PASCO — The Pasco United Methodist Church is 125 years old, and senior members of the congregation know all about its history.
They know that the first congregants met in private homes as early as 1811, that the first building to house the then Tawawa United Brethren Church was constructed along Mosquito Creek in 1859; and that a faction of the congregation split from the original group to form a new church, the Cedar Point United Brethren Church in 1892.
They know that members purchased the site of current building then for $50 and began worship in it in 1893. Actually, the church, which now sits at 17483 state Route 706, originally sat next door. In 1944, it was moved. First a foundation was built. Then the building was hoisted onto logs, which were pulled by horses, and the church was placed on the foundation.
They know that in 1947, the United Brethren denomination merged with another and became the Evangelical United Brethren Church and that in 1968, another merger changed its name to the United Methodist Church; that for a few years in the late 1960s, the church was yoked with the Pemberton United Methodist Church, and the two congregations shared a minister; that an addition was constructed in 1959 and that the sanctuary was renovated in 1975.
They know all of that. But when they gathered recently to reminisce in advance of the church’s upcoming anniversary celebration, it was the people they remembered most.
“It’s a close-knit family,” said Maxine Bowden.
“It’s a very friendly church,” added Marge Snavely. They and Elsie Clayton, Mary Ellen Allenbaugh and Betty Riddle, all in their 90s, and Lois Layman, Sherry Elliott and Barbara Geuy, a generation younger, and all from Sidney and its rural environs, met to look through historical photos and documents, Wednesday, Sept. 5.
Those items will comprise an exhibit during a 125th anniversary celebration, a special worship service scheduled for 10 a.m., Sept. 16, which is a half hour earlier than usual. Head pastor, the Rev. Nitos Dobles, will lead the service, which will include two guest speakers, the Rev. Henry Brooks, who was the church’s pastor from 1955 to 1956, and the Rev. Dr. Kent Millard, president of the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, where Dobles is studying for his Doctor of Ministry.
Church members hope that anyone who has ever attended the church under any of its names will return for the event. A light lunch will be served after the service. There will be no Sunday school classes that day.
Sunday school and youth groups have always played a key role in the church’s mission, though. It was the youth fellowship group that attracted Riddle when she was a teen, and it did the same for Snavely, who had visited the church as a child before her family ever lived in Pasco.
“My earliest memory (here) was when I came to visit church with my girlfriend, whose grandmother came here, and there was a potbellied stove back in the corner,” Snavely said. “We moved back to Pasco when I was a teenager. Ruth Welling was the (youth group) leader. She’d have children’s day programs and asked if we’d help out at the creek. Yes, we would. That was when there was just a little platform (at the front of the church). We performed on that stage.”
“They kept the cups and things to serve beans in the last two pews,” said Allenbaugh.
“I have a card from when I was on the cradle roll when I was 1 year old. Mrs. Charles Hance signed that card,” Riddle said.
Bowden looked at an even earlier cradle roll and found her mother’s name, Eileen Bodenmiller.
Clayton and Snavely each have four generations of family members still attending the church. Layman, who is Clayton’s daughter, has children and grandchildren in the congregation and can trace family membership back through another three generations.
Several of the ladies were married in the church, and Snavely played for the ceremonies. She was the congregation’s organist for 58 years. Now, her daughter, Sherry Elliott, plays the piano for services, and Dobles’s wife, Apple, is the music director.
The group remembered the dedication of beautiful, stained glass windows in 1985.
“Betty played an important part in the colors of these windows,” Elliott said. Before they were installed, the building had frosted glass panes.
When it was proposed that the windows be replaced and that funds would need to be raised, there was some debate, but after the first family stepped up to donate, others followed, and they were all paid for by the time they were installed.
Sometimes fundraising took longer. When the church addition was proposed in the late 1950s, Brooks started an ice cream tent manned by church members at the Shelby County Fair to pay for it. The ice cream tent was a fair fixture into the 1980s.
A new organ was dedicated in 1989.
The church led a trailer-park ministry in Pasco for awhile. They had a trailer in the park and children would go to Sunday school there. These days, Layman said, a van picks up children for Wednesday night and Sunday programs. The Kids Crew and Kids Zone are popular.
There are sunrise services on Easter followed by a community breakfast and egg hunt and special decorations for Christmas: chrismons handmade of wood and pine needles that are hung on evergreen trees.
An annual mother/daughter banquet at Mother’s Day sometimes offers hilarious fun.
One year, “the men dressed up (in costumes). Each man had a theme and the piano would play a song. It was a crazy style show,” Elliott said. The women had their chance at a crazy style show several years later.
They’ve also been known play jokes on their ministers.
“You know how everybody always sits in the same pew? We started a whisper thing one morning, and everyone sat somewhere else. The preacher was astounded,” Geuy laughed. Her father ministered to the church from 1958 to 1966.
In recent years, there have been fellowship bonfires and pancake days.
All the women have participated in a very active Ladies Aid group.
“The Ladies Aid at one time helped pay the electric bill and the pastor’s salary,” Snavely said. The group did all kinds of projects to raise funds:
“A bazaar in the fall,” said Elliott.
“Then steak dinners,” said Geuy.
“We made wreaths and because cakes,” added Bowden. “We took cake mixes and made little, 7-inch cakes and decorated them and sold them.”
“People would buy them and give them to people just because,” said Layman.
Group members also help others. They go to the Alpha Center to serve meals twice a year and the visitation committee went to the homes people who were ill. Layman said it’s that kind of participation that has kept the congregation cohesive.
The church has pastors who are students, as Dobles is, or those who are starting their ministerial careers.
“We’re a stepping stone,” Elliott said.
“I think that’s why we’re so strong. We know pastors don’t stay here, so members band together to carry the church,” Layman said.
Dobles began his Pasco career as the youth pastor in 2013. He became lead pastor in 2016. Originally from the Philippines, he also ministers to the Philippino-American community in the greater Dayton area. He and his family live in Englewood.
“I just feel so blessed to be the pastor of a loving, welcoming church that for 125 years has lived up to its God-given mission of knowing God and making him known to all,” Dobles said. “My prayer is that 100 years from now, when our children would sift through all that we’ve left behind, they would discover that we have been faithful, that they, too, shall become faithful, faithful and true to God’s commission of making disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.