by Brent Hovey
Aurora -- The local United Methodist Church has always thought of itself as a small church, but May 20 its congregation celebrated in a big way.
The members marked the church's 50th anniversary in what the Rev. Dr. Rosa Clements called "a wonderful, exciting celebration."
"It was such a good weekend, a festival," she added. "I thank God for it."
The celebration got under way on May 18 with a dinner at the Aurora Golf and Country Club and concluded May 20 with a worship service and reception.
The special weekend brought former pastors to the church. Speaking at the banquet were the Revs. Don Kraps, David Bucey and Jack Schierloh. The latter was the first pastor in 1957-58.
The Rev. John Bailey and the Rev. Calvin King also made their way back to town for the May 20 service.
"It was really neat to see some of the old pastors come back, especially the first one," said Clements.
"He said he had just graduated from the seminary and didn't really know what he was doing when he got here. But the people here were so nice they helped him through it.
"Kraps was very good and had a very inspiring message on how far the congregation has come."
Aurora UMC was founded in 1957 with 41 charter members. Today, only two charter members are still alive -- Anne and Harold Hartman of Townline Road. They attended the celebration.
In 50 years, some 1,495 people have been members of the church. The current number stands at 191, which Clements said has held steady over the years.
Clements noted people join the church for two reasons.
"For some, the Spirit led them to join us," she said. "And the other reason is because the church is so friendly and loving and kind to people. They can feel it when they walk in the door, and that makes a difference."
A little bit of history
Aurora UMC started at the Aurora Inn, then moved to the gymnasium at old Aurora High School (Craddock) before finding a permanent home in May 1962.
The church is situated on 10 acres on Route 43, across the road from Barrington Estates and Golf Club. The land was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Durning.
The sanctuary was dedicated for worship on Nov. 4, 1962, with membership at 152.
The church was expanded in 1998. In 2005, an anonymous member paid off the mortgage.
Clements said those are the kind of people who attend the church -- very generous ones.
"The church has never gone over 200 members, but what they do in the community is so much for a small group," she said.
There are a handful of ministries at the UMC. Members volunteer at the Portage County Food Bank, donate a lot of food each month, adopt a family or two at Christmas, and donated several thousand dollars to flood victims in New Orleans and southern Ohio.
And each year, members go on a mission to West Virginia to rebuild homes. In addition, ministry projects include Boy and Girl Scouts, the Take Off Pounds Sensibly group and Alcoholic Anonymous.
"We give a lot and God gives back to us and helps us stay afloat," said Clements.
"It speaks volumes to the type of Christians we are -- willing to share what they have with others. When you come to this church, you know you've been touched."
Some final thoughts
Sunday's service was highlighted by District Superintendent the Rev. Larry Marshall delivering a message as the bell choir and chancel choir performed.
"The people were really excited," Clements said. "There was an air of excitement."
At the reception, scrapbooks and exhibits of old photographs drew attention, as well as the first membership book right beside the current one.
"To watch the faces of those looking through the scrapbooks was wonderful," Clements said. "You wouldn't believe the displays; they were so wonderful.
"It was a weekend of re-flection and saying 'thank you Jesus' for all that God has blessed us with.
"This is a fairly young church but God has been with it and He will continue to bless us. I believe blessings come simply because they are givers and share the graces and gifts God has given to them.
"You don't need a whole lot of people to do good things -- just good people."
Phone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3115