With laughter and love, Christ United Methodist Church in Newcomerstown celebrated its 50th year in the church at 648 Oak St. with an event on Sunday, May 5, that included the current and former pastors of the church.

Rev. Bracken Foster, current pastor of the church, led the service that included the past five pastors and several others who have become pastors coming through the congregation at Christ United.

"God has sent us the right pastors at the right time," Rev. Foster noted.

Christ United Methodist Church is a result of the combining of the former College Street Methodist Church, whose building was destroyed by a tornado, and the Trinity Methodist Church, which outgrew its facility. The two churches merged on March 6, 1966, with Trinity coming into the merger with a new parsonage that had been built in 1960 on Beaver Street and College Street Methodist having purchased 3.62 acres on Oak Street for construction of a new building.

Ground was broken for the new church on Fathers’ Day, June 16, 1968. The cornerstone was laid on Oct. 10, 1968, and the new facility was consecrated on Mothers’ Day, May 11, 1969. 

The original pastors were from the two merged churches, the Rev. W.A. Hewitt and the Rev. Edwin F. Eshelman. Following were Rev. John Benson, 1967-1973; Rev. Ray Snyder, 1973-1990; Rev. Gary George, 1991-1999; Rev. Steve Sparling, 1999-2007; Rev. Russ Hamm, 2007-2011; Rev. Larry Hukill, 2011-2014; and now the current pastor, Rev. Bracken Foster. 

Also recognized at the service were others who have become pastors at other churches but came from Christ United Methodist Church: Ron Little, Dan Eggan, Phil Murphy,  Derek Hickman and Gary Marlatt.

Joy Snyder, daughter of the late Rev. Ray Snyder, noted it had been an emotional day as "everyone talks about Rev. Ray" who was the longest-serving pastor in the church’s history. She also talked about her mother, the late Anne Snyder, who was also instrumental in the history of the church. In addition to Joy, Rev. Snyder and Anne had two sons, David and Steve.

Rev. George, who is now the Rev. Dr. Gary George, also talked about the influence of Ray and Anne Snyder, and said that "some of the best years of my ministry" were at Christ United. He and his wife, Lorraine, have two sons, Mark and Michael.

Rev. Sparling echoed some of those sentiments, noting, "I can not imagine life without this church." He and his wife, Terri, have a daughter, Jessica, and two sons, Justin and Jarrod.

Rev. Hamm brought up some anecdotes, including playing Jesus in an Easter play and having a child in the front row saying during the crucifixion scene, "I’m really going to miss that guy." He and his wife, Lynn, have a daughter, Alex, and two sons, Corey and Trevor.

Pastor Foster and his wife, Kimberly, have five children: Ellie, Ethan, Lucy, Charlotte and Jane.

Also recognized were 50 year and 25 year members of the church, along with Rev. Lori Stevens, who leads the music and children’s programs; Jim Tufford, Jr., who is the custodian after Jim Williams retired after 42 years; Joyce Marlatt, long-time church secretary; and Chasity Opphile, who leads the Meta Youth program.

The afternoon concluded with a dinner at The River of Life community center, which is part of Christ United Methodist Church.

Pastor Foster, a member of the 50-year committee, thanked other members of the committee, including Susan Little (chairperson), Kathy Ellis, Sandy Henry, Judy Mizer, Becky Seevers and Rachel Ann Sindlinger. He also thanked Charles Lenzo of Lenzo Photography for his work on pictures, directors, signs, cards and programs.