Archive for Saturday, October 9, 2004

Church celebrates 150th year

October 9, 2004


For Lawrence residents, this is the year of sesquicentennial celebrations.

Not only is the city itself marking its 150th anniversary, but so are two big downtown congregations: First United Methodist Church, 946 Vt., and Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.

Amid the flurry of activity surrounding the milestones of Lawrence and these two historic churches, a smaller congregation was overshadowed. Central United Methodist Church, 1501 Mass., is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2004, too.

The congregation, which has 218 members, wasn't all that aware of the impending sesquicentennial. Or, if it was, no one really had taken any steps to celebrate it.

It took a newcomer, the Rev. Denise Hygh, the church's new pastor, to recognize the occasion.

"When I came to Central, no one had any idea about it, but I said, 'This is something we need to celebrate, this milestone you have all gone through,'" she said.

Hygh had learned of the church's 150th anniversary while she was attending an annual meeting of the Kansas East Conference of the United Methodist Church in June at Baker University. Congregations celebrating sesquicentennials in 2004 were recognized in an awards ceremony, Central United Methodist Church among them.

"I said to myself, 'I want to celebrate this when I get to Central,'" said Hygh, who started her ministry at the Lawrence church in July.

Ardent abolitionist

As a result of Hygh's prodding, the church members got together, formed a sesquicentennial committee and have spent almost three months planning a celebration.

The 150th anniversary will be marked Sunday with a special worship service, a time of fellowship for members and friends of the congregation, a luncheon and balloon release. The theme is "Weaving Our Past to Our Future with Our Presence."

A church history also has been compiled for the event. And, members said, it's a history that's deeply entwined with Lawrence's own.

The church's first pastor, the Rev. Samuel S. Snyder, established a United Brethren missionary outpost here in October 1854, according to Sabrina Wellman, chairwoman of the church's sesquicentennial committee.

The United Brethren was one of the forerunners, through merger, of today's United Methodist Church.

Snyder, from Pennsylvania, was an ardent supporter of the anti-slavery movement. He also served as a lieutenant in the Second Colored Regiment, a unit of black soldiers under his command, said Nadine Snider, a committee member.

According to several reports of the time, the pastor was the first person killed in Quantrill's Raid, Aug. 21, 1863.

It's believed that the church in which he was preaching during that time -- possibly located at the site where The Granada Theatre, 1020 Mass., is today -- was burned.

Reflect upon successes

Ironically, the church whose first pastor was killed for being an abolitionist is now led by an African-American.

"I think it shows the progress that has been made," Hygh said.

Today's Central United Methodist Church is the result of several earlier mergers of different congregations in town. The land at 1501 Mass. was purchased in 1946, according to Snider.

The church's sesquicentennial, once in danger of being overlooked, is a milestone that needs to be recognized, Hygh said.

"I think it's important to look back at the history of what this church has done, what has happened and how it is connected to the United Methodist Church," she said.

"Not a lot of churches can say they've had 150 years. We're going to look at the successes over those years and reflect upon that."

Central United Methodist Church, 1501 Mass., will mark its 150th anniversary with a celebration Sunday.The theme of the activities is "Weaving Our Past to Our Future with Our Presence."Members and friends of the church will meet for a time of coffee fellowship at 10 a.m.At 10:45 a.m., there will be a special worship service. Bishop Scott J. Jones, the new bishop for the Kansas Area United Methodist Church, will deliver the sermon.The Rev. Lawrence Kurth will be the liturgist for the service. Kurth, of Paola, is a former pastor of the congregation.There will be a noon luncheon.The celebration is open to the community. For more information, call the church at 843-7066.

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