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Church Celebrates Over 150 Years


Posted By: Mistina Christner (email)
Date: 9/17/2018 at 12:38:28

Source: Iowa City Press Citizen 8-6-2016

Church celebrates over 150 years
Sharon Center United Methodist focuses on mission
Stephen Gruber-Miller

The No. 1 reason the Sharon Center United Methodist Church has reached its 150-year anniversary this summer? It welcomes new members with open arms.
It's no small feat for a rural church like this one, near Kalona, to make it to a sesquicentennial anniversary, Pastor Erling Shultz said.
"It means a lot to them to celebrate 150 years of ministry and mission, because not a lot of churches have made it 150 years, especially when we consider rural congregations," Shultz said. "... For them to still be here is a great milestone."
The congregation can trace its history to 1866, when its 17 charter members first came together to worship in the Boone schoolhouse. In the years since, they've gone through three different buildings, three denominations, and a massive change in the population of the surrounding area.
Now, the church has just under 400 members and an average attendance of 145, Shultz said, and the congregation is celebrating the milestone Saturday and Sunday with a variety of events, including fireworks Saturday night, games for children, a cemetery walk during which actors playing members of the church's original charter members will give history lessons, and a special worship service Sunday, followed by a hog roast and potluck. All events are open to the public.
Marge Miller, 95, has been a member of the church since she was a baby.
"Well, I was away at college for a while, but other than that, I came back and married a local boy, and so I'm still there," she said.
The church has changed a lot during that time, but the people are what keeps it going, Miller said. Many of them, like her family, have attended the church for generations - four of Miller's great-grandparents helped co-found the church - and their families have stayed in the area.
"We just think we have a wonderful community," Miller said. "The people here are considerate. They're trustworthy. They're helpful. They look out for each other."
Typically, the church holds two services on Sunday: an earlier, casual service with a praise band, and a second, more formal service. Miller said she prefers the traditional hymns, so she'll usually go to the later service, but she thinks many of the changes she has seen over the years are good for the congregation.
"I think the dress is a little more casual now than it was 50 years ago, 40 years ago, and worship is more casual, I do believe, than it was many years ago," Miller said. "Life in general is just more relaxed and casual."
The congregation is also very mission minded, Miller said, collecting food for local pantries and donating money to causes around the country, like this year when the church gave money to help with the water crisis in Flint, Mich.
The weekend's celebration will also include a bit of a surprise, even for longtime church members, said Joan Dinnel, the church's historian.
"We're going to open our time capsule that's in the wall in our sanctuary. It has not been opened for a while, so we have no idea what's in it or what we're going to put back in it," she said.
Likely, the congregation will put in the day's bulletin and probably a picture, as well as some other information about the current church, she said.
The time capsule may include fascinating information about the church's early years. The congregation's original church was built in 1869, three years after the parish was founded. It was remodeled in 1896 and again in 1948, according to a church history. In 1959, the construction of the church's present building was completed, across the road from the old building.
Even the current United Methodist denomination has changed, Miller said. Originally, the congregation was founded as an Evangelical Church, before merging with the United Brethren Church in 1946 to become the Evangelical United Brethren Church, then merging again with the Methodist church in 1968 to become the United Methodists.
And the church continues to improve, with the addition last year of a new parsonage for the pastor to live in, as well as remodeling of the church kitchen and parlor, according to Dinnel.
The anniversary celebration will mark that progress and look to the future, Shultz said.
"Its just going to be a grand celebration to celebrate God's presence with us all these years and God's ongoing and future presence with us, and a time to give thanks and a time to look ahead to another 150 years," he said.


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