ALGER — Sunday, members of Alger First United Methodist Church will be celebrating the church building’s 100th anniversary. However, the actual congregation had its start before the Civil War in 1850. According to a history written by Minnie Bloxham, “A few devoted, consecrated and godly neighbors met at the houses of James Preston and Thomas Clark and held prayer meetings.”
Bloxham’s grandfather, James De Lisle, was an itinerant Methodist preacher and would stop to preach in these houses to share with the small gathering of believers.
In 1865, the small group partnered with a United Brethren group in the area to build and share a log church. It was located at the crossroads of Ridge Road (County Road 80) and Ada Road (County Road 45) north of Preston Cemetery.
As the congregation grew, it was decided they needed a church building of their own. So, the congregation built what was known as the Kingsley Church. It was named for a Methodist bishop at the time.
In 1882, the town of Jagger — which is now called Alger — was laid out. In 1884, the congregation decided that the town needed a church. So, they moved the entire church building, transporting it across the frozen fields to Front and Place streets. It took six months to complete the move.
As the congregation grew and their needs changed, it was decided they needed a new building that would meet those needs. The current building, referred to in the church’s written history as the Brick Church, was built in 1915 and dedicated Jan. 9, 1916.
To celebrate this special milestone in the church’s history, there will be a special service and luncheon afterwards.
“The goal of the service is to talk about the church that started back in the 1800s,” said Connie Dyer, a 40-year member of the church and part of the planning committee for the anniversary. The committee, which consists of Dyer, Chuck Dixon, Kurt Engelhardt, Calvin Waugh, Cathy Vermillion, Diana Rowe and their current pastor, Andy Burns, started working on the anniversary in October 2014.
Dyer said the service will include special music and someone will play the built in organ. “It’s not normally played,” said Dyer, “as we don’t have an organist right now.”
Dyer added, besides special music and a reading by the youth, the Northwest Plains District Supervisor the Bishop Barry Burns will speak. There will also be missionaries that will be coming to speak.
“Our previous pastor, Calvin Waugh, is the one who really started our missionary program about 40 years ago,” said Dyer. “In the first 25 years of our mission conferences, we gave over a million dollars to worldwide missions.”
Alger First United Methodist Church runs about 60 on an average Sunday, and Dyer said they have given up to $55,000 in one year.
To help celebrate this special anniversary, one of the first missionary couples to be supported by the church is coming to speak, Don and Peggy Saum. In addition to the Saums, Waugh and his wife Pat will also be there.
“He has been on a lot of short-term mission trips, besides really starting our missionary program here,” said Dyer. “He’s sent people on at least 50 missionary trips.”
Tom and Sharon Crowe will also be there. The couple were originally members of Alger First United Methodist Church, and went for several shorter-term mission trips before going to stay in 1987 in Nyembo Umpungu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa through One Mission Society.
Over the years, Alger First United Methodist Church has supported both foreign and domestic missionaries. “Over the years, we’ve supported different projects like the Komena church in Africa, a Bangladesh school, and motorcycles and bicycles for pastors in Africa, India and Sri Lanka,” said Dyer.
Their current pastor, Andy Burns, continues to build on this legacy. The church also supports several local ministries such as Love Ink in Kenton, and they are in the process of building a community center right in Alger.
“We try to be good stewards of our community,” said Dyer. “Our motto is, ‘The church that cares.’ We are in the final stages of building the Neighbor to Neighbor Community Outreach Building here.”
Dyer said they have invited past ministers of the church, but she is unsure of how many are coming. They are expecting about 100 people to attend and hope for more.
As the church looks to the future, Dyer said that they have been trying to live out Scripture. “We want to live out Matthew 32: 37-38 about loving God and loving your neighbor,” she said. “That was our theme this year. What we want to do is to continue to make a difference in our community.”
For Alger First United Methodist Church that comes down to three things. “We went to be good stewards,” said Dyer. “We want to be helpful, and we want to make disciples.”