NEW KNOXVILLE – New Knoxville’s United Methodist Church will celebrate their 175th anniversary Sunday, Oct. 28, with a festive blend of worship, music, and entertainment.
“This is a big day for our community,” said Pastor Dennis Gaertner. The day will start with a Celebration Worship event beginning at 9:30 a.m., followed by a reservation only dinner at 11:30 am. At 1 p.m. the Christian contemporary band Branches will entertain participants and a wrap up hayride and bonfire will begin at 5:30 p.m.
During the morning service, participants will be treated to both a bell choir and chancel choir. The church’s Puppet Squad will entertain with special songs.
“It is similar to Sister Act, in that they adapt songs to fit a Christian theme,” said the pastor.
A 15-member children’s church group will do a two minute skit then hand out a commemorative medallion to each family. Two former pastors, Jon Barker (1975-1979) and James Waugh (1980-1987) will offer memories of their tenure.
The event will be wrapped up with the lighting of a birthday cake. Ninety-two year old Joanna Strayer and 84-year-old Shirley Bryenton will do the honors, representing respectively the oldest member and the church member who has attended the longest. Bryenton has an older brother Don Steinecker, aged 89, who could not attend.
Gaertner said the roots of their church run as deep as the village of New Knoxville, which celebrated its 175th birthday in 2011.
“I have a history wall in my office showing pictures of earlier times,” he said.
For example, one picture showed a group of men who in 1916 were digging the foundation for the new church.
“We had the names of the men in that picture,” he said, “which I brought to a church service recently.”
He said he read off the names of the men in the picture, asking any members to stand if they felt any of these men were an ancestor.
“We had at least 10 people stand who knew these men to be relatives.
“We consider ourselves an Auglaize County church,” he said. “While most of congregation of 225 are New Knoxville residents, we have folks from surrounding communities like St. Marys, Minster, New Bremen, Wapakoneta.”
He said a large portion of their roster, about 25 to 35, are young people.
The congregation has kept close to their current location. The original church building, located at the corner of St, Marys and German streets, was a log cabin built in 1845 and had around 19 members. The cemetery, which was used until 1890 when it was closed by health department regulations, is still at that location. Then a white frame building, occupied from 1864 to 1895 years, was built one block west of the current church. The congregation then bought an old church at its current location, which they occupied from 1895 until 1916, when construction began on the current building.
“We don’t have many figures on cost of construction the building,” said Gaertner, “But we do know the stained glass windows, purchased for around $680, now are insured for $450,000.”
The celebration is open to the public, although Gaertner said that the lunch is by reservation only.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.