Margaret Stadden has been a United Brethren member for 75 years, and at the same church: Pixley UB in Pixley, Calif. That must be some kind of record. On January 12, Margaret turned 100 years old, and the church honored her life, longevity, and service to the congregation.
Margaret became a member of Pixley UB in 1943 shortly after becoming a farmer’s wife and moving from Corcoran, Calif. Her three children, Karen, Richard and Julie, grew up in the church. Margaret was mostly involved in Christian education–Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, and youth ministry–and held various offices in the local Women’s Missionary Association.
Margaret is a renowned cook; her baked goods have won prizes at the Tulare County Fair. She remains mentally sharp and active, continues living in her own home, and until recently, drove herself to church on Sunday mornings. More recently, she is only able to attend when one of her children brings her.
“Margaret has always been loving and supportive of me and my family,” says Rod Bittick who has pastored Pixley UB since 1985. “She has always been a supportive church member and personal friend to Melody and me, someone we can always rely on for emotional and spiritual support. Margaret is a remarkable woman, and it is a great honor to be her pastor.”
The Garnett UB church (Garnett, Kansas) closed as of December 31, 2017. The building is being sold to another church in town that needs a building. For 2016, the church reported an average attendance of just 6 persons, with 16 members.
On Saturday, December 16, Pastor Randy Magnus conducted the funeral for Marie Savaria, 62. He had never met Savaria, and she had never attended his church, the Roseville UB church in Ayr, Ontario. It’s quite a story.
Savaria, a former nurse and hospital manager from Kitchener, Ontario, was on her way to visit her mother in a nursing home. About a month earlier, she had blacked out while at home; she had a medical scan scheduled on December 12 to determine what might be going on. Now she blacked out while driving. As she fell unconscious, her foot pressed the accelerator. The Nissan Rogue SUV swerved into a ditch and then went airborne, crashing into the side of the church at over 60 miles per hour.
Chris McElroy, the church janitor, was standing on the church stage about five feet from where the SUV hit. He ran outside and helped pull Savaria from the smoking car, which had fallen atop his own car in the church parking lot. She died in the crash. It was about 2:00 pm.
Now for the uplifting part.
Savaria’s daughter, Kelly Henderson, flew from her home in British Columbia to Ontario. She wanted to see the crash site, so a police officer drove her to the church on December 10. The congregation was having a fellowship time after the worship service. Pastor Magnus and Wilf Witzke, who witnessed the crash, went out and spoke to them, offered comfort, and prayed with them.
Magnus said, “I told them the whole church family was hurting for them and wanted to help in any way we could, even with the funeral.”
Henderson had feared the congregation would be upset. Instead, the congregation rallied around her with support, prayer, and tears. Anderson said amidst her grief, “If it had to happen anywhere, I guess I feel blessed that it happened at a church with people who are so loving and supportive.”
Since the family had no church connections,Henderson asked Pastor Magnus if he would preside at a celebration of life service for her mother. He gladly agreed. He was able to spend time with the family, hear many stories of Marie’s life, read Scripture with them, and pray for them.
Over 200 people attended the service on Saturday, December 16. Several family members spoke about Marie, and Randy shared some stories he’d heard about her. “I was also given the opportunity to talk about heaven and share the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness and the hope that Christ came to bring us with the largely unchurched crowd. We pray that the Lord will bring fruit from seeds that were planted.”
Henderson also asked that memorial gifts for her mother be channeled to the Roseville church—a church her mother, a non-practicing Catholic, had never attended. The funeral was held on Saturday, December 16.
Said Magnus, “It’s almost like God put us together so we could be there to help each other. For a life to be lost is way bigger than bricks and mortar.”
The church started out in 1881 as a Lutheran church, was sold to Methodists, and ended up in United Brethren hands. When the crash occurred, the congregation had just completed $10,000 of renovations. The crash caused way too much structural damage. The impact transferred through the platform to affect the far wall, shifting both the north and south walls off the foundation. Construction engineers said the foundation would need to be rebuilt, but doubted that the church would gain approval to rebuild in the same spot, since it was located so close to the road.
The practical solution is to demolish the existing sanctuary and rebuild elsewhere, perhaps on the same property. Fortunately, insurance will completely cover the loss. A building committee has already been established. Said Magnus, “We have been feeling the need for a larger sanctuary for years, but felt like we couldn’t afford to build it. It feels like God is using this tragic accident to open new windows of opportunity.”
Seven churches in the area offered to share their facilities with Roseville UB, but that won’t be necessary. They set up 130 chairs in the fellowship hall, located in an undamaged Christian education wing built in 1974. They will hold services there until the new building is ready.
Magnus: “The whole church family rallied together the day after the tragic accident to move everything we could from the sanctuary to the fellowship hall and decorate for Christmas. It was very warm and cozy as the church family gathered to celebrate Christ, grieve our loss, and pray for the family of Marie Savaria, whose loss of mom/grandma is so much greater than ours. Also, we have been so blessed by our seven churches in the area offering that we could worship in their facilities, though we won’t need to.”
He added, “I’m so proud of our people and their attitude and approach to the whole situation. We believe the church is more than the building, it is a group of people who believe in Jesus living out their faith by loving each other and those around them. It’s great to see everyone pulling together, encouraging one another, and especially reaching out to total strangers with the love of our Savior.”
