City Church Celebrates 100th Anniversary
A Jamestown church is going platinum.
The Jamestown Christian & Missionary Alliance Church, 1011 W. Third St., Jamestown, has been operating for 100 years. With the milestone comes a history of changes in the church’s congregation, founders and locations. The current building has also seen many interior and exterior changes.
However, the history of the church dates back nearly three decades before its founding.
According to historical documentation provided by Jamestown C&MA, the church is described as “the church that almost wasn’t.” The reason for this is because the original C&MA was not a denomination, but a combination of two existing organizations that involved participants of varying church backgrounds.
The two groups that formed the C&MA was the The Christian Alliance and the Evangelical Missionary Alliance. The two organizations combined in 1897. The decision for the C&MA to form as a denomination and create branch churches would not take place until 1912.
The origination of the two groups that formed the C&MA (also known as “The Alliance”) can be traced back to 1887 when former Presbyterian minister Albert Benjamin Simpson organized a summer conference between the two groups, at Old Orchard Beach, Maine.
After the C&MA had been fully established, many of the resulting branches established themselves as churches. It was under these circumstances that the Jamestown C&MA was founded.
The founding for the church began out of state when Corry, Pa., pastor the Rev. Hatch began hosting prayer meetings at the Jamestown home of Mrs. William Whitcomb on Twelfth Street. Previously, Hatch had been the pastor of the Alliance Church in Corry. From April 1918 to the summer of that year various Alliance tent meetings were held in Jamestown. It was during these meetings that the Jamestown C&MA Church began to take shape. For the first 25 years of its existence the church would be called the Jamestown Gospel Tabernacle.
In 1919, Jamestown CM&A increased in size and the congregation felt the need to move into a larger space. The church body was organized on Feb. 27, of that year and began renting space at 304-306 E. Second St. (today near the location of Infinity Visual and Performing Arts) in Jamestown. The first pastor who oversaw the original tent meetings was a woman named Mrs. E. A. Holbrook, who was also the sister of Rev. Hatch.
While women were not ordained in the Alliance during this time, they were instrumental in establishing their churches in many locations as was the case in Jamestown. Holbrook would remain as pastor until July.
That same month, the Rev. A. M. Baggett took over. In April 1920, Baggett personally purchased the Second Street property with the church being incorporated on Nov. 20.
The church would remain at the Second Street location until May 1946. That year, the congregation sold the Third Street building. Profits from the sale were used to fund the purchase of the current location of West Third Street and construction of the sanctuary.
The pastor who oversaw the initial change was the Rev. Charles E. Turner. While the Third Street location was being built the congregation utilized space in the Red Cross Building at 311 E. Second St. (today part of the Post Office). Turner left the congregation during this time and the Rev. Dwight L. Steiner took over.
The move came with opposition from some church members who lived near the first Second Street location. In addition, Rev. Steiner was also met with opposition from the Jamestown zoning board who argued against placing the church building 30 feet from the sidewalk. The standard distance at the time was 40 feet.
In spite of these challenges, the building was officially dedicated in February 1949 with more than 400 in attendance. At the time of the dedication the basement rooms were not even completed. Religious classes only met with studs in the place of walls for a brief period of time.
January 1990, saw the arrival of the church’s current and longest serving pastor, the Rev. H. Wayne Eppehimer. Under his ministry, the church added a new foyer to the 1967 annex. This foyer included an elevator to help the church serve congregants with wheel chairs. A portion of this annex was also turned in to a cafe in 2017.
The sanctuary was also remodeled in 2008. While this involved replacing many of the old stained glass windows with double-paned ones, Eppehimer said that the move helped to retain heat in the building.
The renovations also gave the sanctuary more space for the altar. Eppehimer said this change allowed for more space for congregants to move.
“It was very crowded previously,” Eppehimer said. “We lost a couple of pews (up front) but now we have more room for weddings, etc.”
Eppehimer also oversaw the renovation of the children’s area in the church’s basement. After remodeling took place, it was renamed the Jesus and Me Center (JAM Center). The renovation also incorporated some of the original stained glass windows that were once in the sanctuary.
Because he is retiring in September, Eppehimer is uncertain for the future of the church. However, when asked he said he was optimistic for the direction the church is proceeding.
“I am comfortable with the direction the church is going. One of the advantages of being a long-term pastor is seeing people grow through the good and bad” Eppehimer said.
He cited that he has presided over many individuals who have been brought into the faith, married and also initiated their own children.
“I am excited, thankful and looking forward to the future,” Eppehimer said.
Stemple originally served as pastor of Jamestown C&MA from July 1981 to December 1985. Since his time at Jamestown C&MA, Stemple has become superintendent of the Northeaster C&MA.
“Under his tenure more people (congregants) became missionaries and pastors,” Eppehimer said.