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Two Wood County churches to mark milestones Sunday

The community is invited to join in the celebration of Vaught Chapel United Methodist Church’s 150th anniversary Sunday. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — Two local churches are marking a combined 225 years as part of the community, celebrating the past while looking toward the future.

Vaught Chapel United Methodist Church in Leachtown will hold special activities around its Sunday morning service in honor of both its 101st Homecoming and the 150th anniversary of the original church’s construction, while Broadway Church of the Nazarene will commemorate 75 years on Sunday.

Vaught Chapel was established in 1850 as the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, with services initially held in a log cabin along what is now W.Va. 47 and later in a nearby school. In 1869, the church was built by contractor Augustus R. Freed. Descendants of his family still live in the area, said Melinda Bailey, who grew up in the church and returned with her husband to her family’s farm upon retirement.

“The Freeds still financially support the church,” she said.

Additions were made in 1949, 1979 and 1995-96, expanding on the original building, according to a church history that will be distributed Sunday. Fixtures and features were added and improved over the years, often by members donating their time, talent and resources.

The church will celebrate its ‘75 years of missions and ministry’ on Sunday. (Photo Provided)

One striking element is the sanctuary cross, through whose golden, translucent surface sunlight shines in the afternoon. Its construction was supervised by Michael Stephens, in whose memory it was dedicated. Ed Sprout hand-carved the small crosses above the sanctuary doors.

Those contributions and more are recorded in the history, which also includes recipes from church cookbooks assembled in the ’60s and ’70s.

“We thought, well, coming home, you always want a home-cooked meal,” Bailey said.

On an average Sunday, Bailey said, “we pray for 30” people in attendance. Age, people moving away and hectic family schedules have contributed to the dwindling numbers.

But the anniversary celebration is not meant just for the members or to simply focus on the past.

This translucent cross was added to the Vaught Chapel United Methodist Church sanctuary in 1995. It is dedicated in the memory of Michael Stephens, who supervised its construction. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

“It’s a history of the community, really. Churches were community centers,” Bailey said.

“What we want to do is reach out into the community and get the community involved … or to revive the spirit of those who used to attend,” she said. “As we look backwards on the blessings God has given us, we also want to look forward on how we are to serve God.”

In south Parkersburg, starting as a tent revival in 1944, the church that would become Broadway Church of the Nazarene would occupy an old theater on Broadway Avenue and a small building known as the South Side Church of the Nazarene at the corner of Broadway and Ninth avenues.

The Rev. George Lily, a skilled mason, became the pastor in 1953 and set to work on the superstructure of a new building. The building, currently housing children’s church, suffered a fire in 1980 which prompted the building of the church’s current sanctuary, which was completed in 1984.

Beyond the buildings, longtime church members feel the successful ministries are the most important aspect as they work to uphold the mission statement of “Transforming everyday people into a community of hope in Christ.”

After meeting in an old theater, it was decided to build a basement church for Broadway Church of the Nazarene. (Photo Provided)

“We’ve always had an active children’s ministry since 1974,” member Pam Anderson Wilson said.

A bus ministry has also been in place for years to help bring kids from the community to church services. Other ministries focus on men, women and teens, working on several projects around the community. For example, the teen group recently painted a map of the United States on the playground at a local elementary school.

Mission work is also a large part of the church. Missionary trips have taken place to Belize, Peru and in all parts of the world.

The theme for the anniversary is “75 years of missions and ministry.” According to member Joyce Briles, “the Church of the Nazarene has a very strong global mission.”

Over the years, member Shirley Anderson feels that the growth of the church has been steady. Despite the number of people that come and go throughout the years, “it’s kind of the church that people do tend to come home to,” Briles agreed. “We are like family.”

The original Vaught Chapel United Methodist Church building off West Virginia 47 in Leachtown was built in 1869. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

In terms of the future, church members hope they can “help people to meet Jesus, know Jesus and serve like Jesus,” she said.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

Candice Black can be reached at cblack@newsandsentinel.com.

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At a Glance

A tent revival in 1944 was the beginning of the Broadway Church of the Nazarene. (Photo Provided)

Vaught Chapel United Methodist Church’s 150th anniversary

* Sunday at 11705 Staunton Turnpike, Walker

* 9:45 a.m.: Homecoming welcome

* 10 a.m.: Special music by Taj Rohr

* 11 a.m.: Worship

* 11:15 a.m.: Preaching by Pastor Brian Daugherty

* 12:15 p.m.: Blessing and dismissal to lunch

* 1:30 p.m.: Vaught Chapel slide show

* 1:45 p.m.: Special worship

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Broadway Church of the Nazarene’s 75th anniversary

* Sunday at 901 Broadway Ave., south Parkersburg.

* 9:30 a.m.: Sharing the Memories

* 10:30 a.m.: Celebration with Carla Sunberg, General Superintendent

* Noon: Banquet with Carla Sunberg

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