First Christian Church
This week’s story is about a milestone of importance in our community. It’s a story written over the last 125 years by the First Christian Church. The church resides at 521 Maple Ave., and is celebrating its history. A history that touches three different centuries; while offering spiritual guidance to the community. The door of the first ministry opened in September of 1890.
New Martinsville is a community of churches that welcome their members from our town and the surrounding counties to share their faith. They welcome all to be part of the church’s traditions and beliefs. The Church offers a place to gather together and share spiritual faith in good times and also when the world tests our need to believe. Since New Martinsville began in the 1800’s, local churches have always played a major part in the town’s growth and prosperity.
The First Christian Church over the years has grown and changed its locations and buildings four different times to keep up with the growing needs of its congregation. It first was organized and opened its doors in a small building constructed in Brooklyn. At that time, it was called the Brooklyn Christian Church. It quickly grew and needed additional rooms for members by 1902. A new wing room was added along with a balcony to meet the needs of the growing congregation.
During the early part of the last century, the elders realized the church would need to grow. In 1919, the plans were created to build a new church. Then in 1920 the property where the church now resides was purchased. It was nearly another twenty years before the first phase of the church was completed, that was in 1939. Since then the church has grown with a new sanctuary, choir room, and office areas. To improve access to the sanctuary an elevator was added along the way.
Land was purchased, giving church members a new location to park when attending services. With the goal of expanding the church?s ministry they also purchased property just south of the church and began working to develop The Disciples Center for Human Wholeness. The center offers help with support groups for families that are facing problems such as addiction, depression and anxiety. It also works to give a place where care givers and young people can share with others problems they may have faced in the world today. The center also offers a Senior Access Point, a cooperation with the Disciples West Virginia Regional Church and Gift of Years Project and General Church’s National Benevolent Association
I stopped by last week to visit with my friend, Rev. Dr. Victor L. Hunter to talk about his church and its part in the community. I sometimes kiddingly joke that it seems when I stop by the church it is as busy throughout the week as it is on Sunday morning. The church’s outreach is far more than just Sunday ministry. He explains the church offers wholeness to the community in a fragmented world. A place that may not have all the answers, but is willing to try and help find them with you. That mission fact is why the First Christian Church has been a major part of the community for 125 years.
When I speak of 125 years it seems to be just a number, but if you think about what it means it takes on a whole new understanding of the number. That number represent 6,500 weeks that people in this community began their week by attending services to make room for God. If you figure the church each week opened its doors to an estimated 200 hundred people, it comes out to 1,300,000 conversations, worshipers, seekers, disciples, and pilgrims that came into the church for the ministry of the faith.
I sometimes tend to think of churches as just another part of the town, much as I think of local businesses or civic buildings. A place that serves a function to fill the needs of the town’s people but, I have to remember churches are also an important part of the fabric that holds our community together. They are a place where people go to find answers and compassion. A place where in this ever changing world, that guidance often can be found.
On September 26-27, the First Christian Church will celebrate its 125th Anniversary. They welcome all to join them for the celebration of this milestone in their church’s history. The celebration is to remember those who began the mission and those helping to continue the ministry. It is also to thank those who will carry on the legacy of the church for the future.
On Saturday, Sept. 26, events begin at noon with lunch in front of the Disciples Center, followed by opening comments and tour of the facilities. At 5:30 p.m., a banquet will be held in the fellowship hall. The speaker will be Rev. David Chafin. Later a music celebration and balloon launch will take place.
On Sunday at 10 a.m., a worship service will be held, Rev. Dr. Larry Grimes of Bethany College and Moderator, West Virginia Disciples of Christ will speak. He will be followed by Rev. Dr. Victor L. Hunter, resident Pastor of the First Christian Church. At noon, a dinner will be offered to guests. The celebration will conclude at 2 p.m., a service of sending Forth: Forward in Faith.
When I determined I was going to write this story, I decided to sit in the church’s empty sanctuary for a few minutes to gather my thoughts before beginning to put words to paper. I didn’t know what I expected to find in the darkened sanctuary. I heard no voice whisper to me from above. I sat watching as the sun’s light cascaded through stained glass windows creating a warm beautiful light in the dim room. But, it held no glowing light of inspiration to me. In this place filled with history, I heard no voices from the past speak and tell of the churches support for the community in times of floods, war and hard times. I listened, and yet I heard not a word or sound from the silent place. Then, I remembered a church is just a building, what makes it a place of life is the people who come to worship and join in the fellowship of the Lord. A gift passed from one generation to the next, of good deeds of those who went before in the name of the church. It is a place where people come together to believe in something better in a trouble world.
The First Christian Church has been part of our community for 125 years and will soon celebrate its history. The members of the church hope you can join them in this special moment in time, as they remember their past and look towards the future Through the Lens.