The Rev. Benjamin David Hutchison shows off historic photos of the Cassopolis United Methodist Church. The church will celebrate its 175th anniversary Sunday with a service and fellowship. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)
The Rev. Benjamin David Hutchison shows off historic photos of the Cassopolis United Methodist Church. The church will celebrate its 175th anniversary Sunday with a service and fellowship. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

Archived Story

Cass United Methodist celebrating 175 years

Published 11:48pm Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Cassopolis United Methodist Church will be remembering the past and looking toward the future when it celebrates its 175th anniversary Sunday.

The service will begin at its regular time of 10 a.m., but when parishioners arrive they will find some changes to the church, including new paint and a new street sign.

According to the Rev. Benjamin David Hutchison, previous living clergy and spouses have been invited to the service as well as district superintendents and bishops.

“It is just really a time for us to remember the past, celebrate today and look forward to the future,” Hutchison said.

The menu includes stuffed chicken breast with cornbread and cranberry stuffing, roasted vegetables with spinach and fruit salad.

“We will be using our old hymnals that we have found,” Hutchison said. “Following church we are having a meal cooked by Lars Nordell, who previously was a chef to the King of Sweden and is my ‘adopted’ dad.”

A boulder is being delivered to the church to be used during the sermon “Upon this rock I build a church.”

The congregation of the Cassopolis United Methodist Church is 175 years old, while the sanctuary is 140 years old.

The first religious services in Cass County date back to 1829. The first Methodist Circuit Riders soon followed and Methodist class meetings were held either in homes or outdoors.

The Rev. J.D. Robe was the Circuit Rider from Kalamazoo who had 25 missions including Cassopolis, Diamond Lake and Volinia in the 1830s. He met with parishioners every four weeks.

In 1838, a Methodist Church was organized and met in the courthouse and school. In 1846, a church building was erected on Rowland Street where the church sits today.

The building, however, was moved to Broadway Street in 1874 and a new church costing $6,000 was built on the current Rowland Street site.

An education wing was added in 1958, and a larger fellowship hall and kitchen were constructed in 1983.

Sunday school classes have been conducted at the current site since 1859.

Church records show membership as high as 200.

A unique feature of the church is the double front entrances. Men and boys used the south entrance with the taller steeple, while women, girls and smaller children entered through the north doorway with the shorter steeple.

This separation was maintained during the services, as noted today by the divider in the middle of the center pews.

Hutchison said when they were researching the history of the church in preparation for the anniversary, it was discovered thanks to a Cassopolis Vigilant photo from the turn of the century that the church had a center aisle. The aisle is no longer a part of the sanctuary.

Since 1838, the church has had approximately 75 different pastors. A trend by the Michigan Methodist Conference appeared to be one of appointing a new pastor every year.

That trend eventually changed and in the last 40 years, two pastors — the Rev. Joseph Wood (1966-1976) and Charles Van Lente (1983-1993) — had 10-year tenures at the Methodist Church.

The church sent out a request for items associated with the Methodist Church’s long history and quite a few were found and will be on display during the celebration.

The staff at the Cassopolis United Methodist Church has tried very hard to personally invite all present and former congregants to its celebration Sunday.

Anyone who may not have received an invitation postcard and would like to attend are welcome to do so.

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