Pastor Bob Woods stands in front of the pews Saturday in First Congregational United Church of Christ. The church is celebrating its 50th anniversary at the 630 Green St. location.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Pastor Bob Woods stands in front of the pews Saturday in First Congregational United Church of Christ. The church is celebrating its 50th anniversary at the 630 Green St. location.

Local church celebrates 50th anniversary inside the same walls

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First Congregational United Church of Christ's original location was at Tucker and Victory Way, but on Aug. 26, 1959, the church moved to 630 Green St. The congregation celebrated its 50th anniversary at the current location Sunday with a potluck and barbecue.

On a hot August Sunday in 1959, members of the First Congregational United Church of Christ began their worship like any other day.

They sang the first verse of the hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers."

But what happened next was a giant leap into the future for the more than 100-year-old church.

The church members stripped the building of all of its furnishings, including the pews and the organ, and moved them into a newly built, empty building at 630 Green St.

After the group had set everything in its proper place, they finished the last verses of the hymn in the space where the First Congregational Church still resides today.

On Sunday, current Pastor Bob Woods hosted a picnic to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the Green Street building.

Guests were treated to a slide show of old pictures taken by Rev. Dick Hoblin, who led the congregation at the time of the move.

Hoblin was invited to attend but was unable to make the trip from his home in Romeoville, Ill.

But he said he still was thrilled to see that the church had endured and continued to grow.

"I love it," he said. "When you've invested a lot of your life in something, you want it to succeed. I was excited and delighted to be invited to come back and see it, but it didn't work out this year."

Hoblin, who spent nine years with the First Congregational Church, wrote a letter to the new congregation to tell the story of the building and let them know he was with them in spirit.

"It doesn't seem possible that it was 50 years ago," he said. "I still have very strong memories of Craig."

It took almost two years to raise the more than $87,000 needed to build the new facility. Still, when the church moved in, it was months before it had the money to tile the floors or even paint the walls.

"We were all really excited to move in," Hoblin said. "We really needed the room and space. When I got there, (the congregation) had been talking about the idea for a while, and it was their passion and momentum that carried it through."

Today, sunlight streams through stained glass windows and blue carpet and wood trim add a glow to the sanctuary.

Woods said the church is still experiencing growth and is updating its building.

"It's an exciting time for the church," he said. "We recently put on a new roof and built a new boiler. It did need some updating."

Specifically, Woods is a firm supporter of green energy and hopes to secure a grant for a solar panel to power the church.

"We want to do whatever we can do," he said. "The new roof has more insulation so it's more efficient, and we use green light bulbs. We've always been a more progressive church. We're called to be stewards of the earth."

Woods said he hopes to continue helping the church move into the 21st century and carry on the legacy that Hoblin and other leaders left with the church.

That's good news to Hoblin, who wishes his former church the best.

"If I were there, I would congratulate them on having the celebration," Hoblin said. "And I would hope that the next 50 years are going to show the building enduring and the congregation flourishing."

Nicole Inglis can be reached at 875-1793 or ninglis@craigdailypress.com

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