in the Union Methodist Church have taken on a deep, almost luminescent, glow, dusted and polished over the generations by loving hands.
Many of those loving hands and hearts will return to Union April 17-18 to celebrate the centennial of the "new red brick church," as it was called in early newspaper and community descriptions during the first half of the 20th
But while the church's congregation is marking 100 years in its brick church at the corner of Delta and Main streets, the formation of the Union Methodist Episcopal Church dates, according to historical documents, to pioneer families who settled in the area in the 1860s.
The first Methodist Church in the community was actually the "little white church" now owned by the Union County Museum and next to the Union City Hall.
The Methodist congregation built the wooden church in 1873. When churchgoers moved into the new brick church in 1904-05, they turned that place of worship over to the local Catholic congregation.
While the written records of the Methodists' brick church are scattered and few, members have located an October 1894 "Apportionment Plan," the system in those years to collect monies from members to pay for ministerial support.
That committee, formed of church stewards including S.O. Swackhammer, A.E. Eaton, Hettie Dobbin and others, assigned a dollar amount due from each member or family in the congregation, based on what was termed "the godly judgment" of the stewards.
The minister in 1895 received $800,
the presiding elder $80 and the bishops $10. Apportionments ranged from $1 and $2 for some individuals, to $50 for certain stewards.
Modern members of the Methodist Church are quick to point out that apportionment is no longer used to pay for ministerial services.
And Pastor Jerry Peters, who serves both the Union and North Powder Methodist congregations, sees the approximately 60 members of the Union congregation as having their priorities in order.
"They have a strong desire to grow in their faith," Peters said. "Here, it's spiritual growth first, then numbers growth."
Peters will have been assigned to the Union church for three years later this summer. In the time he's been serving, he's been impressed, he says, by the members' commitment to their church and the church family.
It's the kind of dedication that Irene Langford displayed when she accepted the role of chair of the church's board of trustees about a year and a half ago.
"It's been a lot of work," Langford says, chuckling.
The trustees, looking around at the church, decided that the old carpet was showing age and tore it out in the fellowship hall, then decided to wallpaper and paint. New lights were needed in the sanctuary, and track lighting was put in above the pulpit.
"The new carpeting was just put in in the fellowship hall last week," Langford said in early April.
Langford was born in Union and "brought up in this church," she says. Only after she married and settled into ranch life with her husband, Merlin, did she sometimes have to miss Sunday services because of the business of caring for animals and children.
"When he got sick, I went back," she recalled.
Langford, soon to be 79, smiles as she recalls her earliest memories of the church.
"Mrs. Ed Miller was our teacher in the primary classes (of Sunday School)," Langford said. And that meant Easter parties and other special events could be at the Millers' home where there was a pool that seemed huge at the time, but was probably just a wading pool.
Most of Langford's memories, like those of others, are of people.
Frieda Stauffer, the church's oldest active member, is one of them.
She does recall the church adding the fellowship hall, probably in the 1950s because "my parents helped build it."
Many of Stauffer's memories center on a lifetime of service to the Methodist Church.
"I've always been the pianist and organist," she said, "and I'm still doing it."
Stauffer started playing for Sunday services while still in high school. She now admits that while she doesn't have all the music memorized "they came out with a new hymnal a while ago" she does know most of the music performed each week.
As important as the church has been in her life, Stauffer can smile about one detail she wasn't married there.
Her fiance was in the service and stationed in Nebraska. They married when she went to visit him there.
Averil and Bob Shelton moved to Union in 1948 and soon became church members, changing from Cove's Methodist congregation to Union's.
"I raised my kids here," Shelton said. She enjoys memories of her daughter, now a professor at Purdue University in Indiana, playing piano for services during the girl's high school years.
Members of these families and an estimated 85 to 100 others will be sharing memories of the church starting with a dinner and speaker April 17. A continental breakfast will start the next Sunday off, followed by services at 11 a.m. Ending the centennial celebration will be a light lunch at the church.
Story, photos by T.L. Petersen