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.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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