church is as strong as the dedication of its congregation.
For Freetown Church of Christ, that faithfulness has remained solid for 100 years.
Russell Fritz, an elder who has been a member since 1947 when he was 12, said a lot of that has to do with what the ministers have presented to the people.
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“I think for that to happen, you have to be teaching what the Scripture says, and that’s not the norm today necessarily,” he said. “I think that the people are really hungry for what the Scripture has to say. It’s a little harder in this day and age to do, but God’s word still works. The Scripture says, ‘God said his word would never pass away,’ so if you’re teaching it like it is, then longevity should be there.”
The church celebrated its 100th anniversary May 17 with a former minister speaking, special music and a pitch-in meal.
The original building was established on the third Sunday in May 1915 with 27 charter members. The congregation grew, and the church was remodeled and expanded in the 1950s.
The building reached a point of disrepair, and church leaders felt an expansion was needed. It could hold only 125 people.
“They say when you get two-thirds of your capacity, then you’ve got to do something,” Fritz said.
A construction project began in August 1968 on a new building north of Freetown on State Road 135. The property was donated to the congregation by the Chadwell family.
The brick building included auditorium seating for more than 250 people, classrooms, a library, an office, a kitchen and a fellowship area. It was dedicated on homecoming Sunday, May 18, 1969.
Just more than six years later, on Dec. 27, 1975, a mortgage-burning ceremony was conducted.
Construction on a new parsonage began in the fall of 1972 and was completed a year later. All of that labor was donated by the congregation; and at the time of completion, the church was debt-free.
An addition to the church, providing additional classroom and fellowship area was completed in May 1982, and it was paid off two years later.
In 1999, the congregation continued to grow, so planning began for a new sanctuary. That would seat 350 plus 110 in the balcony and include a new entrance foyer, new restrooms and a new carport. The old sanctuary was converted into a new fellowship hall, and the old fellowship hall became new classroom space.
Again, the congregation stepped up and provided most of the labor for this project. Members did all of the work except for the concrete, laminated timbers, brickwork and carpet.
“If we would have had to pay to have it built, it probably would have cost twice as much,” Fritz said. “There was an awful lot of people that helped — women, men, young men. When people didn’t know how to do something, they were willing to listen to who did know and learned how to do it very quickly and did it well. The building is as good or better than if we would have had it built.”
A majority of the congregation was in favor of providing money to help pay for the new building, which cost $445,000. The church had some money in a building fund, but the rest was paid for through offerings.
The building was finished in mid-April 2002, and a bell, which weighs a ton and sat atop the original building, was moved to the new sanctuary bell tower. A dedication ceremony was conducted on homecoming Sunday, May 19, 2002.
In December 2013, the building was paid off, and the mortgage burning was conducted on homecoming in 2014.
“When the need was there, people have always risen to the occasion,” Fritz said. “It says a lot about the dedication of the people, the spirituality of the people, the willingness to see that the tools that God needs to get things done are done.”
Different projects have occurred since the dedication, including a shelter house constructed by the young men of the congregation in 2014.
Since the 1960s, Fritz said, the church has been dedicated to supporting missions. For a long time, 30 percent of offerings went toward that. But when the economy suffered a hit in 2009, that was lowered to around 20 percent. Later this year, the church hopes to get that amount back to 30 percent.
The church holds a special meaning to Fritz since he is a longtime member, was married to his wife, Donna, there in 1956, and has gone from serving as a deacon to an elder.
“Lots of people mentored me as I grew up and steered me in the right direction and helped me learn the value of the Scripture to your life,” Fritz said. “It has made me a better person and instilled the vision in me I think that needed to be. This is a loving church, it’s a giving church, it’s a caring church. I don’t say that because I’m a part of it. I’m just saying that’s the way it is.”
The church’s membership now exceeds 150, and Fritz said he doesn’t see any reason why it would stop growing.
“The only thing that will keep it from that is us,” he said. “The Scripture says, ‘Nobody can pluck you out of God’s hand.’ The only thing that can take you out of there is you yourself. God’s word doesn’t change, so if it’s presented, people will come and grow.”
Freetown Church of Christ is at 7077 N. State Road 135 in Freetown.
It was established in 1915 in a building downtown, and the first minister was Paul March. Since then, there have been 38 ministers, including current minister Barry DeWitt.
Sunday services are at 9:30 a.m. (Sunday school), 10:30 a.m. (morning worship) and 6 p.m. (evening worship). A prayer service is at 7 p.m. Wednesdays.
Information: freetownchurchofchrist.org or facebook.com/FreetownChurchOfChrist
May 1915: Freetown Church of Christ was established in a building downtown and had 27 charter members.
May 1958: Remodeling and expansion dedicated.
May 18, 1969: A new church along State Road 135 was dedicated.
1971: A new bell tower was constructed adjacent to the new building to house a bell, which had topped the church since 1915.
August 1973: Construction of a new parsonage completed.
May 1982: Groundbreaking ceremony conducted for an addition to the church that provided additional classroom and fellowship area.
April 2002: New sanctuary, seating 460 people, completed. The original bell also was moved to the new sanctuary bell tower.
Oct. 10, 2013: Congregation purchased an additional ¾ acre of land for expansion.
Nov. 16, 2014: Shelter house dedicated.
2015: Parsonage renovation completed. On May 17, the church celebrated its 100th anniversary.