Looking at photos of Cedar Springs from the mid to late 1800s, you can’t help but notice the church with the towering spire at the corner of Church and Main Street. While the Cedar Springs United Methodist Church no longer looks like it did then, it is still integral part of the community today.
The church, located at 140 S. Main Street invites everyone to come celebrate their 145th Anniversary on Sunday, October 23, at a special program and ice cream social at 3:00 p.m.
“What a blessing to celebrate God’s faithfulness and the witness of so many faithful people over so many years,” said Pastor Mary Ivanov.
According to the Cedar Springs Story, by Sue Harrison and Donna DeJonge, the first sermon preached in Cedar Springs was in the summer of 1855, by a Methodist Episcopal preacher, Rev. W.W. Johnson. On October 6, 1866, the Methodist Episcopal Society of Cedar Springs was organized, and the Cedar Springs Circuit served the following outpoints: Pierson, Black Creek, North Nelson, Pine Lake, Horton School House, White Swan, and Courtland Center. In September 1869 all the outpoints except Pine Lake were dropped off, and the Cedar Springs charge was formed with Rev. John Graham as pastor.
Initially classrooms were held in the village school house. Melvin J. Clark, a prominent lumberman of Cedar Springs, offered to furnish the lumber to build the church, provided that it would be a certain size, height, etc., and that they would buy the lot for the building before noon that same day. C.B. Moon, a lumberman at Pine Lake, happened in town that morning. The preacher told him of the offer that had been made by Mel Clark. Mr. Moon went that morning and purchased the lot where the present church now stands on the northeast corner of Church and Main. The cornerstone was laid August 17, 1870 and the church was dedicated June 7, 1871. It cost $6,000 and was the tallest building north of Grand Rapids.
Over the years it underwent several remodeling and repair jobs. But it was all lost on January 27, 1946, when the church was completely destroyed by fire. The Cedar Springs Story relates that the blaze was discovered by the Jack McCoy family who lived next door. The Clipper newspaper gave the following account: “Hundreds of citizens stood in the cold of early morning as the church, second oldest house of worship in Cedar Springs, lost form and shape in the consuming blaze. The beautiful stained-glass windows gave out a hollow cry as they cracked and shattered, and a raucous clang rent the air as the belfry toppled and the bell, which had called people to worship for more than three-quarters of a century, fell to the snow-covered ground with knell-like thud.”
The book said the origin of the fire was apparently in the chimney and was attributed to an over-heated furnace. Many citizens joined the firemen in fighting the fire, and Rev. Paul Lowry, pastor of the church, grief-stricken at the rapid devastation of the church, worked with the fire fighters.
The congregation made plans to build a basement, and in the meantime, services were held in the Cedar Springs State Bank and the Dr. J.H. Teusink’s office building. The cornerstone of the new church was laid Sunday afternoon November 17, 1946. On June 29, 1947, a unit opening service was held in the basement of the present church. After a few years the present church was built and held its first service on Easter Sunday, 1955.
The church is still active in the community today, and provides a variety of community outreach ministries to families in the area, including housing the Cedar Springs Community Food Pantry. They support the annual CROP Walk, offer small groups like Men’s Group and United Methodist Women, offer book and Bible studies, a weekly Love ‘n Stitches crafts group, and Christian service and mission projects to ministries in the Upper Peninsula.
“Our mission here is to share the love and hope of Jesus Christ. We live out this mission through many ministries that build our faith community and reach out into the broader Cedar Springs community and around the world,” said Pastor Ivanov.
Two worship services are offered on Sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., and Christian Education for all ages (infant through adult) is offered at 10:15 a.m. There are also weekly Wednesday evening dinners throughout the year.
The general public is invited to the October 23 celebration. The 3:00 p.m. will include a short program of thanksgiving followed by a time of fellowship and an ice cream social. Special historical information also will be featured.
For further information about Cedar Springs UMC, please contact the church office at 616-696-1140.