Clarendon UMC Concludes Centennial Celebration


(Saturday, November 18, 2006 7:17 AM EST)

Things come and go over the course of a hundred years, but Clarendon United Methodist Church has endured. The church has just wrapped up its centennial celebration.

Clarendon United Methodist's history dates back to creation of a Sunday school in 1901. Five years later, it became a full-fledged congregation, located on North Jackson Street.

The church grew rapidly over the years, which made it necessary to relocate in 1923 to the corner of 10th Street North and North Irving Street. In 1941, the congregation moved to its current home in Ashton Heights.

Members of the church credit Clarendon United Methodist's longevity to its ability to hold onto existing members, while also attracting new followers.

“Over the years, we've had people get involved in the church and stay,” said membership secretary Trudy Ensign. “We have a lot of long-term members.”

A lot of the church leadership's energy and resources are devoted to programs for younger members, because they're the future, said Cecil Corry, the church's business manager and treasurer.

“We've tried to accommodate the growth and interest of young people,” Corry said.

Such programs and efforts include youth groups, Bible studies for members in their 20s and 30s, children's bell choir, cherub choir for younger kids and informal and contemporary church services.

Attracting young families is also a priority, so the church hosts activities for parents that are also child-friendly.

Today, younger members feel comfortable at the church, because older members - some who have attended since the 1940s and 1950s - are very welcoming, said young-adult leader Kristen Vibbert.

“The church is special, because there is a personal connection that goes back decades,” she said.

With the addition of a new elevator in the 1990s and renovations to the front entrance in 2001, the church building has maintained a fresh feel.

Members of the congregation commemorated the anniversary throughout the year with monthly decade-themed meals - one for each decade of its existence. And they completed anniversary celebrations with a centennial tea and special worship service the weekend of Nov. 18-19.

Even though the current pastor, Rev. Gene Thomas, has only been the spiritual leader of the church since June, he said he recognizes how valuable the church is to the community, and wants to continue reaching out.

“Clarendon United Methodist Church is the centerpiece of Ashton Heights, and it has been that for a hundred years,” he said.

Through worship, preaching, communion and baptism, Thomas said he hopes to attract “disciples of Jesus Christ” to the congregation.

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