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Madras Christian Church marks 100 years

by: Submitted Photo - A 1948 picture of the old Madras First Christian Church.


   The Madras Christian Church will be celebrating its 100th birthday during the month of October, with visits from former pastors, special dinners and events, and displays of church memorabilia.
   A history of the church's beginnings, written by Edna VanNoy, notes a flood of homesteaders came to the Madras area in 1903. Among them was Christian minister Charles A. Sias and his wife Grace and family, who homesteaded on the Little Plains.
   "Mr. Sias was a true circuit rider, traveling on horseback, ministering to the spiritual needs of the communities of La Monta (Grizzly Butte), Hay Stack (Old Culver), and Prineville, holding services in the school houses where such buildings were available," VanNoy wrote.
   While in the area, from 1903 to 1905, Sias started the first Christian Church in Madras, assisted by Mr. and Mrs. Herman Curtis, Ora Rhodes, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Delano, and others. According to listings in The Madras Pioneer newspaper, Sias held regular services the second Sunday of each month, probably at people's homes.
   Baptisms were performed in Willow Creek and the minister's salary came from freewill offerings.
   A Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor was organized in 1906, the same year that Elder B.W. Bass, minister of the church in Prineville, began holding meetings at Davis Hall in Madras.
   "On Dec. 2, 1906, under the direction of Mr. Bass, a Christian Church organization was effected. J.W. Robinson and Ora A. Rhodes were chosen elders, W.A. Maddron, deacon, and Mrs. M.E. Percival, deaconess. The membership at that time was about 18. Mr. Bass preached for the Madras congregation on Monday evenings," VanNoy recorded. A Sunday school was also organized that year.
   The congregation met in many different places, including the Madras grade school, the White Elephant Saloon, the first Free Methodist Church, Davis Hall, Sanford Hall, Lock's Hall and the Odd Fellows Hall.
   But by 1908, the group wanted a permanent home and a building committee was appointed. A site was selected, but the project got bogged down during a year without a pastor.
   Under circuit preacher Elder Pitman, the group incorporated under the name of The Church of Christ on May 8, 1909, and the building project was revived.
   "The framework on the building was erected the week of May 27, 1909, with E.E. Echelberger in charge of construction. The lumber was hauled in wagons from Grizzly. Mrs. Pitman recalled that Mr. Pitman drove a four-horse team with two wagons tied together, she riding the second wagon to handle the brakes," VanNoy said.
   Construction continued slowly, hampered by lack of funds and two fires. The first fire happened during evening services in 1911 when a large hanging lamp fell, scattering burning oil all over. Luckily, the flames were quickly extinguished.
   That same winter, workmen left some oily rags on a pile of wood, and a blaze was noticed by a passerby. City volunteers put the fire out, but there was damage to the roof and interior. In May 1912, the damage was finally repaired and the church was dedicated. Circuit ministers were still used.
   Ladies of the church formed a group called the Bee Hive in 1913, which later became Ladies Aid.
   "In April 1914, a new heating system was installed, and an item in the newspaper informed those who had been staying away because of the cold, that they could now attend services in comfort," VanNoy wrote.
   The 1914 membership list included the names: Cook, Read, Locke, Percival, Snook, Osborn, Corwin, Ramsey, Hatfield, McCoy, Davis, Tucker, Robinson, and others.
   From 1915 to 1920, the church was without a minister, but many of the activities continued, with the ladies group having 40 members.
   Pastors came in 1920 and 1921, but then the pulpit was empty for 22 years. This was during a cycle of drought and crop failure and the start of the Great Depression. Many discouraged farmers abandoned their homesteads and moved away to look for work. The Sunday school and youth group managed to continue under the direction of Elizabeth Green, Lillian Watts, and Riley Cook until 1926, when the doors were closed.
   In 1944, pastor D.L. Penhollow helped reorganize the church in Madras, and also started the Harvest Ingathering tradition, in the same spirit as the Lord's Acre event he helped start in Powell Butte. A parsonage was built and choir started in the mid-1940s and membership doubled to 60 around 1952.
   Under Jack Naff's ministry (1957-64), the church's name was changed to "First Christian Church of Madras," Sunday school attendance was up to 275 and two church services were being held. The current building was constructed over the basement and dedicated on April 12, 1964.
   Subsequent ministers were: David Dunning (1964-68), Marion McQuary (interim 1968), Robert Gates (1968-71), Fred Hughes (interim 1971), Harry Atkins (1972-76) church mortgage paid off in 1973, Rodney Rogers II (1975-76), Ralph Holcomb (1976-78) Harvest Ingathering offering was over $11,000, and the church had nine students enrolled in Bible colleges.
   Interim Pastor Harry Atkins served from 1978-79, Jane Nesby (1979-82) church's 75th anniversary celebrated, David Dartnall (1984-85), David Fitch (1985-88), Raymond Helseth (interim 1989), John Crippen (1989-98), Glenn Bartnik (1999-2002), Ray Renzema (interim 2002-03), and the current pastor Walt Chamberlain.
   Pastor Chamberlain and his wife Susan are both native Oregonians who grew up in Cottage Grove. Their ministry in Madras began on Mother's Day in 2003.
   In the past three years, several projects have been completed to modernize the church building and the congregation has doubled in membership.
   Current services include Bible school for all ages on Sundays at 9:15 a.m., morning worship at 10:30 a.m., and a Wednesday evening meal and classes beginning at 5:30 p.m.
   
   Special events celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Madras Christian Church:
   Oct. 1 - Kick-off Sunday, with a potluck after the worship service, and former preachers returning to share their memories.
   Oct. 8 - Hot dog roast at 6 p.m., at Loyal and June Miller's home.
   Oct. 15 - Buckaroo Breakfast at 8 a.m., in the fellowship hall.
   Oct. 22 - Ice cream social at 6:30 p.m., at the church with a barbar shop quartet providing entertainment.
   Oct. 29 - Shari Dawn and Hosannah concert at the 10:30 a.m. worship, followed by the annual congregational meeting and Harvest Ingathering Dinner.
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