First Christian Church in Dayton still hopping after 125 years

The original building was constructed for $1,400.

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First Christian Church of Dayton is celebrating its 125th anniversary today.

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A stained glass window adds to the beauty of the church.

DAYTON - In the early days of the First Christian Church of Dayton, frogs beneath the church sometimes added their chorus to the hymns of the faithful.

"It was difficult to tell which sang louder, the people or the frogs," someone recorded at the time.

The mill race that sometimes flooded the space under the building is gone, and so are the frogs, but the church remains and today will celebrate 125 years in the same building.

Although the church organization was first formed in Baileysburg, the First Christian Church of Dayton was organized on Feb. 8, 1886, and work began immediately to raise money for a new building.

The soliciting committee raised $200 and the church purchased the lot where the church stands today. A church member, Brother T. Dittemore, offered to pay for the lot and build the church, mortgaging the building until it could be paid for.

The building was erected for $1,400, with the first sermon preached by Brother Holman of Waitsburg. Part of the original building was incorporated into the present building, which was completed in 1908.

The first pastor of the church was J.B. Daisley, who also planted a church in Pomeroy.

The current pastor is Jim Edwards, who has been with the Dayton church since 2004.

When visitors and church members tour the church this afternoon, one of the features they'll notice are the four large stained-glass windows added around the turn of the last century.

The Povey Brothers of Portland crafted the windows at an estimated cost of $700. In 1984, the windows were appraised at a replacement cost of nearly $75,000.

Besides portraying biblical scenes and stories, the windows also contain more subtle symbols, according to a history of the church printed when the church observed its 100th anniversary.

The "Cross and Banner" window features a cross in the center of the window surrounded by a banner of victory, and by a crown of victory. The banner reads "blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God."

Two small windows on either side represent Greek letters "Alpha" and "Omega," which are used to represent the eternal nature of Christ. A dove inside a Star of David represents the Holy Spirit. The Star of David represents the nations of the Jews, or the people of God, according to the booklet.

This window was donated by the ladies of the church.

The Bible School donated the Good Shepherd window, which features a familiar portrayal of Jesus holding a lamb. The theme of the window is "suffer the Little Children to come to me." On either side of the central figure are a man sowing seed, and a man harvesting wheat, reminding viewers of the harvest of souls that Jesus foretold.

The panel above the main panel is capped with a picture of a road littered with a broken cross leading to the heavenly gates and a pillar of truth. Above is the heavenly city.

While the church has a history nearly as long as the community, it is active in modern times too.

The congregation joins with other congregations for Chicken Chapel at the Fairgrounds during the Columbia County Fair. Chicken Chapel is a non-denominational service held in the poultry barn at the fair.

Christian Church members also join with other churches for a sunrise service and breakfast on Easter Sunday.

Within the church, Sunday School classes are held from grades four to adult. The church annually hosts a Christmas Tea and a Sweetheart Breakfast, although the 125th celebration has edged out the Sweetheart event for 2011.

A youth group led by Justin Jording is popular with teens and middle-schoolers, according to church members Virginia Smith and Ilene Patrick.

Church members prepare baskets or love gifts at Thanksgiving, depending on the need, Smith said.

Smith, who serves as a deaconess chairwoman, said with about 60 active members, "We wear many hats." Smith is also editor of the church newsletter.

Patrick is deaconess co-chair and a Sunday school teacher. "Then we end up on numerous committees," she said.

When the church opened 125 years ago, there were 40 charter members, but a merger with the Baileysburg church brought membership to 123, Smith said.

Although the building has remained essentially the same since the older building was incorporated into the structure built in 1908, modernization projects have kept the building up to date.

The basement kitchen has been remodeled and changed several times, according to a history on the church website. Karl Croft made the last remodel mentioned in 1984. Major remodeling of the kitchen was completed in 1986. A handicap-accessible restroom was completed in 2004.

In the sanctuary, the ceiling was lowered and walls paneled in the 1960s.

Some of the early church furniture was made in Baileysburg, where a furniture factory operated for a number of years.

Carrie Chicken can be reached at cec@innw.net or 522-5289.

If you go:

The celebration begins at 10:30 a.m. with regular services at the church, 410 S. Third St., followed by an open house from noon to 4 p.m. A program at 5 p.m. will be followed by a catered dinner.

Those wishing to attend the dinner should make reservation by calling the church at 382-2330.

Other information about the church and its activities can be found at christianchurchofdayton.org.

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