By Sue Moore
Still serving the greater Vicksburg community, the Vicksburg United Methodist Church kicked off a year-long 150th anniversary celebration Dec. 1. The church is located in the heart of downtown Vicksburg at 217 S. Main Street.
“Church elders made a definite choice to stay in the village when both of the more recent renovations were voted upon,” said Vera Walker, co-chair of the year-long event with Aileen Greanya. “We want to be the community church for all to use for the many events that take place here. It might have been cheaper to build new outside of town. Instead we added to the sanctuary and built a whole new gymnatorium for the community to utilize.”
“Our morning service on Dec. 1 highlighted upcoming events,” Walker said, including a monthly hymn sing starting in January. “We have some kind of celebration planned for each month, with the highlight on July 19. It will be a big community celebration of ‘Christmas in July’.” This was an event started by Rev. George Stanford in 1948 that even caught the attention of national news services. It’s is being revived as a big community celebration in the church building. A special service, a picnic with games, entertainment and other events will mark the observance. All of the community is being invited for lunch which will include a walk through the building with explanation of the two additions featured on a history wall organized by Nancy Fulton.
There will be monthly and weekly news clips of the church history in bulletins and the Visitor, the church’s monthly newsletter. Features will also be located on the church web page and on Facebook. Fulton with help from Bonnie Holmes and Diana Girolami plan to produce a history keepsake booklet for each decade.
Dignitaries from the larger church will include Michigan Conference Bishop David Bard, speaking and re-dedicating the building on April 26, and District Superintendent Dewayne Bagley speaking on May 3. Past ministers have been asked to return. There are seven ministers and two associates still alive including Dave Morton, Myron Williams, Lowell Walsworth, James Hulette, Isabelle Deppe, Jayna Lynn Almeda, Larry Wood, Kay DeMoss and Buff Coe. No dates have been set as yet for these visits. A video is being put together of the history and memories and stories of older members. Travis LaPoint is doing this project for his Vicksburg High video class under the instruction of Troy Smith. A time capsule will be buried for future generations to retrieve.
The church doors were first opened on December 1, 1870. It is believed that services in Vicksburg by the Methodists first began about 1843. For many years they were held in the ballroom of the old Finley hotel. The decision to build new was made on April 22, 1869 at the current location. The frame work was made of hewn beams on a barn frame design and erected at a “public raising” in which men with pike poles put the frame work into position on the sills. When the steeple was ready for the spire, John Schlamb ascended the steeple and stood on his head on the foot-square area, thrilling an audience of townspeople with the “hair-raising feat,” according to an official history of the church in Fulton’s archives.