Advent marks the beginning of the new year for many churches, but it will also mark the 190th anniversary for Wellington’s First United Methodist Church.
Services for the milestone will be held Nov. 27, the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, and an open house will take place Saturday, Dec. 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., where residents can take a tour and learn about historical aspects of the building.
“It’s hard to pinpoint the exact date the church opened in 1826, so we just always go with Advent for our anniversary,” said pastor Paul Wilson. “We’ve been celebrating for most of this year. Every church service we start off with someone sharing a story about their involvement in the church or something that’s touched them like a child’s baptism.”
He took over as pastor from Lea Mahan in 2012 and said roughly 60 pastors have passed through the church since its opening.
There are approximately 300 members of the congregation with Sunday attendance usually falling around 100.
The original wooden structure erected in 1826 was replaced by the current sanctuary in 1868, with the last major addition happening in 1878.
Large sliding wooden doors now used to enter the sanctuary were hidden behind walls until being discovered in the 1960s. The pulpit and altar still used today were installed in 1893.
Seven years ago, the church raised $300,000 for the construction and placement of a new steeple.
Besides those changes, new windows, and various improvements to keep up with electrical and safety codes, the building has remained largely untouched, Wilson said.
“There is still a stone outside in our garden that was used for dismounting carriages,” he said. “People just pulled right up and there it was to step out on. There are many similar stones lining country roads in the area. They’re just hard to spot unless you know what you’re looking for.”
He mentioned work the church has done to help the community, such as raising $1,000 for a wheelchair ramp at Trinity United Methodist Church in Mansfield four years ago and a continued relationship with Flat Rock Care Center in Bellevue, which opened as an orphanage in the 19th century before becoming a home for adults with mental challenges in the 1960s.
“The generosity always stands out to me around here,” said Wilson. “We decided to make the wheelchair ramp a Christmas present to them. A contractor had quoted them $7,000 to put it in, but our church spent $1,000 for materials, put together a crew, and went out and built them a ramp. Literally half of their members couldn’t get into the church without a ramp.”
“Our youth ministry goes out to Flat Rock often,” he said. “They’ve named us as their missionary church of the year on at least one occasion since I got here. A big part of our story is reaching out and helping our neighbors.”
Events are also held at First United Methodist for Well-Help as well as the Wellington Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts. Wellington High School students stop by for “hangouts” in the church’s basement after all home football and basketball games.
Today, plans include the construction of a chapel located on the building’s north side that will be accessible at any time and possibly a new elevator.
“Housing Well-Help and the Scouts makes it easy for us to pitch in during their collection efforts,” he said. “Our plans for the future are to basically continue to be a lighthouse for the community and help in any way we can. One hundred ninety is a nice even number but we’ll be ready for the 200th anniversary too.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise First United Methodist Church’s Sunday services on Nov. 27 will mark its 190th anniversary. An open house will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3.