Monroeville church marks 75th anniversary

Aaron Krause • Oct 29, 2015 at 11:59 AM

If you worship at the Congregational Community Church in Monroeville and are not feeling well, you might get a prayer card from a fellow member even if that person doesn't know you.

If you have no affiliation with the church, but you happen to be in the area and stop in for worship, chances are someone will welcome you.

And if you're a regular, you'll likely see a number of people you don't know who were invited by a member friend.

That is how the church's pastor, the Rev. Wayne Chasney, described the roughly 200-member church, which will celebrate its 75th anniversary Sunday after services.

Chasney is the 12th and longest serving pastor of the church, at 14 years. His wife, the Rev. Wendy Schindler-Chasney, is pastor at St. John's United Church of Christ in Milan.

The Monroeville church's actual anniversary was Oct. 4. On that date in 1932, the Central North Association of Congregational Christian Churches formally recognized the congregation.

The church formed when the Methodist Episcopal church and the United Christian Church merged. Leaders of the area's Baptist church were also interested, but that church remained independent.

The Baptist church ultimately closed, and many of its members joined the newly formed church.

Chasney, 39, who has been pastor since 1993, praised the parties who executed the unification.

"I think it showed a lot of courage," Chasney said. "I think churches have a hard time giving up part of their identity to become something larger.

"They had a vision of being a church for the community."

The congregation is community oriented today, with offerings such as an annual community Thanksgiving service, which rotates between Monroeville's three churches. This year will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 18 at Trinity Lutheran Church.

There is also an initiative called Monroeville Go to Church Sunday. It encourages residents to attend the church of their choice, and then gather for a picnic involving all of the village's congregations.

"We've been blessed," Chasney said. "The weather's been wonderful each year."

The pastor said more than 100 people attended the picnic in 2006, and about 90 attended this year.

On an average Sunday, about 75 people gather for worship at Congregational Community, Chasney said.

"There really is a small church feel to the congregation," he said. "We take attendance by who's not here as much as who's here," Chasney said. "When one of the regular members isn't here, you notice."

Apparently, many of the church's members like what they've seen. On Sunday, the church will recognize congregants who have been members 50 years or more.

Chasney said there are 28 such members, including Harriett Ryerson. She's been a member since 1939, and her parents and grandparents worshiped at the church.

"It's always been my church," she said. "That's how I feel about it."

Ryerson also described the congregation as welcoming to visitors.

"We try to do whatever we can to make them comfortable," she said.

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