MACEDONIA -- As toddlers in the 1940's, Gail Holbrook-Exton and Althea Marquardt recall worshipping in a church with an old coal furnace and drapes that pulled around to make a classroom for Sunday school in a building that was built in 1911.

Though it was founded a century and a half ago in 1866, the first Methodist church building was erected in Macedonia in 1891. Before that, the congregation met in a building near the former Macedonia Village Hall. The original church building burned down in 1910, according to the 1951 church messenger, which said the fire started in the furnace on Easter Sunday.

"Morning services were interrupted, but there was no panic as the organ continued to play," the messenger stated. "Both the church and parsonage were destroyed but not until the congregation had carried out the pews, carpeting, chairs and pulpit."

The items were stored and saved to be used in the church that was built in 1911, along with the original bell. All but the carpet were still in use at the time the messenger was printed in 1951.

"We worshipped there until Macedonia started growing by leaps and bounds in the 1950s," Marquardt said. "The population exploded, the church had no room to expand and parking was treacherous because it was on both sides of Route 82."

According to Bessie Gooseman's History of Olde Northfield Township, a new church was built in 1960 on the land today's church stands on. The land was sold to the church for $1 by Philip Haymes Sr. just down Route 82 from the old church. Rev. Maynard French was the pastor at the time.

Since that time, Holbrook-Exton said the church grew "by leaps and bounds" again and a new sanctuary was built to the front of the building and the former sanctuary has been named the Holbrook room.

The Holbrook room was named after Holbrook-Exton's father, Henry, because he did much for the church. He was an usher at most services, he was the janitor, and when the church needed an organ he bought it, according to Gail. She said he did whatever needed to be done around the church and was nicknamed the "Saint."

Rev. Russ Ham, who has been with the church since 2011, said the congregation is very active with outreach.

"One of my first memories was asking for winter coats for the homeless and I expected to maybe get six or seven total," Ham said, adding he was surprised when congregants turned in that many by the end of the campaign's first day. "As a church we feel blessed with what we have, but this congregation is very generous in giving to others when aware of a need."

To celebrate the 150th anniversary, a celebratory service will be held May 21 at 10 a.m. with former pastors of the church returning and music that had been written by church members for the 125th anniversary, 25 years ago. Additionally, the church is calling on the congregation to support mission challenges. One of the first ones was to provide 150 cards to students in Zimbabwe, one of the church's focused mission areas, along with Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Other challenges include collecting 150 jiffy mixes for the Open M ministry in Akron, collecting 150 toys to send to village children in Sierra Leone, which Ham said the church has greatly surpassed and will be sending an entire shipping container of supplies overseas.

Another challenge issued to the congregation was to report 150 random acts of kindness. Ham said everyone does little things throughout the day, but he wants to share them by having the congregation write them down so they can be displayed.

The church has always prided itself on being part of the community. According to the old church messenger, it's a tradition that dates back to at least the 1920s when "Sunday school picnics were a community affair with as many as 200 being present of all ages and faiths."

Marylin Walko, a church member since 1969 and anniversary committee member, said the church is very friendly, spirit-filled and welcoming.

Holbrook-Exton echoed Walko's point of view adding, "the church is the people."

While the buildings may have changed, the people, have stayed the same and are welcoming and spirit-filled.

The church offers two Sunday services. Ham said the 9:30 a.m. service is more traditional with hymn music and the sermon is delivered in a more traditional manner. He said the 11 a.m. service is more modern with a "praise team" or band, with more visual effects. Sunday school classes are available for both children and adults, along with mens and women's retreats, and numerous other programs.

For more information about the United Methodist Church of Macedonia visit www.umcm.org.

Briana Barker: 330-541-9432

bbarker@recordpub.com