First United Methodist Church is celebrating its 125th birthday this weekend. (Chaunte’l Powell Photo)
First United Methodist Church began the three-day celebration for its 125th birthday Saturday with a chicken dinner at the Girl Scout Pavilion. Both longtime and new members gathered at the pavilion to visit, reminisce and have a good meal.
Helen Johnson founded the church in1887 after she was forced to conduct the funeral for her son following his tragic death. Over the past century the location has changed, the building has expanded and the congregation has grown, but the message of love and dedication to serving the community has been constant.
The Rev. Doug Mills has been the pastor for three months and said it’s a special feeling coming to a church with such a history.
“It’s a special experience to have this much history. I’m from New Mexico, but I really didn’t know the area that well,” he said. “So it’s a lot of fun for me and kind of holds a special meaning for me getting to know the history of a church that’s older than the state itself.”
He wants the community to know that the church’s work isn’t done just yet.
“We are poised for another 125 years of ministry,” he said. “We have looked at our history and seen what this church has done for the past 125 years and it’s made us very excited and extra willing to enter into the next 100 years.”
Zelma Wilcox, who helped put the celebration together, said it took a good bit of effort contacting former pastors, but was all worth it in the end. Wilcox has a legacy herself within the church stretching all the way back to 1948, when she first worshiped there. She was married in the church, her four children have been baptized there and her late husband rests in the church’s columbarium. She said the church she’s grown up in has been a blessing from day one.
Barbara Root and her grandson William were on the opposite end of the spectrum. They are the newest members, having joined just one week before the celebration. They hail from Maryland and said after a few weeks of visiting, the welcoming nature of the congregation compelled them to join.
“The people are just so friendly, you can’t not join,” Barbara said laughing. “You feel at home before you even join.”
The celebration continues at the church today. The community is encouraged to attend the worship service at 10:30 a.m. At 4 p.m., there will be a concert by the church’s choir, followed by an ice cream social.