WATERLOO — The roar of sewing machines as Marian Cook and Judy McVey sewed squares of quilt fabric together didn’t drown out the laughter and conversation in the craft rooms of Central Christian Church.
Wendy Smith and Karen Hanson chatted and joked as they pinned a long border to a quilt top spread out on the table in front of them. At another table, Susan McGee, Carol Mayfield and Lani Yate sat, talking and working quickly at pinning quilt squares.
All are members of the church’s Sew What group, which meets from 9 a.m. to noon on the first and third Tuesdays. The group sews for charity. “The name came about because we never know what we’re going to sew next,” Mayfield said with a smile.
Cook, considered a Sew What quilting expert, happily shares her skills and techniques. “It’s fun to work with everyone. It’s more of a social time for me,” she said.
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For several years, Sew What has manufactured Days for Girls feminine hygiene kits for distribution to girls and women in underdeveloped countries and refugee camps around the world. In 2017, the group donated 300 kits. It was a worthwhile project, Mayfield said, and Sew What became known for its build quality.
But in the wake of the COVID pandemic, Days for Girls International was left with a stockpile of kits. Sew What turned to making quilts for hospice and cancer center patients and veterans, as well as making 70 or more dresses for the charity Little Dresses for Africa.
Reaching out to meet the needs of the community – whether across the street or halfway around the world – is a core tenet of Central Christian Church. The church, 3475 Kimball Ave., will celebrate its 125th anniversary on September 11. A special worship service and program will begin at 9:30 a.m.
“It’s an important anniversary – 125 years is a long time. For the past five months through August, we celebrated the anniversary by asking members to share their favorite memories and personal thoughts,” said Sharon Gatewood, 80.
As a lifelong member of the church, Gatewood knows the history of the congregation. The Disciples of Christ made several attempts from 1864 to 1896 to band together to start a church. In 1896 the Ladies Aide Society was successful, and in 1897 the Waterloo Church of Christ was incorporated.
In 1900, the first congregational tabernacle was built on Grant Avenue.
“People were getting baptized in the Cedar River,” Gatewood said. In 1904 the church was moved and remodeled to Locust and South Streets and became known as the Central Church of Christ.
The church moved to the corner of West Fourth and South streets in 1908, and in the 1920s it moved to the corner of West Fourth and Locust streets. In 1943 it became known as the Central Christian Church. As the congregation grew, the need for more classroom space became apparent. The Kimball Avenue building opened in 1964.
In November 2020, Reverend Anna Brewer-Calvert and her husband, Henry Brewer-Calvert, became co-pastors. Anna leads Sunday services, ministers to members, and leads educational programs. Henry leads programs for children and youth, helps with outreach efforts, and works as a bilingual patient care coordinator with VGM Group.
The couple began their ministry with online sermons and phone calls in the early months of COVID.
“It was a bit difficult to work with people without knowing them in person, but the members were welcoming and supportive,” Anna said. “We shared faith and inspired each other by reaching out to members every day,” Henry added. “The remarkable history and faith here is impressive and worth celebrating.”
There are about 100 members; 80 are active.
“Volunteering is important in our church. Our members are very community minded,” said Wendy Brudevold, a member of the church since 1969. Meals on Wheels, Newel Post, House of Hope and Pantries are among the organizations receiving support from members of the church. ‘church.
Music ministries are also strong, including the Handbell Choir and the Alleluia Choir. “There is always a high bar for music in church,” said Sharon Longhorn, who joined the congregation 50 years ago.
The gathering space on the west side of the building is the main entrance to the church. There are tables and chairs to sit and have a coffee, and the Crafters group sells crafts to raise funds. An elevator on the east side makes the building fully accessible.
The Small World Preschool is located on the lower level.
The Central Christian Church has also become famous over the years for “heaps and piles of chicken and noodles”. Church women began serving chicken dinners as fundraisers in the 1920s. The tradition remained, and for many years the church hosted the popular Noodle Nook at the National Cattle Congress Fair .
“It’s still a great tradition for us. Dozens and dozens of gallons of chicken noodle soup come out at our church bazaar. People are looking forward to this,” Gatewood noted.
This year’s Fall Bazaar will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on October 1.