By Melissa Rollins, Editor, email@example.com
For one hundred years, First Church of God has been part of the Darlington community. On Oct. 21 and 22, the church is celebrating those 100 years of God’s blessings and is inviting the community to join them.
Centennial Committee Chairwoman Judy Tyner said that once the church realized the monumental anniversary they were approaching they began to make plans to celebrate.
“We just think it is such an important milestone for the church, being established in Darlington and being part of the community,” Tyner said. “We want to celebrate what all God has done for us, and the blessings throughout the years; we are still here because of his blessings. Through God’s leadership with different leaders, we’ve gotten to this point. This celebration is really just to honor him.”
The church currently sits at the corner of Smith Avenue and North Main Street but that is not where the heart of the ministry started.
“We started as a group, maybe not recognized by Anderson, Indiana (the home base for their denomination) as First Church of God, back in the early 1900’s,” Tyner said. “We just started through cottage meetings in homes and then grew from there: from homes to a store, to the Liberty and Orange Street Church to here (on N. Main Street).”
Several community members hosted meetings in their homes, including a member of Tyner’s own family.
“My great-grandfather had meetings at his house,” Tyner said. “He is one of the names mentioned in the history of having meetings in the homes before the storefront.”
The store the church met in was provided by John Elihu Stokes and sat at the railroad crossing on Phillip Street. It was there in 1917 that the congregation was recognized by Church of God (Anderson).
Stokes later provided the land at the intersection of Liberty and Orange Streets where the first church was built. The congregation moved there from the storefront in 1927.
The church moved to its currently location in the 1960’s, holding its very first service on July 5, 1969.
“We plan to unveil a commemorative monument at the Centennial Celebration because we realized that there is no true cornerstone,” Tyner said. “We have lasted so long because we are reaching out to the community, being a part of the community, seeing what the community needs are and trying to meet those needs. That is part of our mission, to try to reach out to others. That has always been a part of who we are. We had the bus ministry; we had a daycare at one point in the church. Each different pastor has had their goals but within those goals it has always been how can we reach people for Christ. In fact, on our commemorative monument we chose The Great Commission as our verse.”
Even as the church celebrates its centennial, the congregation is celebrating a new season with Alan Waibel, their new senior pastor. Waibel and his family moved from Denver, Colorado, starting at their new post on August 1.
“I definitely felt like God was leading me to come to Darlington,” Waibel said. “The church we were at was going through a senior pastor change. I was the associate pastor and I really felt like God was calling me back to the senior role so I was kind of seeing what was out there. This church came along and it just felt like the match for me and my family.”
Waibel and his wife Christina moved with their children Isabelle and Anthony Thomas.
As senior pastor, Waibel said that he has a vision for the ministry God has given him at First Church of God.
“Our vision is ‘Transforming Lives With Jesus at the Center,’ Waibel said. “Our goal is to see people meet Christ and that when that happens their entire life is transformed. Getting Jesus to be the center of their life is a life-long process.”
Waibel said that his vision was something God had given him and that it matched perfectly with the vision of the church.
“That was what God had placed on my heart,” Waibel said. “As we came in, sharing that vision with the church, that felt like where they were at too so it just worked together.”
The Centennial Celebration will start at 4 p.m. October 21 with a short history of the church, singing and a meal.
The Sunday service will start at 10 a.m. and include an unveiling on the commemorative monument, with lunch following. Centennial committee member Debbie Anderson said that everyone who has ever attended the church or been part of their ministries is invited to celebrate with them.