For the past 150 years, the United States has come together after a civil war, fought in two world wars, has experienced massive social change, and is now in the midst of a historic global pandemic, and through it all, the Church Forest Grove Christian remains steadfast.
This weekend, the congregation celebrates its 150th anniversary at the original shrine, where its ancestors worshiped during the inaugural service in 1871.
“It’s pretty amazing he’s been here for so long,” said church pastor Steven Moore.
According to “The History of Forest Grove Christian Church” by Eddie Palmer and Keith Crim, the church descends from the congregation of Old Stone Church, the place of worship used by the early 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 the current congregation is indebted to those who came before it.
“We as modern people today in the 21st century stand on the shoulders of great men and women of faith before us,” he said. “This church would not exist if it weren’t for those faithful men and women during all these years that went through the Civil War, World War II and Vietnam who continued to make faith a priority in their life.”
Moore and the congregation are leading the next generation by example as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve seen it obviously affect our congregation,” Moore said.
Attendance exceeded 100, but fell to between 50 and 60.
The congregation has taken the necessary steps to ensure their mutual safety by wearing masks during service and using technology to offer the service to those who wish to stay at 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 to the family atmosphere.
Dwyane and Ruth Mills have been members since the 1950s and said this is what favorite makes the church so important to them: “It has always been like family. If someone is in pain, we all come together to take care of each other.
One of the church’s oldest ministries, the Ladies Circle, still prepares food for families who have lost a young person just as they did when it started over 60 years ago.
Jim Lyles, another longtime 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 shrine.
“We actually started in 1955,” Lyles said. “My sister and I used to go there 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 times as a devotee.
“After our reopening in 56”, attendance exceeded 100 [people] for a long time. The church was very dynamic at the time, ”he said.
His wife, Mary Ann, also remembered the time as a time of spiritual liveliness.
“We had a lot of our congregation going to youth gatherings and doing good works in the community,” she said.
The same spirit is needed today.
“I hate to say it, but I feel like it’s almost like a post-Christian change in the world we live in; that’s why we think it’s so important to continue to be a strong force in this community because we think there’s still a real need for it, ”said Moore.
And with such an attitude, it’s easy to see why Moore wants the next 50 years at Forest Grove to be as memorable as his first 150.