White Hall First Christian Church celebrates 140 years
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By Carmen Ensinger
Pews were packed Sunday morning, March 12, with members and guests celebrating the 140th anniversary of the formation of the First Christian Church in White Hall.
Thankfully, much of this history has been recorded over the years. Back in 1983, Kae Coates, grandmother of Church Secretary Anna Gansz, put together a history for the church’s 100th Anniversary.
This is some of what she compiled for their Centennial celebration.
On March 11, 1883, members of the Church of Christ living in and near White Hall had no physical church building to call their own. They were meeting at the Baptist Church, which was then located on South Main St.
The meeting on this date was with Elder W.S. Jermane to consider the advisability of organizing a Church of Christ. This newly formed congregation decided to accept the offer of the Free Methodist Church, located at 211 East Bridgeport St., and use its building as a regular meeting place to be held there on March 14, 1883.
Brother J.W. Miller of Martinsburg was called to serve as pastor and services were held every fourth Sunday from 1883 to 1886. During 1886 and 1887, Brother J.A. Berry, of Carrollton, preached every other Sunday. In February and March of 1888, Brother John Friend held a five week meeting during which time 62 were added to the church.
Brother H.G. Vandervoort was employed as minister at this time and preached every second Sunday for about two years. During his pastorate, the church increased in influence and usefulness. In April, 1888, he aided a group of 12 persons to establish the Christian Church of Roodhouse.
At a meeting held in the spring of 1891, 168 were added to the membership lists.
In 1898, the Ladies Aid Society, which consisted of about 15 ladies and their president, Sister Dunn, bought the lot where the church now stands at the corner of Main and Bridgeport streets. It was reported that this was largely made possible by a substantial donation of $100 from Edward North, who later donated another $100 to the building fund.
In the early years of the church when preachers were engaged every fourth or second Sunday, Elders John Dunn and Francis Fowler were credited with conducting services each Sunday “both instructing the church and conducting the communion continuously.” They were authorized by the church to solemnize marriages and discharge all other functions belonging to the ministers of the Christian Church. Early church ledgers list baptisms performed by ledgers.
A building committee was appointed in 1902 with Francis Fowler as chairman. Plans were drawn up by W.E. Pritchard, R.E. Pinkerton and O.A. Morrow and the project was approved.
Dedication services for the new church were held Sunday, Sept. 27, 1903 with Rev. L.L. Carpenter of Wabash, Ind. Preaching. The day was reported in the local paper as a “gala day in the history of the Christian Church of this city” and the church building was described as “a gem in symmetry of outline and harmony of proportion.”
In the early 1950’s, a movement began to purchase stained glass memorial windows and the project proceeded with Frank Hopkins as chairman of the committee. There were 18 windows installed which were gifts of families, individuals and groups within the church membership.
On May 20, 1973, during Rev. William P. Belko’s pastorate, the congregation approved plans for an addition. The program was completed in 1976 and added three classrooms, an office, an upstairs restroom and a large basement fellowship hall.
The following history was written by Anna Gansz, granddaughter of Kae Coates.
Just a little over 111 years after its creation in 1888, the Roodhouse First Christian Church shut its door for the last time in May of 1999 and the two churches merged.
Betty Benner wrote regarding the history of the church: “the history of this congregation will go well into the future. There will be NO END written to this church’s history. True, the congregation will no more meet in this building that has served it so well for so long. Each will be going out into the community to find a new church home.”
The White Hall First Christian Church was a new home church to several members, and as Betty wrote, there is no THE END because they continue to be a family of God.
Rex Beard became interim pastor of the church in November of 1997 and became pastor on Palm Sunday I 1998. During Rex’s leadership, he made the church into a family and opened eyes to see each other through Christ’s eyes, shaping and guiding the congregation to prepare for the years ahead.
On March 10, 2020, the congregation gathered together not knowing not knowing it would be their last in-person service for three months. Pastor Rex would continue services via Facebook. He would record and post his sermon for the congregation to watch from the safety of their homes. It wasn’t until June 14 that they were able again to come together to worship again in the house of the Lord.
Pastor Rex retired on Dec. 26, 2021 and in June of 2022, Chad Hoesman took to the pulpit as the pastor and he and his family have been a wonderful addition to the church.
“We feel that our church has been greatly blessed with Pastor Chad now leading us,” Gansz said. “He is offering his organizational skills to our already strong church family.”
The church offers Sunday School classes prior to Sunday morning services for both adults and children ages 2 through 18. Current leaders for these classes are: Ruth Bond, Debra Evans, Kathy Bridges, Dee Anna Darr, Julie Schutz, Aimee Ford and Mr. and Mrs. David Schutz. They also added a church secretary position which has been an absent role since 1996. Gansz accepted that role this past January.
“Within the past two months, we have had 37 new members join our church family and we have an average of 80 in our congregation on Sunday mornings,” Gansz said. “We have five Baptisms scheduled for this Sunday and anxiously await more in the future.”
The church congregation is active within itself and the community. Some of their events include: Mother/Daughter/Friend Banquet, Vacation Bible School, Lions Club Fourth of July Parade participation, Chili and Soup Luncheon, Operation Christmas Child Drop Off and Hanging of the Greens.
The Christian Women Fellowship groups, led by Ruth Bond, meet monthly and support numerous service projects.
“We continue to serve others through missions and outreach programs and through special offerings,” Gansz said. “Some of these include Operation Christmas Child, ROOTS, Living Alternative in Jacksonville and others.”
The children in the church serve as acolytes, greeters and ushers and are encouraged to regularly participate in worship services. Elders, Deacons and Deaconess of the church proudly pray over the offering and pass communion each Sunday.