Franklin UB Church (New Albany, Ohio) just completed an interesting outreach. Associate Pastor Mike Burtnett explains:
“For the past six months, people brought 300 jars of peanut butter to the church. These jars were donated today [September 18] to Lifeline Christian Mission, which will use the peanut butter to feed hungry people in Haiti and in other places too (they told me that some jars might be sent to Texas to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey). Lifeline’s partner churches use food distribution as a means to share the Gospel and to disciple local believers.”
The folks from our Faith UB church in Port Orange, just south of Daytona Beach, spent Thursday preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Irma this weekend. Josh McKeown, who has been on staff at the Daytona UB church, has just been appointed by Bishop Todd Fetters as senior pastor of Faith UB.
CrossLife Church will launch at 10:30 a.m. this Sunday, September 10, in Columbia City, Ind. A celebratory dinner will follow the service. Crosslife is a relaunch of the former Eagle Quest UB church, which was founded in 1997.
A series of difficulties placed Eagle Quest Church in crisis status in 2016. Rev. Teddy Fairchild was stationed as interim pastor that summer to restructure and rebuild. Through twelve long months of substantial change and hard work, the congregation worked toward a spiritually, administratively, and relationally healthier future.
Preparations for the Grand Opening have included improvements to the church facility and a massive promotional campaign in the community. Says Fairchild, “We are ready and positioned to hit the ground running Saturday, September 9, with our Community Presence Day. We have permission to take over a local park and pour into our local community. Then follow that up with our Grand Opening Sunday with a lunch to follow.”
Infused with a fresh sense of life and eager to re-engage with the community, conversations of re-launch and name change began among the revitalized congregation. Fairchild was formally stationed as the senior pastor and worked in partnership with denominational leaders to prepare for a re-launch.
Fairchild shared the vision behind the re-launch. “CrossLife developed from the desire to live for more. We know life is busy and messy and hard, and a simple one-hour church service isn’t going to fix that. People need more than clichés that crumble under the pressure of real-world problems, and Christ opens the way for the kind of meaningful, purposeful living we crave. That’s the message we want to live out on a daily basis in the Columbia City community.”
Teddy and Sarah Fairchild, and their two children, are joined by associate pastor Jason Haupert and his wife Tonya and two children. Jason was among those ordained in July 2017 during the US National Conference.
Crosslife is located at 1120 N. State Rd 109, Columbia City, Ind. 46725.
Dillman Church in Warren, Ind., has undergone an extensive sanctuary renovation. A public dedication service and open house will be begin at 9 a.m. on Sunday, September 10. Bishop Todd Fetters will give a brief dedication message, and Pastor Matt Kennedy will then speak on the future of Dillman Church.
Following the service, at 11 am, a community Open House and Celebration begins with a hog roast lunch, bouncy house, dunk tank, and other outdoor games and activities for the whole family.
Changes to the sanctuary include expansion of the blueprint to include seating for 200+ people. Movable chairs will make the space adaptable for things like an open area for children’s programming or the inclusion of tables for small conferences. New carpet and lighting have been added, along with new audio-visual capabilities.
The sanctuary renovation is the first major renovation of the sanctuary since it was repaired after a storm in 1948. “The goal of this renovation is more than just modernization,” says Pastor Kennedy (right). “With the changes that have been made, we are equipped for future growth in order that we might meet the needs of both today’s and tomorrow’s generations and better serve the surrounding community for many years to come.”
Dillman Church was established in 1889, and the sanctuary was dedicated on December 22 of that year with Bishop Milton Wright. In 1907, the structure was remodeled and included the installation of new flooring and roof as well as the rebuilding of the pulpit platform. A dedication service for that remodeling was held on November 3, 1907. In 1955, a basement and new entrance were added to the building, as well as a new indoor restroom. An extension that included a fellowship hall, kitchen facilities, and restrooms was added in 1977. Classroom space and church offices were added on in the mid 1990s.
Dillman Church is located at 8888 S 1100 W-90 in Warren, IN 46792.
On Saturday, February 25, a few hundred children, parents, and coaches came to the closing celebration for Upwards Basketball/Cheerleading at Hillsdale UB church (Hillsdale, Mich.). Jenel Stelton-Holtmeier of ACE (Attitude/Character/Enthusiasm) Basketball and her children performed a number of stunts using multiple basketballs that delighted adults and children alike.
This is the 8th year Hillsdale has hosted this national program. Team practices began after Thanksgiving, and games were held each Saturday in January and February This season over 170 elementary age children took part.
In early February, Bishop Todd Fetters, National Ministries director Mike Dittman, and Global Ministries director Jeff Bleijerveld visited three United Brethren churches in Illinois.
Their first stop was Claytonville, where six met at the church for a carry-in dinner. This congregation has been ministering in this community for more than 100 years. Joseph Abu, a Sierra Leonean who now pastors a UB church in Philadelphia, served this rural church as a student pastor in the 1980s. Hazel McCray, executive secretary of the Women’s Missionary Fellowship 1977-1993, came from the Claytonville church.
The next day they traveled to Rockford, Ill., where they met with 19 persons from the Kilburn Ave. and Coleta churches. In both meetings, they shared our three enduring commitments: Gospel, Unity and Mission. They also heard from those attending what they were celebrating and how they were being challenged.