By Dixie Terry
The Vienna United Methodist Church has enjoyed weeks of celebrating the 175th anniversary of the founding of their original congregation.
The Pastor Joe Richard and member Marleis Trover have been the coordinators of the celebrations, “with lots of help from the parishioners,” they agreed.
The celebration began on Sunday, Sept. 24, with Pastor Richard’s performance of a new hymn, “Marching On,” to open the morning service.
That song captures the spirit of the church and highlights its scores of years and evangelism and community service.
In that same service, members Adam and Julie Hook, presented a historical dramatic reading as Mr. and Mrs. Edward and Hattie Moffell, from 1862.
The Oct. 29 celebration service, at 3 p.m., also opened with the new hymn, “Moving On,” accompanied by musical instruments and vocal music.
That same morning at the worship service, Pastor Richard recognized those members over 80 years old. The children of the church had created a name chain of paper, that included everyone present, and was displayed at the front of the church.
In the afternoon celebration, 13 young girls held a tea party, using American Girl dolls, each in an appropriate costume, and who represented well-known women through the 175 years of the church’s existence. Member, Mary Obourn, had designed and created most of the dolls’ ensembles. These were displayed, following the service.
There was then a session of memories of the church, by its members, friends and former pastors, followed by a praise hymn, “10,000 Reasons.”
The message was presented by Bishop William Lewis, who was a member of the former So. Ill. Annual Conference for 35 years, before his election to the episcopacy in 1988.
Lewis served several small churches in Union and Jackson Counties, while attending SIU in Carbondale, where he received an A.B. degree in 1953. He also attended Perkins School of Theology and Vanderbilt Divinity School, completing his masters in divinity at Drew Seminary in 1956, where he continued for one year in graduate study.
He then returned to Southern Illinois and was appointed to the Vienna Methodist Church, where he served in 1957-63. For two years he also continued his graduate studies at Vanderbilt U. and completed his Ph.D there in 1963.
Lewis is now retired and lives with his wife, Janet, in Edwardsville, where his primary goals are to “live to be an old man and enjoy our grandchildren.”
The closing hymn was “Blest Be The Tie That Binds,” followed by the benediction.
A birthday reception followed in the fellowship hall, featuring a selection of beautifully decorated birthday cakes.
A new logo for the church was designed earlier by Pastor Richard and created locally.
A history book has also been compiled by the pastor and members, that can be ordered, at $5, at the church, and will be available after the first of 2018.
Said Pastor Richard, “Vienna First Methodist Church is excited to celebrate our 175th anniversary. For 175 years, we have been sharing Good News of Jesus Christ in word and in deed, with our neighbors. We will continue to connect people to our loving Savior. We want to be a lighthouse of hope. We exist to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in Vienna in 1842 by a Dr. Stewart, a physician, who was also a Methodist minister. The group met in homes in those early years. The first pastor, Rev. R.E. Chase, was appointed in 1845.
The church was recorded as a part of a circuit in 1852, and in 1853, the Vienna church was listed as the head of a mission.
In 1859, a large two-story structure was erected on the present site of the First Baptist Church in Vienna. The second story was owned and occupied by the Masonic Lodge. The first floor was used as a Presbyterian Church, with privileges of worship granted to the Baptist and Methodist congregations.
By 1885, the Methodist membership had reached the point that a building was needed. A building committee included Dr. W.A. Looney, A.K. Vickers, F.M. Simpson and P.T. Chapman.
The first church structure was dedicated on June 3, 1891, and cost not less than $5000, with $2500 already raised, and an additional $765 raised the day of the dedication.
Circuit riders, including the well-known Peter Cartwright, were guest preachers in those early days. They and presiding elders and bishops stayed at the home of John and Winnie Bain. That home, located on 5th Street, would later be the home of the J.W. Reynolds family.
In 1892, the first Sunday School was held. The first ladies aid was organized in the home of Mrs. A.J. Kuykendall in 1885.
In the early 1890s, a hand-pumped pipe organ was purchased. Miss Ann Dwyer, a Catholic, with no church to worship in, served the Methodists as its organist.
The church belfry was struck by lightning in 1924, which started a fire and almost destroyed the building. The building was restored and used until 1941, when it was razed, and a new church was begun. It was dedicated on May 17, 1942, lighted by candles, since the wiring was not completed. Of course, the advice on how to start a church today would be to ensure the construction, electrical wiring, and infrastructure is all in place prior to its opening.
Many of the beautiful stained glass windows have been donated by the families of the original founders.
In 1962, an educational wing was added to the church, at a cost of $47,440, and was opened for use in October, 1963, with a dedication on April 19, 1970.
A number of renovations and up-dates have taken place, including a parsonage, a console organ, and re-decorations of the kitchen and nursery.
Many of the present members are descendants of the early Johnson County Methodist members.