Church celebrates 50th anniversay despite August fire

By Sheryl Roadcap -

Greenview United Church of Christ

Greenview United Church of Christ

SIDNEY — On Sunday, Greenview United Church of Christ will be celebrating the church’s 50th anniversary merger of two churches becoming one. But the celebration won’t be held at the church building, which was built in 1967.

The anniversary celebration will be held in The Center, the church’s community building located across the street from the church at 3041 Leatherwood Creek Road. The move was necessary because the church sustained damage during a arson fire in August.

Regardless of the fire, the celebration will go on, said life-long member Joyce Peters.

“We had this planned before the fire. It going to be a reunion of all the people that were here (over the years),” Peters said.

Greenview was created 50 years ago after New Palestine Congregational Christian and Charity Chapel Congregational Christian merged together when both churches struggled to pay a pastor. They often already joined together for fellowship and were very similar in beliefs, so the union was a good solution, said Peters. Over the years, Greenview went through a couple of incarnations before eventually becoming the Church of Christ denomination.

Then 19 years ago, the First United Church of Christ in Piqua had to close their doors and most of the congregation joined Greenview also.

The sanctuary of church’s main building was planned to be the main area for the anniversary celebration, but for the last three weeks, all church activities has been held at the The Center.

“It’s going to be an amazing Sunday, because, what you see here (in The Center) is how were are going to worship, and how we are going to eat and how we are going to do the celebration in the afternoon,” Greenview Pastor Larry Grunden said pointing to the five rows of tables and chairs in The Center. “It’s just all in one building.”

“It’s going to be a lot of togetherness,” Peters said with a chuckle.

Greenview has approximately 180 members, with about 50 who regularly attend Sunday morning service. The church also has Bible study every other Wednesday. The Center is a smaller space for the congregation than the church sanctuary, but Grunden and Peters agreed they feel a greater sense of intimacy during worship services.

The Center is set up to welcome 150 people for Sunday’s activities. Grunden said the morning worship service will begin at 10 a.m. with guest pastor, the Rev. Wayne Nelson, from North Carolina, who was Greenview’s pastor from 1975-78. Then there will be a chicken picnic-style lunch served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. And the afternoon celebration will begin immediately following lunch at 2 p.m. The celebration will include music from their newly resurrected choir and bell choir and a slide show presentation of the past, present and hopes for the future of Greenview.

Peters said congregating in The Center has “been amazing,” despite the fire. And the camaraderie church members feel has brought them closer together with more members attending church events.

Everyone added something to use in The Center, Peters said. She loaned the church her family’s large Bible to use in place of the one damaged in the church sanctuary. Also, they are using a cross filled with sand, that was constructed by the church youth, at the make-shift pulpit. Luckily, they already had a piano in The Center, but a sound system, bell choir tables and some chairs were loaned by St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Sidney.

As for the church’s damages, Grunden said the sanctuary needs completely refurbished, since the fire was set in the front part of the room. “Every inch,” said Grunden, needs either repainted or cleaned and re-carpeted. Also, the entire building is saturated with a smoky smell, according to Peters, who said it is still hard to breath in the building. Grunden said the air conditioning carried smoke throughout the entire church building.

Preliminary damages was estimated to be set at $20,000. But they expect it to be months before they will be able to return to the main building, as their insurance company is still handling the claim.

There were injuries and the building was empty at the time of the fire.

No arrest has been made yet. A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered by the Blue Ribbon Arson Committee for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the fire.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office at 937-498-1111 to relay pertinent information to Port Jefferson Fire Department.

The church considers Sunday’s celebration to be a reunion and expect to see many people who attended over the years.

“It’s (the anniversary celebration) going to bring us all together. Everybody is pretty excited about getting it all back together, and this is a good way to kick that off,” Peters said with a smile.

Greenview United Church of Christ United Church of Christ

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.