MILLBURY — The giving nature and family-like atmosphere of the congregation of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Millbury were celebrated as part of their 150th anniversary of this past weekend.
Church members started meeting in 1860, at a local school house, located at the corner of Bradner and Ohio 795/Moline Martin roads. The church building was finished and dedicated 150 years ago, in 1872.
The original structure, finished in 1872, still houses the church sanctuary, with the pews, lecterns and many of the associated pieces of decorative woodwork. But a church is more than just a building, and this congregation began gathering for worship in 1860, just prior to the start of the Civil War.
“150 years of family is worth celebrating,” Marilyn Baker, church historian, said. “This stuff is fascinating to me. Who would think this small country church goes back to the time of Abe Lincoln?”
Seven Bible study members of the church gathered for photos, including: Baker, Sue Tienarend, Janice Mallory, George Parker, Alayne Simon, Sally and Joe Lovell. Many wore period outfits representing the various styles popular since the congregation began gathering.
It was agreed by the Bible study members that the longevity of the church and congregation was for one reason.
“It’s the people, obviously,” Mallory said.
The various charities, like providing bags of supplies for the Helping Hands Soup Kitchen, are examples of the work the members do. They also have a coats for school kids project, that primarily go to the Lake Local Schools.
The building has been transformed over the years, but the original structure is still there.
The first updates done to the church took place in 1924.
“What they did at that time is they put in electricity, they put in the altar railing and, at some point, there was a black pot-belly stove,” Baker said. “I remember it, as a child.”
That stove burnt coal.
“That’s all we had. We still didn’t have bathrooms, but we got electricity, and that made such a difference,” Baker said. “Then in 1952, there was a huge change. They jacked up the church. They put a full basement under, they gave us a narthex, and they built this back room that is now a choir room and pastor’s office. This back addition helped a lot.”
In the 1960s and 1970s several classrooms were added on, because the space was needed for the increasingly large Sunday school classes. There was also a brick narthex and a kitchen added in the basement.
Baker said that the pandemic shutdown and restrictions created a low point of membership for the church, making it unclear how many members were still active, but she said that it is growing again, with new members of all ages attending.
For the celebration, which was on Saturday and Sunday, a memorabilia room was put together, including photo albums with shots going back more than 100 years.
“This has always felt like family. No matter how rough life got, you came back here and felt like you were with family. You felt comfort and rest,” Simon, a lifelong member, said.
“This has always been my church family and there’s no other church like it. I was away for college for a few years and when I came back, I came home,” Baker said.
The 150th anniversary has special meaning for Mallory.
“It is wonderful — I was here for the 125th and that was 25 years ago,” she said. “I’m sure the people who founded the church, 150 years ago, would be amazed that we are still here and we’re still enthusiastic about coming to this church. So I hope it continues forever,” Baker said.
Pat Blecke, who has also been a member her entire life, said the church has offered comfort and consistency.
“The people are always there for you when you need them. Throughout all the ups and downs, this place always grounds me,” she said. “We’re very fortunate to still have the church going and just keep our fingers crossed that it will keep going.”
St. Paul United Methodist Church is at 1459 South St.