A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Monday, September 15, 2014

Happy Anniversary Lancaster First UMC Main Building! - September 15, 1907

Today (September 15) marks the 107th anniversary of when our congregation held the first Sunday worship service in our main church building. It was also when the building was dedicated. Construction on the building began in 1905.

It's interesting that 100 years later, our congregation dedicated another building, our beautiful Crossroads facility on West Fair Avenue. We held a dedication for Crossroads in 2007.

Think back with me to 1907 to provide some needed historical context.

  • Theodore Roosevelt was the President
  • Hershey Park opened
  • Taxis first begin running in New York City
  • The automatic washer & dryer were introduced
  • Pitcher, Walter Johnson won the first of his 416 career wins.
  • Oklahoma became our 46th state
  • The Apple iPocketWatch was first introduced (Just kidding!)
Our church decided to move to our present location because space was limited at the South High Street location. As a side note, the present day Sixth Avenue UMC had just built a new church in 1902 at the corner of Sixth and Garfield Avenues.

Our present church building was the location of the Stutson family residence. The church bought the lot for $5,333.33 and hired the John Rouser Company of Dayton as the General Contractor. Construction began early in 1905 and a cornerstone laying ceremony was held. Dr. Herbert Welch, President of Ohio Wesleyan University was the speaker. The church was finally completed by late summer of 1907.
In 1907, the church sold it's South High Street property to the Lancaster Masonic Bodies for $6,000 and used the proceeds from this sale to make the first payment on the new church building.

The last worship service at the South High Street location was held on Sunday, September 8. The following Sunday (September 15) our church worshipped for the first time in our present day building.

The sermon on that day was delivered by Dr. Thomas C. Iliff of Denver. The pastor of our church at the time was Charles C. Elson. The last dollar to insure the payment of the debt was announced allowing for the formal dedication of the church building to occur just before midnight on September 15!

The total cost of the church building including the pipe organ was $80,210.70. The first baptism in the new church was Elizabeth Stutson, the infant daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Willis Stutson. Assuming this was the same Stutson family from which the church bought the lot, this probably made the first baptism in the new church building even more special.

Eight years after the first worship service in the new building, our church celebrated another key event in our history. In 1915, we won the world's largest men's bible class. Our historic photo from April 18 of that year shows 1,316 men standing in front of what was then, Lancaster High School. Today, it is known as the Stanbery campus of Lancaster City Schools. The men had walked from the church to that location so that a large panoramic photo could be taken. For more on this historic photo, you can view the video here.

The first highlight is in how dedicated the church members were to financially support their new church building.

As I reflect on our 1907 dedication anniversary of our main church building, there are a couple of highlights that stand out for me. The first highlight is in how dedicated the church members were to financially support their new church building. Their dedication service on September 15, 1907 lasted until midnight when the final dollar to cover the cost of the building was pledged. Imagine the joy of the congregation in that moment. I look forward to a similar time of joy in 2016, the target date to pay off our Crossroads building loan. What a great day that will be!

The other highlight for me is how it seems like history sometimes repeats itself. When the church members dedicated our present church building back in 1907, it's pretty special to think that 100 years later, we would be doing the same thing for our new Crossroads facility. The reason for these buildings remains the same. They are meant to help us share God's love with the people in our community. 

Happy 107th main church building anniversary!

No comments: