COLUMBIA CITY — The Columbia City Church of the Brethren celebrated the completion of its 3,727-square-foot addition last Sunday at the church, located at 112 N. Washington St., Columbia City.
The building has been at the corner of Washington and Jackson streets since 1886, four years prior to the completion of the Whitley County Courthouse. The building was the original First Church of God building and was sold to the group who began the Columbia City Church of the Brethren in 1961.
Ever since 1961, the Brethren talked about the possibility of a new space or at least more space. Over the years, the church purchased houses adjacent to the church on the south and east, eventually razing each house as indoor and outdoor space needs arose. The last wave of conversations about constructing a new building or adding on to the current facility began 17 years ago, in 2000.
The need for more space has been obvious.
“Classes were meeting in the old parsonage on Jackson Street, as well as in both church offices and even the balcony,” said Pastor Dennis Beckner. “With the two-story addition, we have six new classroom spaces, an infant and toddler nursery, full-size kitchen, larger fellowship hall, handicapped accessible sets of restrooms on each floor, two offices, storage areas, a baptistery and an elevator.”
The church has seen growth in all areas of ministry, doubling worship attendance since Beckner arrived in 1999.
The dedication service included a variety of short reflections from several speakers. Those sharing include current members of the church, from charter member Ruby Sherman to Jeff Copp, who was licensed to the ministry by the church and then pastored Church of the Brethren congregations in Indiana and Pennsylvania for nearly 40 years before returning to the congregation. Other speakers included Bill Brumbaugh, who served on most of the building committees the past 17 years, and Mary Helfrich, who came to the church as a child when her father was called as pastor. Also speaking are youth and young adults who have grown up in the church like Sherri Sims, Connor Ladd, Eric Yager, Deanna Beckner and the service’s youngest speaker — sixth-grader Joel Yager.
Steve VanHouten will also be sharing his memories. VanHouten was only a child when the Church of the Brethren took over the building in 1961. He went on to become a pastor in Church of the Brethren congregations in Ohio, Virginia and Indiana. He currently serves the Pine Creek Church of the Brethren near North Liberty.
The morning worship service was also held around the theme of dedicating the new space.