History of Christ United Methodist Church
Christ United Methodist Church is the result of a merger of two old and respected denominations. The older of the two, the former Methodist Episcopal church, was organized in 1830. Rev. Donahue was the first pastor of this newly organized achurch. Since they had no established place of worship they met whereever possible; in the homes, barns, or schoolhouses.
However, in 1835 Conrad Miller deeded a lot to them and one year later, the church was completed. This lot was on the corner of Church and River Streets, and the church erected was used until 1854. At this time, it was abandoned and the society worshiped temporarily in Crater’s Hall.
In 1867 a frame church was erected on the same site with Dickerson R. Moore as pastor. His salary was $550 per year with $140 for traveling expenses.
According to existing records, membership was taken very seriously in this early church. Each potential member endured a probation period which quite often was extended "if the person didn’t shape up." At the end of this time, the person was either received into full membership or dropped. Reasons for dropping were candid. "Not worthy," "Neglected public worship," "A Man addicted to drink-fallen again," "Neglects the means of grace," "Whaled his wife and ran off," are samples.
The quarterly report which was given on June 22, 1884, revealed a total membership of 97 in the Sunday School with an average of 48 and 8 teachers in attendance. The total collection for this quarter was $41.42. By 1945-46 the average attendance was 200.
In 1916, the building committee of Thomas J. Shannon, Samuel Rush, John W. Ley, John Hinds, and F. L. Euga added to the frame building of 1867 and covered the entire surface with brick. The new church was dedicated on March 12, 1916. The minister was H. F. Patterson. The Queen Esther Class was organized in this same year.
The College Street Methodist Church, formerly the Methodist Protestant Church was formed in 1843 and was the first building erected on Canal Street. It stood about where the present post office is located. Records indicate that in 1866 the congregation was considering the raising of funds to build another church. However, this suggestion was shelved temporarily and the building they had was equipped with new underpinning, a new roof and new seats. The secretary’s minutes of 1878 disclose this quotation., "The necessity of such an undertaking (new church) grew out of the fact that a comparatively large and somewhat pretentious church edifice had been built is such close proximity as to overshadow the humble structure in which the society of the M. P. Church held worship." This annoying church, holding services at precisely the same hour, must have been the Presbyterian Church.
In 1878 the congregation moved to the corner of Canal and College Streets. This church was dedicated in 1879 by Rev. S. A. Fisher, who at a later date, became one of its pastors. The cost of the building, including the furnishings, was about $4,500.
In 1955, this building was almost demolished by a tornado and the congregation was forced to move to other quarters. Following a period of some indecision, they contracted to purchase the Touraine Club, north of town, and this edifice served as their church home until the merger of the two Methodist churches in 1966. College Street Methodist Church and Trinity Methodist Church merged on March 6, 1966, under the name of the Methodist Church of Newcomerstown, Ohio. When the United Brethren Church merged with the Methodist Church Conference, the name was changed to Christ United Methodist Church, which is the present name.
At the time of the merger of the two Methodist churches the former College Street Methodist Church had purchased a 3.62 acre tract of land by deed dated December 7, 1965 from Clark VanVoohris and his wife, Laura J. VanVoohris. This site (Oak Street) is the present location of Christ United Methodist Church.
When the merger of the two churches occurred, Rev. W. A. Hewitt, who was the Paster of College Street, and Rev. Edwin F. Eshelman, formerly Pastor of Trinity Methodist, were retained as Co-Pastors and served the combined congregations until July 1, 1967, when Rev. John P. Benson became the new pastor. The present church building was constructed during his pastoral tenure. He served until July 1, 1973, when Rev. Ray Snyder was appointed by the Conference to serve the church. Rev. Snyder had the longest tenure as pastor with 17 years. Rev. Ray’s services were often enhanced with his many musical talents. During this time, a mortgage burning ceremony was held to commemorate paying off the building debt.
In February 1991, Rev. Gary M. George was appointed to serve as Pastor. He served through June 1999. During Gary’s leadership, we began Super Wednesday’s (a family night with a meal, fellowship and church meetings) and "Kid’s Corner" was held regularly during morning worship services. One outreach progran that began during this time and continued until 2016 was the annual carnival. This event was open to the community with lots of free games and fun.
In July of 1999, Rev. Steve Sparling became pastor and our mission became "Knowing Jesus better, and making Jesus better known." During Pastor Steve’s stay the church began a vigorous expansion project, adding The River of Life Center (for contemporary worship and a venue for games and large gatherings), the Wesley Auditorium, extra classrooms and a covered entrance and handicap accessible restrooms near the sanctuary. Sunday Movie nights and Christ’s Kids were new outreach programs. Christ’s Kids was open to elementary children and held after school during the week. A strong Cuban mission connection was begun between our church and Pastor Jose’s church in LaCarlota, Cuba. Staff member, Chasity Opphile, has been instrumental in sustaining this program with many church and community members going to Cuba to help with various projects.
In July 2007, the congregation welcomed Pastor Russ Ham. New outreach programs included the He-Brews Coffee shop, and Dining in Christ’s Kitchen (held at Dick’s Place, and later moved to the church.) The name was changed to Christ’s Kitchen. This outreach was based on a need for a place for people of the community to gather and eat a free or inexpensive meal in an atmosphere like that of a restaurant. With the help of Associate Pastor, Derek Hickman, the youth program became community wide with students from 5 area churches participating. A Youth Praise Team was also formed.
Pastor Larry Hukill came to our church in July 2011. He and his wife, Susan, actively participated in outreach programs such as Christ’s Kids, Christ’s Kitchen, and both played in the River Ringers Bell Choir. Susan led several Beth Moore bible studies with a large attendance both from our church and the community.
Pastor Bracken Foster, his wife Kimberly and their four children came to our church in July 2014. Their family quickly grew by one, but by Christmas 2016 Bracken became seriously ill and spent many weeks in the hospital and many more weeks recuperating. During this time our church pulled together to continue our programs, and held many prayer vigils for Pastor Bracken. Bracken’s return to good health was truly a miracle. Rev. Craig Redeker filled the pulpet and Pastor Lori Stevens helped with the daily duties. Pastor Bracken has led a men’s bible study and a general bible study most of the time he has been here. He has also held a monthly prayer time. We are currently preparing for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of our current building.
God has blessed us with wonderful facilities for worship and space for a variety of activities. He has given us knowledgeable leaders and wonderful, caring members to carry out His will.