(Pen & Ink Art of the first Methodist Church building )
1834 – 2009 Methodists in Ionia
In the Love of Christ we continue our Heritage
May 17th was a beautiful spring day as we celebrated our heritage, honoring this year as the 175th Anniversary of the founding of the Ionia First United Methodist Church. The day began with our coffee hour at St. Johns Episcopal Parish House. (The Parish House was the first church building in the community and was the meeting place of the Methodist for nearly a decade in the 1840’s.) Al Irby welcomed the Episcopal and Methodist congregations and reflected on our relationship with one another in Christ, that spans nearly two centuries. The Episcopal congregation presented the Methodists with a dogwood tree to be planted on the church property in honor of our 175 anniversary.
Everyone then gathered at Ionia First for a joint worship service at 11:00 am. Pastor Brown welcomed the Episcopal congregation as “kissing cousins”, referring to the roots of John and Charles Wesley in the Anglican Church. Father John Crean participated in the service with the liturgy and communion. Pastor Brown shared the message of a Faithful Past … a Hopeful Future. The service included the confirmation of five youth into our church, a tangible sign of hope. With a history of working together with other faith communities, the first joint communion of the Methodists and Episcopalians was experienced.
Following the service we all gathered in fellowship hall for a picnic lunch, reflecting on the history of the Long Lake Camp Meeting of the early 1900’s. (A collection of photos, provided by the Howard family of those events was on display). The elementary kids provided a little lunchtime theater by sharing with us some highlights of our church’s history with a skit and some favorite tunes.
Individuals were honored as Ron and Dorothy Beach celebrated their 65th Wedding anniversary and Murray Workman celebrated his 90th Birthday during the week of the church anniversary celebration. Church members who have celebrated 50+ years of marriage and 90+ birthdays were also remembered.
The fellowship continued as everyone disbursed to various activities. A healthy competition of croquet (generated by the youth), along with a variety of games were held on the lawn and the athletes were nourished with popcorn.
A history display provided artifacts from our long history, including a communion chalice recovered from the church fire of 1930 and items provided by church members and the Ionia Country Historical Society.
Reflecting on another church tradition --P.I.E. was a program where new visitors to our congregation were visited by a member of the Growth Committee and provide with a freshly baked pie. So, it seemed only fitting to conclude the day celebrating our welcoming spirit as faithful, caring, community of God with a Pie Party. As we gathered for pie and ice cream, all eyes were focused on Pastor Larry. When plans began to be formulated for an anniversary celebration the first of the year, Pastor Brown decided to grow a beard. Inspired by that photo (that hangs in the conference room) of the leader of the first gathering of Methodists in Ionia, Silas Arnold. The new look garnered a lot of chatter with in the congregation and the community over the weeks leading up to the celebration. With his trusty razor in hand, Jack Manciu executed a professional shave.
With pies of every kind imaginable, everyone enjoyed a sweet conclusion, accompanied by live music from a new swing combo (featuring Chris and Nicholas Bennett plus Larry Brown).
With an amazing heritage, the Methodists have been challenged to a future of bright hope and future milestone anniversary celebrations. We appreciate the contributions of each and every one to the 175th celebration event. Clearly over fifty percent of our congregation assisted in some way in making the celebration day a memorable one.