Centenary United Methodist Church is celebrating 100 years of ministry in the heart of Bonne Terre. Two days of events will mark the milestone Aug. 3-4.
“Our church building at 20 Park St. was completed in 1919 and we held our first worship service there in March of that year,“ said Dave Wiant, Centenary pastor. ”We thought it was a great reason to celebrate.”
The church was born in 1882 and known then as the Methodist Episcopal Church South of Bonne Terre. The exact location of the first church building isn’t known, but the current church is just west of the lot where the pastor's home was built around 1889.
To celebrate 100 years of ministry from that location, the congregation is hosting a community festival from noon to 8 p.m. on Aug. 3. It will feature games, food, tours and displays of church memorabilia. There will be a concert that night at 7 p.m. by the Mark Roach Band.
“Sunday, Aug. 4, we will have worship in a tent behind the church at 10:30 a.m.,” said Linda Sowers, choir director and a leader of the planning committee. “We’ve invited former pastors, members of the choir and former members to participate.”
After worship, there will be a barbecue lunch in the Cornerstone, the ministry center adjacent to the church.
Leading up to the celebration, the church is posting Centennial Moments about its history on the church’s Facebook page and sharing them in worship on Sundays.
“I am learning so much about this church my family has been part of for seven generations,” said Kristen Klein, coordinator of the Centennial Moments. “The church was built in 1918 at a cost of $12,000 and that would be close to $1 million in today’s money.”
Though the church has been renovated and redecorated several times since its construction, there are touches of history throughout the building. The cross on the sanctuary altar was donated by Han Schantl, a member of the building committee in 1916 who was later president of the Missouri Illinois Railroad. Stained glass windows throughout the building were donated and one in particular sets the church in history.
Church historian Sue Wilke said, "It’s a World War I doughboy and the inscription reads ‘This window is placed in this house of worship in honor of the boys of this congregation who are now serving their country that the world may be safe for humanity.”
A bell from 1886 is on the front lawn. A monument outside honors Chuck and Grace Lewis, church members who were murdered in 1993. In Centennial Moments, people have shared their memories of the Lewises and other members who live their faith through service at Centenary.
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For example, Lois Pratte, a longtime member, recalls her memories of Dollene Alexander who she said, “...lived and breathed Centenary."
Pratte said Alexander would always ask “What do you want me to cook?” for church events.
John and Marilyn Jenkins served God through Centenary all their lives.
“When they died within hours of each other in 2015, we celebrated their lives in a funeral together, just inches from the pew where they’ve been regular worshipers for about 70 years,” said Chuck Hubbard, a member of the planning committee.
The Facebook page showcases church family history, like a picture of the 1948 wedding of Firmin and Shirley Newcomer, the altar dedicated to Lloyd Jones in the prayer chapel made from wood on his farm and the church youth choir from 1993.
"The theme verse for our celebration is Psalm 100:5,” said Wiant. “The verse reads, ‘For the Lord is good; his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.’ We believe that perfectly describes why we are celebrating.”
With a current membership of around 300, the church reaches out to the community every Sunday with two services. There is a contemporary worship service at 9 a.m. in the Cornerstone and a traditional service at 11 a.m. in the sanctuary. Cornerstone Cafe welcomes diners from 5 to 6 p.m. every Wednesday for a free meal provided by the church.
T-shirts, mugs, notecards and even a Christmas ornament will be available for sale at the celebration Aug. 3-4. The church will continue to mark the milestone for a year afterward by engaging in 100 acts of service.
“We will be looking for projects we can tackle to continue to reach out to the hearts of Bonne Terre with the love of Jesus Christ,” said Patti O’Connor, service committee chair.
For more information about Centenary Church and its 100th celebration, call the church office at 573-358-2238.