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New Martinsville church kicks off 126th anniversary with concert

The Townesmen Quartet will kick of the First Church of God’s 126th anniversary celebration with a concert on 7 p.m. Sept. 10. The free event will be held in the sanctuary of the church at 255 Russell Ave., New Martinsville. (Photo Provided)

NEW MARTINSVILLE — The First Church of God in New Martinsville will celebrate its 126th anniversary the weekend of Sept. 10-12 with several activities capped by a special worship service on Sunday morning.

The congregation was established through a ministry on the Ohio River. A boat, The Floating Bethel, went down the Ohio River conducting revival services wherever it could dock. One of those locations was in Proctor where a group of believers began Bible studies in homes, then established a church that eventually moved to nearby New Martinsville.

The congregation has changed locations a few times, including its current location at 255 Russell Ave. since 1983, but the heart of the congregation has remained for 126 years. The church is pastored by the Rev. Dan Betts.

“We know 126 is an odd number to celebrate, but COVID-19 prevented us from holding a big event last year,” said Amy Witschey, event chairperson. “So, we decided to do the next best thing, celebrate the 126th in 2021.

While COVID-19 is still a problem and organizers realize it may cause some people to stay at home or to wear masks, they hope many who have been touched by this congregation will celebrate with them.

“A church is a family, and, in my mind, this is like a big family reunion,” Witschey said. “We encourage many to join in the festivities and to share their memories and stories. We would love for people, particularly those who cannot attend, to send us an email with some of their memories at the church to firstchurchofgodnm@gmail.com.”

All are welcome to attend the events.

The weekend kicks off with a concert by The Townesmen Quartet at 7 p.m. Friday. The Townesmen was founded in Middletown, Ohio, over 50 years ago by four laymen in a local church to sing for their services.

A picnic will be held 4 p.m. Saturday under the church shelter. Attendees are encouraged to bring a covered dish and a lawn chair, with expectations to stay a while.

At 7 p.m. the gathering will move inside the sanctuary for a showing of “Heaven to Earth.” The movie was filmed in 1954 and talks about the beginning of the Church of God movement, particularly following D.S. Warner who had a firm conviction that believers simply need to acknowledge that they had been joined together by God’s gracious salvation, forming the true church. Following the movie, again by the shelter, will be a campfire, s’mores and a hymn sing.

Sunday morning, following Sunday School classes at 9:30 a.m., will include a special worship service beginning at 10:45 a.m. Some former pastors will be in attendance, special music and videos will be shared, and Dr. Larry McCallister, former pastor at the New Martinsville congregation, will be preaching a message from the pulpit.

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