Past members, pastors and friends will join the congregation at Firelands Presbyterian Church Sunday to celebrate 30 years of history and look to the future.
In 1980, two couples — Pat and Bud True and Betty and Sam Carter — met with officials to start a Presbyterian church in the area. The first service was held that year in the fellowship hall of Catawba Union Chapel on Porter Road. Two years later, on May 30, 1982, the growing congregation was chartered as Firelands Presbyterian Church and a tradition of dedication and community was born.
“I thought there must be something really wonderful happening here because there was no ambiance,” said Connie Brand, of the Union Chapel site. “It was just a room filled with enthusiastic people and this old record player.”
Throughout the years, that enthusiasm has helped the church to grow.
The congregation moved to a renovated barn on Sloan Road in Catawba in 1982 and four short years later completed construction on the current site, 2626 E. Harbor Road, Port Clinton. In 1999, an expansion was completed that doubled the size of the church. All thanks to the hard work and generosity of its members.
The land was donated by Kenneth and Jeannette Focht in memory of Philip and Margaret Freeman, Bill Koster offered up matching funds for the expansion in memory of his wife Marcia and later, a special loft was built with the help of Doug Focht for a Wicks Organ that had come from someone’s home. The stained-glass windows depicting the Nicene Creed were even made by 33 church members. Brand, along with Joan Moore and long-time Rev. Robert Butcher, came up with the design and helped lead the efforts.
“It makes you feel like you’ve left a legacy,” Brand said.
The legacy of the church as a whole extends far beyond the building.
“We initiated the Mobile Meals program in Catawba and Portage Townships,” said Butcher, pastor at the church for 24 years. “We started the Wide World Shop. We started the Vineyard on Catawba retirement community. We started the Musical Arts Series at Firelands. We started Firelands Day Care, which is currently the highest rated day care program in the county. We started the Firelands food pantry which to this day day provides food for a dozen families every week.”
In addition, the church is a site for the Summer Lunch Program and this weekend, will be the site for a celebration of past, present and future.
“I’m excited to have people come and see what vital congregation we are,” said Rev. Jeanne Gay, who has served at the church since 2009.
According to Gay, the 10:30 a.m. Sunday service will include former pastors and hymns written for the congregation over the years. After that, a potluck dinner and opportunity to share memories is planned.
“What I look forward to most at the anniversary celebration is seeing the people and sharing the memories of what we were able, by the Holy Spirit, to accomplish over those 24 years of my tenure as pastor,” said Butcher.
All are welcome to come out to the celebratory service at 10:30 a.m. Pentecost Sunday, May 27, to be followed by a luncheon at 11:45 a.m.