Pam Wallace, center, a First Christian Church member, laughs along with fellow member Pat Weekley, left, and Senior Minister Jon Forrest during the church’s annual congressional meeting Wednesday at the church. Wallace has been a member at the church
A group of 128 people attended the first service of the First Christian Church at Odd Fellows Hall at the corner of Ninth and Connelly streets. At the end of the meeting they all came forward to place their membership with the church.
That was 50 years ago.
Last week, the church — which spawned after more than 100 members of Central Christian Church decided their congregation was too liberal — celebrated its 50th anniversary.
During the celebration weekend, members young and old chatted, laughter filled the room and there were plenty of jokes.
“They’re just really loving, caring people that have stuck it out through good and bad,” Ron Eggleston, who has been the church’s minister on and off, said.
Robert Beaudry and his wife joined the church in May.
“People were so loving and friendly here. We felt like part of the family here and we were only here for one day,” he said.
“You can definitely see Jesus Christ’s work.”
Beaudry said when he looked at all of the pictures and videos of the church’s past it brought back memories of his own past in Midland, Texas.
“I wish I was here being a part of those memories,” he said.
Church member Kathy McGregor said there is one special tradition in particular that really moved her. Thirty days before Easter each member of the church begins collecting one coin each day. As they put the coin in their bag, they meditate on the meaning of Easter. On Easter day, at the end of the service, each member brings their bag up to the cross and leaves it in a basket.
The ceremony is called “30 pieces of Silver.” Teary-eyed McGregor said the first year they started the tradition was in memory of the church organist Ray Thornton.
“Everybody loved Ray. It was very emotional,” she said.
That year the church used the money to buy a new sound system in Thornton’s honor, she said.
Church member Gene Blair has been a member since 1979, and feels blessed to have survived three heart attacks, and thankful for all the support from the congregation.
“I went through three heart attacks and (this church) prayed for me. There is no doubt in my mind that brought me back,” Blair said.