Morenci 1st Congregational observing 150th 8.13

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

The year 1858 was an important one in American history. As the nation’s second gold rush got underway, Fifty-Niners began streaming into the Rocky Mountains, just a decade after the massive surge into California—Pike’s Peak or Bust.

Charles Darwin announced his theory of evolution and the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable connected the United States and Great Britain. A contingent of pro-slavery forces committed a massacre in the Bleeding Kansas incident, and three months later, the series of Lincoln-Douglas debates got underway.

In Morenci—a young community only 25 years old—1858 was an important year for a couple dozen residents. Many of them were making the long trek by horse and buggy to Medina for services at a Congregational church.

A decision was made to start a church in Morenci and a council of ministers and delegates was called on March 17. By the end of the day, the deed was done. The First Congregational Church of Morenci had become a reality.

The church covenant started with these words: “We are banded together as a Christian Church to maintain the worship of God, to proclaim the gospel of Christ, to develop in men a consciousness of their relations and duties to God and their fellow men, and to inspire in them with love for truth, passion for righteousness, and enthusiasm for service.”

Members met in other churches and buildings for 13 years until construction  of a church building began in 1871. The interior layout then was much different than what worshippers see today.

Buggies pulled up to a wooden platform on the west side. Passengers disembarked and entered the church through the gothic doors on the south, on Locust Street.

The pews faced north, just the opposite of today’s arrangement, however, a choir platform was in place where it stands today. The congregation turned and faced the choir when hymns were sung.

In 1923, church members voted to remodel the interior and at that time the pews were turned to face the south. A balcony was built and a new entrance was constructed along Summit Street. A new pipe organ was also installed.

In 1955, when the organ was in need of repair and interest was expressed in making it powered by electricity, Dr. and Mrs. James Blanchard bought a Hammond electric organ to replace the pipe organ.

The congregation approved a major building project in 1961 that added a large meeting area, education rooms, an office and a kitchen.

In the church narthex, or entryway, the original pewter Communion service is displayed in a case, along with other memorabilia from the past.

In 1957, the Congregational Christian Churches joined with the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ. Morenci’s church joined the union in 1961 and remained for four decades. In 2001. members voted to return to the National Association of Christian Congregational Churches.

Celebration

A 150th anniversary service is planned at 10 a.m. Sunday. Dr. Jack Cahill, Morenci pastor, will present a message highlighting many years of church service.

Special music will be presented by church organist Sybil Diccion and former member Sylvia Sims will present a vocal solo. Former choir members will be invited to join together to sing two hymns and piano solos will be presented by Chloe and Kyla Molitierno.

Invitations were sent to many former church members and more than 120 present members and guests are expected for the special service and luncheon.

Historical items and photographs will be on display and guests will have the opportunity to reminisce.

  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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