An Amazing 150th Anniversary Celebration
by Pastor Anne Utterback
(Luke 8:15 NRSV) But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.
Summing up an amazing day is never easy, but suffice it to say that our celebration on October 17th was amazing. What makes an event successful starts a long time before the day occurs. For instance, the first meeting scheduled by Rich Lee of the Historical Team was in the Spring of 2009. I started pondering what truly makes an amazing day and concluded it is a combination of lots of time, lots of planning and lots of people.
Hundreds of invitations mailed, hours of scouring old membership roles to create the lists to invite everyone we knew started when we sent out the forms to clarify church membership prior to Church Conference last year. We then needed to create a new database to update our records and allow us to create unique mailings that include former members. Then sending invitations to the town and church officials in Lemont, sending invitations to the other churches and people in the Northern Illinois Conference Methodist Church. We also contacted all our living prior ministers and their families to ensure no one was left out.
Making sure the events of the day were distinctive and worthy of such a celebration included hiring the Mad Monks of Melody and the catering firm early. The kitchen and building remodeling needed to be completed in a timely manner so our first kitchen use, and dedication, would be done that day.
The former UMW women came to the rescue to help the Trustee's organize our updated kitchen by planning and selecting what to keep and what to recycle. Inventories of the dishes, glasses, cookware and silverware were done and counts recorded for the future. All items placed in the kitchen were washed by hand prior to service and after by the Scouts. Stocking the new kitchen with all the right dishes and cooking utensils as well as creating instructions for cleaning and using the new sinks and tubs had to be done so the Scouting troops would know how to help us. Yes, all four of the Scouting troops (49, 149, 249 & 931) set-up and served the meal so that we could enjoy our time together. Instructions and floor plans, which included table set-up were provided so they would be successful as numerous meetings were held describing our needs and goals so they could help us.
Inventories of tables and chairs were taken so we would know seating capacities and whether we would need more than one seating for the meal that day. Then there was the shopping to stock the kitchen with new towels and the extra food/items that we use regularly throughout the year for fellowship times. Also, there was a choosing of the décor for the day and finding table decorations that were appropriate to the event. The agenda cards for the luncheon tables were created and printed on special paper. Collecting the monies and tracking the tickets for the luncheon also required attention and special planning. Additional dessert, food and drink needed to be coordinated so autumn leaves appeared on the windows with an offer to church members for help. People planned which items were needed and then someone made the leaves and kept track of what was arriving.
Our new worship team worked hard to invite others to help create the distinctive look of the sanctuary and the banners to commemorate the day in a special way. The hanging of the banner in the back of the church required a pulley system and 4 people. The set up and hardware shopping occurred weeks before. The team met to plan, not only a banner, but a worship event that included everyone. Weren't the plaid people wonderful! The plaques honoring those persons who helped in the renovations, (and Bill Stelter's individual honoring plaque) needed to be written, reviewed, approved, ordered, picked-up and then paid for…
The worship bulletins for the day included an opportunity to share "How the Church impacted your life" as special inserts were added for written comment. I even purchased an ant farm weeks before and needed to order ants in advance so we would have our message for the day. This required mail ordering insects from Texas and allowing them time to tunnel for a few weeks.
Both our youth groups began their planning in late August so they would have something valuable to contribute to the day. We all appreciated the Jr. High contribution of welcoming cookies and water, while the Q-Quest youth performed the historical "hysterical" Lemont history skit to the congregation during worship. Items were collected for this skit from the congregation in a rather amazing fashion as there were over 60 vignettes within the play, each requiring special props. And that skit was uniquely written for our church and then revised with input from team members who helped with the creative.
A special trip picking up items from the Lemont Historical Society and a scouring of our own historical records resulted in our archive tables, which were organized and presented in an appealing manner. Pictures were collected throughout the year for the special Powerpoint presentation which contained over 200 pictures including founders and new members. A family, the Ivancicts', wanted to become part of our church family and honored us by joining that day. Letters and congratulations from churches and town officials were read into the record.
There were people who prepared special talks for the worship. Our choir prepared special music to share (both the Jr. and Adult). Our District Superintendent offered congratulations and balloons were launched in the sanctuary. People planned the luncheon talks inviting prior ministers and members of the church to share stories of their memories here.
And prayer… There were lots of special prayers written and song selections woven through the whole day as we thanked God for the blessing of 150 years of ministry. The online Newspaper, "The Lemont Patch" (www.lemont.patch.com) and the Tribune both wrote articles about our event. Also, pictures of the event will be posted on our church website for your review. Log on later this month.
As we celebrate our 150th year it is so obvious that nothing important can happen without good people willing to volunteer and make it happen. This is the legacy of our congregation and our best good hope for our future. Let us pray that we make the time to plan the big events that really create memorable ministry. Ministry doesn't just happen, it takes time, planning and people.
Thank you to everyone who made this day special. May we all celebrate wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.
(reprinted from The New Wine, Nov-Dec, 2010)