Church marks 200 years in 2018

BRISTOLVILLE — Few institutions have been in existence for more than 200 years, but the Bristolville United Methodist Church at state Routes 45 and 88 is celebrating its bicentennial this year.

Pastor Shirley Stoops-Frantz, who is serving as the church’s interim pastor, said the 200th anniversary celebration is a year-long event, featuring four seasonal activities.

The community is invited to join with the congregation 10 a.m. March 11 as it remembers the past and looks toward the future with a special service. Guest speaker will be the Rev. Lea Mahan. Music of yesteryear and reminiscing time will be featured, as well as special music provided by Donna Berbig.

Following church, a social time will be held with a history timeline laid out, complete with many historical items displayed.

Stoops-Frantz said the church has had 68 pastors over the years. Stoops-Frantz came to the church in 1995 and retired in 2003 after 8 1/2 years as spiritual leader. She is now serving as interim pastor.

The first pastor of the church was a pioneer circuit-riding fellow by the name of Ira Eddy, who served the new church off and on for almost 40 years as it grew.

The Bristolville church began with only six members in 1818. Eddy served other churches in those days, including ones in Warren and Bloomfield and as far north as Painesville. In 1834, Eddy organized a “society” in Bristolville known as the Methodist Episcopal Church.

By 1845, the Bristolville church membership had grown to 113 and the need for a building was crucial. The church, patterned in architecture similar to a church in Bristol, Connecticut, was constructed at a cost of $2,500.

Stoops-Frantz said in 1947, the church underwent a major remodeling project, including excavating the basement, new heating and lighting systems and beautification of the entire building. The building was recognized as a historic building at the time.

On Feb. 9, 1951, just before a scheduled meeting of the women from five area churches for a World Day of Prayer service, the building caught fire. Despite the efforts of several area fire departments, the building was destroyed.

“The congregation and its leaders were reeling from the great loss, but it only took 27 months following the disaster to construct a new and more modern building,” said Stoops-Frantz.

The total cost of $55,000 to rebuild the church was raised with the help of many community members — most of them not of the Methodist faith — and numerous fundraisers.

Stoops-Frantz said the church underwent major building upgrades and improvements during the early 2000s and the trustees are in the process of once again updating and refreshing all parts of the church building. Included has been renewed landscaping, remodeling and updating classrooms, addition of new seating in the sanctuary and new tables in the dining room. In addition, the church has added a new digital sign that will share church news with the community.

She said on March 11, a tribute to the founding pastor will take place at 1 p.m. through a graveside memorial service at Eddy’s grave site in Edinburg. Following the social time, folks will carpool to the graveyard.

Church historian Mary Ann Raidel said there are plans for two more activities this year: a “Sounds of the Past” musical program with guest soloist on June 24, and a Homecoming Rededication Service on Oct. 28 during worship hour followed by a social gathering.