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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: 100 years of worship

  • From conducting a marathon Bible reading to providing emergency classroom space, the Arma United Methodist Church has had a rich and vibrant first 100 years.  



    The church will celebrate its history on Sunday, starting with special services at 11 a.m., followed by lunch and a centennial program. Theme will be “Celebrating 100 Years  of God’s Love.”

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  • From conducting a marathon Bible reading to providing emergency classroom space, the Arma United Methodist Church has had a rich and vibrant first 100 years.  
    The church will celebrate its history on Sunday, starting with special services at 11 a.m., followed by lunch and a centennial program. Theme will be “Celebrating 100 Years  of God’s Love.”
    “This is not an ending celebration,” said Pastor Glen Duderstadt. “In many respects it will be a kick-off for the next 100 years.”
    He said that many previous pastors, or families of some pastors now deceased, will be attending.
    “We will recognize all former pastors or families, and all pastors present will participate in the worship service,” Pastor Duderstadt said. “We have a special  community prayer that will enable all pastors to participate. We will also highlight some history of the church in going through the service.”
    He said the congregation has been preparing for the celebration for the past 10 months.
    “We held a silent auction during the Arma VJ Homecoming to raise money for the dinner,” he said.  “Around 100 have RSVP’ed to attend.”
    Emma Lou Ales, a planning committee member, said that a traditional meatloaf dinner will be prepared.
    “The menu will also include scalloped potatoes, jazzed-up corn, hot rolls and birthday cake,” she said. “Members of the Northeast High School Chapter of the National Honor Society have volunteered to serve the dinner.”
    Pastor Duderstadt said that one candle will be lit for every decade of the church.
    Extensive research has been done on church history by  Linda Roberts and Ales, and a “Centennial Timeline” has been created. A display cabinet is being stocked with artifacts from the church’s past, and will include scrapbooks of clippings from the Arma Record and other sources.
    A special item from the present day is a letter from President Barack Obama congratulating the church on its 100th birthday. Pastor Duderstadt said he “made a few telephone calls” to arrange for the letter.
    Mrs. Roberts said that she spent 20 to 30 hours studying records on microfilm at the Arma Public Library.
    “There was a missionary outreach out of Pittsburg,” she said. “Missionary Pastor J. Kansas Morgan lived in Frontenac and was with the Pittsburg Outreach and visited small communities in the area. His greatest success, after being here a decade, was that he established a church and a building in Arma.”
    Morgan served Arma and other Crawford County communities from 1911 to 1917, but it took some research and thought to come up with a centennial date. The original trustees filed an affidavit on Aug. 14, 1912, and that date was chosen.
    “The land for the church was owned by William F. Armacost, and it was purchased from him on Sept. 12, 1912, for $1,” Allen Roberts said.
    Page 2 of 3 - Official charter of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Arma was filed April 15, 1914, for the sum of $2.50, and the first church building was dedicated on Jan. 17, 1915.
    “I have never figured out where they met before the building was finished,” Mrs. Roberts said.
    Her husband, Allen, believes the congregation met in private homes or public buildings.
    “It was inspirational how these poor, hard-working mines had the foresight to build the church, then expand and improve the sanctuary,” Mrs. Roberts said. “We have had some wonderful people, and we still have some wonderful people.”
    She said that Sunday school attendance was around 106, sometimes higher.
    “One of the biggest problems was having enough Sunday school teachers,” Mrs. Roberts said. “Another problem was muddy roads, which could keep people from getting to church.”
    The church had a ladies aid society and a Welfare  League of Arma for men and boys that was concerned with ideas for community betterment.
    The Arma church has had 27 pastors so far, and Mrs. Roberts and Ales are establishing a portrait gallery in the church basement.
    “One photo I found in the Arma Record, and one was from somebody’s wedding photo,” Mrs. Roberts said.
    The earliest photo is of Robert B. Alexander, who pastored the church from 1949 to 1951.
    He was the one responsible for  a Universal Bible Sunday Marathon Bible reading of the New Testament on Dec. 10, 1950. Alexander also had readings  at churches in Arcadia, Mulberry, Englevale, Cockerill-Foxtown, Crowburg and Camp 50.
    “I took part in that reading,” Ales said. “I remember I wore a white robe.”
    According to press accounts, there were 72 readers who each read for 15 minutes. They sat on a throne that was designed by Eugene DeGruson, Camp 50, a Pittsburg State University freshman who went on to become a noted area historian, poet and curator of  Special Collections at  Axe  Library, PSU.
    “The reading started with a breakfast at 2 a.m., and went  on for 19 hours,” Mrs. Roberts said.
    Another interesting event in church history happened from December 1971 to spring of 1973, when the church hosted several elementary School classes. Ales, who was a teacher, remembers that, too.
    “The students came to school that day and couldn’t get in because the doors were locked,” she said. “The fire marshal condemned the school building.”
    Two fifth grade classes met in the church basement, and the first floor was used for kindergarten class.
    The church name was changed from Methodist Episcopal Church of Arma to the Arma United Methodist Church on Sept. 14, 1973.
    Sunday will not be the only day of celebration. Church members are also being asked to submit personal memories of the church, and Ales vows that the search for pastoral portraits will continue.
    Page 3 of 3 -  There will also be an outreach to the community in conjunction with the centennial.
    “We’re also going to be announcing on Sunday that we’re going to collect 100 items for the Northeast Elementary School and we’ll also be doing 100 hours of community service not related to the church,” Mrs. Roberts said.

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