Edinburg church to celebrate 178 years at homecoming

By Josette Keelor

EDINBURG — Edinburg Christian Church has enjoyed a long history in the community and this weekend has invited past and present members and families to help celebrate its 178th year homecoming.

Featuring music, a 9:30 a.m. worship service and an 11 a.m. catered lunch on Sunday, the homecoming at 210 Center St., Edinburg, will remember the church’s storied past and many changes over the years.

The most significant change will be felt as visitors enter through the sanctuary’s main double doors, which are original to the church but moved from their original locations. Now joined together in a marriage of hospitality, the doors used to be separate. Men entered on the right and women on the left, said the Rev. Charles Wood II. Inside, they sat on separate sides of the aisle, according to church historian, Connie Mantz.

“[It was a] very conservative, very strict, very precise church,” Mantz said.

Gender segregation continued until the 1920s or ’30s, said Wood.

But there were other changes, too. The tin ceiling artwork, originally multi-colored, was painted white by members who thought the depictions of nude cherubs vulgar.

“In 1888 the church split over the use of an organ in the church,” Wood said. “That was considered to be a saloon item.”

“That’s why even today you have some Christian churches [that] are non-instrumental,” he said. “They don’t have any organ or piano in the church at all.”

That’s not the case in Edinburg.

“We have a piano and an organ,” he added.

Member Sharon DiNardo agreed, “God, we love music.”

During that time, too, there was a Discipline Committee, Mantz said. The committee pursued any misgivings about members’ Christian behavior in their everyday lives.

“They would keep everybody in line,” Mantz said.

Said DiNardo, “I’m so glad we don’t have that now.”

With a membership of about 65, the church averages 30 to 40 churchgoers a week, mostly older members, said Wood.

“We’re like most small churches, we’re still struggling,” he said.

But the church has enjoyed a strong membership through the years, with families remaining through several generations. DiNardo recently remembered hers and Mantz’s family histories with the church.

“Her dad and my mom were the first ones baptized in our baptistery, back in, what was it, 1940-something? That’s when they put hot bricks in the water to warm it up,” she said. Now the full-immersion baptistry, located down a set of steps behind the alter, is heated.

Small, but mighty, the church also hosts community diaper bank A Small Hand in a building behind the church and recently served its greatest number ever — 186 families in one day.

“That’s 180 weeks of diapers,” DiNardo said. “… There is an incredible need.”

“When you serve 186 babies in one day, that’s a lot of babies,” she said. “… It’s a big, big thing for a small church.”

A Small Hand’s fall fundraiser, titled Give me Five, asks for 5 cents per donor to help buy diapers, food and other items for area families on the federal Women, Infants, and Children assistance program. As of Oct. 1 it has raised about $8,000, according to its website, http://tiny.cc/ccv5mx. The goal is $20,000 by the end of the year and $82,500 for next year.

The homecoming celebration will begin at 9:30 a.m. Sunday with a worship service and will feature organist Nancy Jean Tisinger.

The men’s chorus from Emanuel Lutheran Church will perform music, and afterward a meal catered by Creekside Catering will include door prizes and group pictures.

“We’re going to have a full day,” DiNardo said.

Contact the church at 540-984-8155 or A Small Hand at 540-933-6313 or http://tiny.cc/ccv5mx.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com