Christ Methodist Church of Newcomerstown, Ohio is the result of a merger of Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church and College Street Methodist Protestant Church.
Trinity Methodist Episcopal church was organized in 1830. Rev. Donahue was the first pastor of this newly organized church. Since they had no established place of worship, they met wherever possible including in homes, barns, or schoolhouses. In 1835 Conrad Miller deeded a lot to the congregation and one year later a church building was completed. Trinity’s church building was on the corner of Church and River Streets. A new building was built in 1867 on the same site.
Records from that period are interesting. For example, in 1867 Dickerson Moore was pastor. His salary was $550 per year with $140 for traveling expenses. Membership records were candid in explaining why people were dropped from the membership. Examples include: “Not worthy,” “Neglected public worship,” “A man addicted to drink-fallen again,” “Neglects the means of grace,” and “Whaled his wife and ran off.” A quarterly report given on June 22, 1884, revealed a total membership of 97 in the Sunday School with an average of 48 and 8 teachers in attendance. The total collection for this quarter was $41.42. Trinity’s later records show that by 1945-46 the average attendance was 200.
In 1916, the building committee of Thomas J. Shannon, Samuel Rush, John W. Ley, John Hinds, and F. L. Euga added to the frame building of 1867 and covered the entire surface with brick. The new church was dedicated on March 12, 1916. The minister was H. F. Patterson. The Queen Esther Class was organized in this same year.
The College Street Methodist Protestant Church was formed in 1843 and was the first building erected on Canal Street. It stood where the present post office is located. Records indicate that in 1866 the congregation was considering raising funds to build another church. However, this suggestion was shelved temporarily and the building they had was equipped with new underpinning, a new roof, and new seats.
Even after these upgrades, a new building would be needed. The secretary’s minutes of 1878 disclose, “The necessity of such an undertaking [building a new church] grew out of the fact that a comparatively large and somewhat pretentious church edifice had been built in such proximity as to overshadow the humble structure in which the society of the M. P. Church held worship.” This annoying church, holding services at precisely the same hour was the Presbyterian Church. So, the congregation moved to the corner of Canal and College Streets. This church building was dedicated in 1879 by Rev. S. A. Fisher. The cost of the building, including the furnishings, was about $4,500.
In 1955, this building was almost demolished by a tornado, and the congregation was forced to move to other quarters. Following a period of indecision, they purchased the old Touraine Club building for holding worship. This building was located where the Ohio Department of Transportation building north of US Route 36 is today. When US-36 was built, ODOT purchased the land, and College Street church was forced to look for a new location. During this time College Street church meets in a school building.
College Street Methodist Church and Trinity Methodist Church merged on March 6, 1966, under the name of The Methodist Church of Newcomerstown, Ohio. The first vote of the membership of the churches did not pass the merger, but after further discussion, a second vote passed.
At the time both churches had concerns about their buildings. Trinity Church’s building was too small for the congregation. College Street Church was without a permanent building. Both churches brought useful property to the merger. Trinity Church had built a new parsonage in 1960 on Beaver Street and in 1965 College Street Church had purchased a 3.62-acre tract of land on Oak Street for construction of a new building.
When the merger of the two churches occurred, Rev. W. A. Hewitt was the pastor of College Street, and Rev. Edwin F. Eshelman was the pastor of Trinity Methodist. Both pastors were retained as co-pastors and served the combined congregations until July 1, 1967, when Rev. John P. Benson became the new pastor. The original part of the present church building was constructed during his pastoral tenure. Ground was broken for the new building on Father’s Day, June 16th, 1968. The cornerstone of the sanctuary was laid on October 10th, 1968. The building was finished and consecrated on Mother’s Day, May 11th, 1969.
It should be noted that in 1968 when the United Brethren Church denomination merged with the Methodist Church, the church name was changed to Christ United Methodist Church to distinguish it from other United Methodist churches in the Newcomerstown area.
Rev. Benson served until July 1, 1973, when Rev. Ray Snyder was appointed to serve the church. Rev. Snyder had the longest tenure as pastor 17 years. Rev. Ray’s services were often enhanced by his many musical talents. His wife, Ann, led a large Sunday School class filling the Fellowship Hall. In 1988 a mortgage-burning ceremony was held to commemorate paying off the original building debt. In January 1991 long-time church secretary Iris Fruchey retired and Joyce Marlatt was hired.
In February 1991 Rev. Gary George and his wife, Lorraine, began ministering in Newcomerstown. At this time the Super Wednesday program began. Each Wednesday evening a meal was prepared, small groups met, and church meetings were held. During Sunday morning worship “Kids’ Corner” was held regularly. The Annual Carnival also began a community outreach program with free games, prizes, and fun that continued until 2016.
In July of 1999, Rev. Steve Sparling and his wife Terri came to Christ UMC and the church took on a new mission statement: “Knowing Jesus better, and making Jesus better known.” At this time the church began a vigorous building expansion project, adding the River of Life Community Center gymnasium for contemporary worship, sports, and large gatherings. Also added were the Wesley Auditorium, the youth room, exercise rooms, and a new covered entrance for the sanctuary with handicap-accessible restrooms. Associate Pastor Ron Little was a great help at this time. Sunday Movie Nights and Christ’s Kids afterschool program were established as outreach ministries. The church also established its’ Cuban mission connection with Pastor Jose’s church in LaCarlota, Cuba.
In July 2007 the congregation welcomed Rev. Russ Ham and his wife, Lynn. New outreach programs included the He-Brews Coffee shop and Christ’s Kitchen, which was held at Dick’s Place and later moved to the church. This outreach was based on a need for a place for people of the community to gather and eat a free meal in an atmosphere like that of a restaurant. With the help of Associate Pastor Derek Hickman, the youth program (later called Meta) became a community wide program with students from 5 area churches participating. A Youth Praise Team was also formed.
Rev. Larry Hukill came to the church in July 2011. He and his wife, Susan, actively participated in Christ’s Kids, Christ’s Kitchen, and the River Ringers Bell Choir. Susan led several Beth Moore Bible studies with a large attendance from the church and the community.
Rev. Bracken Foster and his wife, Kimberly, came to our church in July 2014. From January through April of 2017 Pastor Bracken was gravely sick with histoplasmosis and was unable to fill the pulpit or perform his church duties. The church rallied together holding many prayer vigils. Bracken’s return to good health was truly a miracle. During Bracken’s sickness, the Conference provided retired pastor, Rev. Craig Redecker to fill the pulpit. Rev. Lori Stevens, a deacon appointed to lead music and children’s ministries, stepped up to help with the daily pastoral duties. In 2018 the church received 1.2 million dollars from the Vernon and Edith Lee Trust, which the church voted to use to retire debt from building additions. The custodian of 42 years, Jim Williams, Jr. retired in 2018. Recent years have seen the establishment of new small groups and Bible studies along with the great growth of the Meta Youth program led by Chasity Opphile.