Fayette Christian Church celebrates 125 years of worship

Written by David Green.

By JEFF PICKELL

In 1882, a group of professors at Fayette Normal College began holding prayer sessions in the school chapel. The exact reason for this is a story lost to history.

What is known, however, is that by late 1885 or early 1886 so many residents were attending these sessions that the chapel was getting a little too stuffy for comfort. Congregation members undertook to build a new church, and on May 4, 1886, the building that was to be called the Fayette Christian Church was completed and dedicated.fay_c_of_c_interior

On Friday, the church will turn 125 years old, and the congregation will celebrate Sunday with an informal mass in which many church members will share stories and memories.

And what memories they are. According to church secretary Grace Sly, the Christian Church just might be the oldest church in town, though she acknowledges that the Methodist Church is getting up there in years as well.

The current church building was dedicated on Dec. 13, 1908, after the original was destroyed in a raging fire that took many buildings with it, said long-time congregation member Mildred Uhler.

This is also around the time the church’s many stained-glass windows were installed, thanks to donations from prominent Fayette families, such as the Gambles, the Hubbards and the Letchers.

The most prominent image—that of a young boy clutching a stone cross—is a depiction of Christ as a youth, said Grace. She learned this when she saw the same image in a Baptist church in Crown Point, Ind.

“I thought it was a unique image, but they must have shared ideas,” she said.

Still, the Christian Church boasts a unique and progressive history.

Fayette resident Bill Steinem, whose grandparents were charter members of the church, recalled how pastor Ada Hawley served proudly during a period in which pastors were predominantly men. Over the course of her stay—from 1921 to 1946—the Ladies Aid group developed into a strong organization, with as many as 36 women attending meetings.

While men provided maintenance work, it was the women who took charge of social events and fund raisers, Grace said. They took their jobs seriously, added Mildred, even going so far as to catch their own fish for the fish fries.

The women also organized Dutch markets at which homemade towels, rag rugs, quilts, and other crafts were sold. Also up for purchase was souse—or head cheese—a gelatin dish made from the head flesh of pigs. It is a favored treat among the Pennsylvania Dutch.fay_cof_c_construction

“It was delicious,” said Mildred.

Mildred and her husband Wayne joined the church in 1954 after another congregation member invited them. At the time, the church was trying to increase its membership to 200, but that’s not why the Uhlers joined. Up to that point, Mildred had attended the United Brethren Church in Munson and Wayne was attending Methodist services.

They came to the Christian church in order to share a common membership. However, they were not baptized into the church until at least 1959. Rev. James Osuga, one of the most popular pastors to serve at the church, officiated the ceremony.

Rev. Osuga—a Japanese American Sacramento, Cal., native—was both interred by the government during World War II and later drafted into active military service. He served in Berlin from 1945 to 1947.

Grace remembered the pastor’s tenor singing voice and his compelling sermons.

“I was just wonderful. Wonderful,” she said.

Rev. Osuga served during some of the church’s best years, but there were also down times. In the mid-1990s, for example, service attendance began to flag and children all but disappeared from the church, said congregation member Tom Spiess.

During a two-year search for a new pastor, Don Glasgow and Ed Bomlie helped to keep the church alive with interesting, compelling and humorous sermons, said Tom. In 1999, Mary Jo Bray accepted the full-time pastor position and began efforts to have an addition with new restrooms, an elevator and new offices built. She also worked hard to revive study groups and Sunday school classes.

The new wing was completed in 2001. Rev. Bray left last year, but attendance remains strong under pastor Gene Sugg, with 60 to 70 residents attending services each week, said Grace.

Of course, that number changes from season to season, she added. As one of the “older” congregations in town, many members fly south for the winter.

    – May 2, 2007
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.snake
    Lannis Smith of the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor shows off a python last week at Stair District Library's Summer Reading Program.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.rock Study
    ROCKHOUNDS—From the left, Joseph McCullough, Sean Pagett and Jonathan McCullough peer through hand lenses to study rocks. The project is part of Morenci Elementary School’s summer camp that continues into August.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017