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"Our Town" By James W. Tucker
Hampton Union, Thursday, December 11, 1958
At our town's Methodist Church, religion is being invigorated. Samuel Johnson once wrote, "To be of no church is dangerous. Religion, of which the rewards are distant, and which is animated only by faith and hope, will glide by degrees out of the mind unless it be invigorated and reimpressed by external ordinances, by stated calls to worship, and the salutary influence of example."
Religion won't glide by degrees out of the minds of local Methodist parishioners. It is being invigorated in all the ways that Johnson suggests and in addition, by a challenging program of expansion -- enlargement and improvement of the physical property of the church and by the unprecedented growth of its spiritual program. Methodist religion in our town is likewise animated by consciousness that the church lives only because of the determination of its founders to overcome all of the many obstacles, trials and tribulations which were encountered in the early years.
Influence of Example
Something of the background of this struggle against adversities was related in this column last week as a sort of prelude to the present-day human interest story of the rejuvenation and revitalization of our Methodist Church. History, as is so often the case, is repeating itself. Johnson said religion will glide by degrees out of the mind unless it is invigorated by "the salutary influence of example." Undoubtedly it was the example set by the Rev. Norman T. Allers and his wife, Barbara, that started the present day renaissance in the history of this church. He assumed the Methodist pastorate in 1954 and the society has operated in high gear ever since.
Pastor Allers' Leadership
Although he would frown at the adjective, his leadership has been dynamic. Pastor Allers brought new ideas, a broad outlook on life, constructive and helpful sermons and a real understanding of the present day problems of youth. His theory that practical Christianity embraces full citizenship responsibility was evident because of his obvious personal interest in all types of community affairs. It was only natural that under his ministry the church began to flourish; that membership increased and that the first evidence of the need of physical expansion came in the rapid growth of the Sunday School. Here, two sessions became necessary.
Methodist Sunday School
The Methodist Sunday School probably got its start in 1837 when the old Christian Meeting House was rededicated to Methodist use. Rev. Fuller spoke on "The Importance of the Study of God's Word," and at the close of his talk, twenty or more parish members divided themselves into classes and with Jonathan Towle as leader, started study of the Bible. Although several years may have elapsed before the school was thoroughly organized, this undoubtedly marked the start of a worthy project which, in its 121st year has preached a stage of fruition of which Jonathan Towle and his first twenty Bible students never even dreamed.
With parish growth, came increased expenses. In 1953 the gross church income had been $4,700. In 1954, the first year of the Allers pastorate, it was $6,300, an increase of 34 per cent. As an indication of the rapid rate of growth since then, the estimated budget for 1959 is $15,100, not including amounts given or pledged to the so-called "Building Fund Program of Progress." Expanding membership, increased activities and growing expenses were indices pointing directly to the need of more commodious church facilities. So, In January 1957, a Planning and Development Committee, with Elton Smith as chairman, was constituted.
Elliot's Yeoman Service
This committee, after carefully considering every possible angle of the need for physical expansion, recommended the appointment of a Building Committee. In January 1958, such a committee was established with Wayne Elliot as chairman. Due in a large part to the yeoman personal service and to the inspired leadership of this dedicated young man, the work accomplished by his committee in the short space of one year has been nothing short of phenomenal.
In April 1958, Russell Pierce of Newburyport, was engaged as architect. In June, 1958, the Chase Associates of New Jersey, a Baptist fund-raising group, was hired to raise the money necessary to start the church enlargement project. During the last week in June 1958, an eminently successful "kick-off" banquet was held in the auditorium of the Junior High School under the joint chairmanship of Mr. Samuel Nelson and Mrs. Helen Patterson. The latter's husband, Capt. "G.B." Patterson, then of the Pease Air Force Base, now stationed in the Far East, supervised the decorating.
In July and August 1958, the financial campaign was conducted and successfully completed with a total of nearly $32,000 in cash and pledges. On September 7, 1958, Irving Marston, oldest living member of the church, turned the first shovel full of earth in a ground-breaking ceremony at which District Superintendent, Rev. Norman Barrett was the guest speaker. Work started immediately and today, less than a year after Wayne Elliot's committee was named, the outside construction is virtually complete.
The project is under the supervision of Harry Carter, one of the older church members and a widely known general contractor. Other contractors -- all of whom have donated a portion of their services -- include: Marvin Perkins, plumbing; Dick Stebbins, electrical wiring; John Holman, sound; William Blake, painting; Linwood Taylor, excavating; Gene Leavitt, grading; Reginald Leonard, carpentry; George Smith, heating; Arthur Brown, stampeding, M. J. Murphy, roofing and Arthur Lovett, steel erection.
Program's Two Phases
The overall enlargement project has two phases. The first phase is now nearing completion. The second phase, which contemplates enlargement of the main sanctuary by building another story on the new, north basement wing, is scheduled to start in about three years. Now, two additions are virtually complete, one to the north of the church which presently is one story high, measuring 46 by 50 feet, and a two story addition to the east, measuring 40 by 12 feet.
The New Facilities
When completed, these two new wings will contain a utility room with a heating system of three units, two gas-fire hot-air units and one oil-fired steam unit; new electrical and plumbing work throughout; complete new toilet facilities for adults and children; enlarged vestry to seat more than 200 at suppers; a new enlarged kitchen with modern, facilities; church parlor with fireplace for small meetings; office rooms for minister and church secretary, a choir robing room and nine new Sunday School classrooms. The new rooms will be equipped with tile floors and acoustic ceilings.
Without an almost incomprehensible amount of volunteer labor, involving so many men, women and children of the parish that to mention even one would be an injustice to the others, this splendid project could never be completed for the money available. One thing is certain; the first phase of this project which is nearing completion, will make possible further development of Pastor Allers' comprehensive program for growth -- physical and spiritual -- of the Methodist parish in Hampton.
Bright, Happy Future
Membership is now 300 and the average Sunday School attendance is 140. There are four membership "circles," two prayer and study groups and three choirs. Best of all, there is spirit, determination and faith in every adult and junior member of the society -- attributes of character which will make possible a bright and happy future for Methodism in our town.
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