Second Avenue United Methodist Church will celebrate 125 years of serving the Altoona area on Sunday.
A special service combining traditional and contemporary worship styles will be held at 10 a.m.
Pastor Gregory S. Johnson said long-standing members will share memories about the church and letters will be read from four pastors who previously served the congregation.
(Mirror photo by?Patrick Waksmunski) Pastor Gregory S. Johnson and Shirley Trindell, 81, one of the oldest members at Second Avenue United Methodist, look at a Bible. The church will celebrate its 125th anniversary Sunday.
A dramatic reading is planned. Johnson will give a brief message, and a history of the building will be presented.
A catered luncheon, planned by the Staff-Parish Relations Committee, will be served.
The church was established on Nov. 18, 1888, in the building now occupied by the Church in the Middle of the Block, which happens to be celebrating its 20th anniversary as a cultural resource center for the arts under the direction of artist John Rita.
Church in the Middle of the Block, 217-219 Fifth Ave., was originally the Second United Brethren Church.
The Brethren completed the facility where the Methodists worship today in 1927.
Johnson said that when the structure was built, 11 men are believed to have taken out second mortgages on their homes to finance it.
"God invested in people then, to lead us where we are today," he said.
Nineteen years after the United Brethren in Christ members were in their new church, the denomination merged with the Evangelical Church and became the Evangelical United Brethren Church.
Then in 1968, the EUB merged with the Methodist tradition and became the United Methodist Church.
Twenty-eight years later, the church would undergo another transition when it merged with Trinity United Methodist in 1996 and welcomed its members into the flock.
"One-hundred twenty-five years of longevity show a commitment to the community, a commitment to God and a commitment from God, not only for the church, but also for the community," Johnson said.
He said when the present house of worship was built 86 years ago at 130 Second Ave., it housed the fourth gym in the city. An early center for community recreation, it continues to fulfill that need.
"We use the gym every day," Johnson said.
An open basketball night is held Mondays, and the church volleyball league meets there. The Rock, an after-school program with a biblical perspective, uses it Wednesday nights when it provides a meal for students in third through 12th grade.
The Gloria Gates Memorial Foundation after-school program for elementary students meets at the church the other four weeknights and uses the gym for kids to play games that encourage fitness.
The needs of children are also addressed through a clothing ministry called the Hope Chest.
For seniors, Second Avenue church offers fellowship through bingo and the Never Alone group.
In addition to the gym, Johnson said the church's forefathers also thought ahead when they had doors installed that move vertically to enlarge the sanctuary to accommodate 600 people. He said the church opens the doors every Easter to seat about 400 worshippers.
An outdoor expansion project was completed in the fall with the addition of 16 more parking spaces for a total of 60 spots. A recently completed elevator awaits inspection and will make the church handicapped-accessible.
And even as it moves forward, Second Avenue has ties to its past.
Johnson said that the art work of Rita, who owns the original building, can be viewed in the sanctuary.
"We have a physical and personal connection," Johnson said.