Still standing: Forest Grove Christian Church commemorates 150 years this weekend
Published 5:44 pm Thursday, December 9, 2021
In the last 150 years, the United States has reunited after a civil war, fought in two World Wars, seen massive social change, and is currently enduring a historic global pandemic, and through it all, Forest Grove Christian Church has stood resolute.
This weekend, the congregation celebrates its sesquicentennial in the original sanctuary, where its ancestors worshipped at the inaugural service in 1871.
“It’s quite amazing that it has been here this long,” said the church’s pastor, Steven Moore.
According to “The History of Forest Grove Christian Church” by Eddie Palmer and Keith Crim, the church is descended from the congregation at the Old Stone Church, the house of worship used by the original settlers of Fort Boonesboro.
After World War I, declining attendance and dwindling financial resources caused the congregation to meet infrequently until 1956.
Moore said he knows that the current congregation is indebted to those before them.
“We as modern people today in the 21st century, we stand on the shoulders of great men and women of faith before us,” he said. “This church wouldn’t be in existence if there wasn’t those faithful men and women for all those years who went through the Civil War, World War II and Vietnam that continued to make faith a priority in their lives.”
Moore and the congregation are providing an example for the next generation as they wrestle with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have seen it obviously affect our congregation,” Moore said.
Attendance used to be over 100 people but has fallen to between 50 to 60.
The congregation has taken necessary steps to keep each other safe by wearing masks during the service and using technology to get the service to those who wish to stay home.
“We have worked hard to continue to get the message out through Facebook and our radio station,” Moore said.
Moore belonged to larger congregations for most of his life. That changed when he and his wife, Amie, moved next door to Forest Grove in 2016 and were drawn in by the family atmosphere.
Dwyane and Ruth Mills have been members since the 1950s and said that is what favorite makes the church mean so much to them: “It has always been like family. If someone hurts, we all pitch in to take care of one another.”
One of the church’s oldest ministries, the Ladies Circle, still prepares food for families who had lost a young one much as they did when it started over 60 years ago.
Jim Lyles, another long-time member, first walked through the doors in the mid-1950s when the church temporarily halted services. A group of people often gathered to sing in the sanctuary.
“We actually started in 1955,” Lyles said. “My sister and I would go over when they opened once a month. We would sing songs together.”
When the church reopened the following year, the occasion ushered in one of Lyles’ favorite periods as a congregant.
“After we reopened in 56’ attendance was over 100 [people] for a long time. The church was very vibrant during the time period,” he said.
His wife, Mary Ann, also recalled the time as one of spiritual vivacity.
“We had a lot out of our congregation that would go to youth rallies and do good works in the community,” she said.
The same spirit is needed today.
“I hate to say it, but it feels like it is almost like a post-Christian shift in the world we live in; that’s why we feel it is so important to continue to be a strong force in this community because we feel there is still a real need for it,” Moore said.
And with an attitude like that, it is easy to see why Moore wants the next 50 years at Forest Grove to be as memorable as its first 150.