COOLVILLE- Nearly two centuries ago a small, log church was built where people from miles away came on foot to worship.
Today, 175 years later, that church still stands and is as active as ever in its small Ohio community.
The church has come a long way since the days of walking home from a service by the light of torch. And on Sept. 24-25 Torch Baptist Church will celebrate 175 years with a weekend of events, including music, food, speaking and worship services.
Torch Baptist Church as it is today. The church is celebrating its 175th anniversary.
This photo from the early 1900s shows a decorated sanctuary at Torch Baptist Church.
This photo from the early 1900s shows church members in front of Torch Baptist Church.
"We've probably been planning for almost a year now," said Debbie Kerns, 15-year church member.
The two-day celebration will begin at 10 a.m. Sept. 24 with games for adults and children alike. At 11 a.m. Heaven's Rush will perform. A picnic luncheon will follow around noon. At 1:30 p.m. Vanderhoof Quartet will perform and at 3 p.m. the Proclaimers will perform. Saturday's events will end at 4 p.m.
Events on Sept. 25 will begin at 9:30 a.m. with a morning worship service. Speakers will include P.J. Hodge and Richard Runion, both previous pastors of Torch Baptist Church. Also speaking will be current pastor Joe Law and Robert Cassidy, regional minister for American Baptist Churches of Ohio. There will be special music and a mid-morning break for coffee and doughnuts.
"We'll be presented with a certificate for 175 years," said Helen Sowards, life-long church member.
The church still remains in the original building that it was organized in in 1836, although is has had a few renovations over the years.
"In the last 25 years we've actually added a basketball court and a picnic shelter," Sowards said.
"And then we did a major remodel at the sanctuary," Kerns said. "It started in 1998...and we did a dedication service on June 13, 1999."
Like many churches over the years, the congregation size has fluctuated from large to small. Presently, the church has a congregation of around 50 members, but doesn't have many young members, a part of the church that Kerns and Sowards say is a goal for the future.
"We've had periods of growth and a lot of youth in the church and then it seems like a lot of the bigger churches went to more of a contemporary service; we have more of the older fashion service, which seems to be what older folks like," Sowards said.
The church has remained active in the community and around the world, including donating to the Salvation Army, Veterans Association, holding blood drives, lending home health care supplies, working with Good Works in Athens, an organization that provides shelter for the homeless, and Bless India, an organization that sends gifts to orphans in India.
"I'd say it's very mission minded- whether it be local mission or international missions," Kerns said.
The church sent out invitations and put up fliers to invite residents and other churches to come celebrate with them, although the event is open to anyone who wants to come and celebrate.
Pastor Joe Law said he looks forward to the weekend, but remembers the real importance of the celebration.
"Everything is for the glory of God, not for ourselves or recognition," he said.
As for the future of the church, he believes that it is in a good position now.
"I'd just like to see them continue the work that has been being done, and that future generations continue the work that God has begun in that community," he said.