The Newton Church of the Brethren, 520 Columbus, is planning a party — one that comes once a century.
The church will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its charter as a Church of the Brethren congregation. The celebration will get started at 9:45 a.m. Oct. 1 at the church.
"We are not sure how many will show up that day," said long-time member Evan Johnson. "We will have a pretty good dinner that Sunday, and have a time for reminiscing that afternoon."
At 9:45 there will be a hymn sing. A special worship service will follow at 10:45. At noon there will be lunch, and at 1:30 there will be a time for celebrating the congregation's history and for participants to share memories. J. Roger Schlock will review the worldwide work of the Church of the Brethren.
As early as 1903 a movement began among Church of the Brethren persons to begin church gatherings in the city of Newton. The movement gained strength until a mission church was established in 1905; a church building was purchased from the Episcopal Church in 1912 and relocated to 10th and Oak in Newton. In 1917 the group petitioned for membership as a congregation of the area District of the Church of the Brethren and was accepted into full membership. Small church groups in the area (Royer Community Church and rural groups in Walton and Peabody) eventually became part of Newton Church of the Brethren.
That building has since become a Church of the Firstborn, as the Brethren chose to move to their current building in 1967.
Johnson was attending at the time, though he says not regularly. He remembers church leadership telling parishioners that they could build a new facility for about $55,000 on land the church already owned. At the time, the church had a garden in the 500 block of Columbus.
At the time, there were fresh memories of flooding in the area of the church — in 1965 Newton suffered its costliest flood, a deluge of water caused more than $2 million in damages in the area of 12th and Main. At that time the Sand Creek Watershed had not been built to help control flooding on Newton's north side and the congregation chose to move.
Present members who were part of the congregation when the building on Columbus was dedicated in 1967 include Neva Riley, Doris Bazil, Cloyd Thomas, Carol Thomas, Carolyn Johnson and Evan Johnson.
Today the church has shrunk, and the congregation has aged. Evan Johnson and Cloyd Thomas told The Kansan there few, if any, children in the church.
"We sure know that logically, we need some younger people to come in and take over," Thomas said. "I was a younger member when I joined, and I am 77 now."
The church does not have a full-time pastor but continues to move forward.
Currently, Kenneth Davidson preaches once a month and serves as Minister of Visitation. A number of persons share the preaching, including Anita Christian, Pam Schrag, Monica Rice, Shawn Flory Replogle, Brenda Hogan and Roger Juhnke. The current church board consists of Cloyd and Carol Thomas, Dale and Beverly Minnich, Treasurer Evan Johnson and Board Chair John Rhodes.
The gardens that were there in 1967 are still there, now a community garden watered with a well obtained by grant a few years ago. Current ministries include a local food bank, meals for the local homeless shelter, the ministries of the Western Plains District, McPherson College, ministries of the Church of the Brethren and opportunities to reach out to local needs.
"The main thing that keeps us going is a positive attitude," Evan Johnson said.