Resurrecting the history of Craig churches
April 19, 2014
Sunday is a significant day for those of the Christian faith as they celebrate the events forming the basis of their religion, the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. With numerous local sites to worship during the holiday, the Craig Daily Press has compiled a brief history for many of the churches in town.
Though not all establishments could be included, the Daily Press wishes a happy Easter to all residents.
Apostolic Lighthouse Church, 3107 W. First St.
Among the more recent additions to Craig's religious scene, the Apostolic Lighthouse Church came to Craig in 1976 and first sat next to City Park on the east side of town.
In the 38 years since, the church has grown and morphed. It moved into a new building in 1995, which added a sanctuary and became the building it is today.
As it has changed outward appearances the church has evolved inside the walls as well. With the motto of a "caring church in a hurting world," Apostolic Lighthouse has striven to consistently be relevant and current in its message.
Recommended Stories For You
"We're real people with real problems, serving a real God," said Pastor Tony Bohrer, who took over 10 years ago as the youngest preacher in Craig at age 21. "We always focus on relevant word. We talk about what people are dealing with in life today."
Bohrer challenges people to visit once, guessing they'll feel more comfortable than they might expect at Apostolic Lighthouse.
Easter Sunday activities include a children's puppet show at 10 a.m. and an 11 a.m. worship service.
Calvary Baptist Church, 1050 Yampa Ave.
The Calvary Baptist congregation started gathering in the C.G. Perdue household, on the corner of Lincoln and Sixth streets.
"The family that actually had a revival meeting (would invite) a preacher (who) would come in from someplace else and preach for several nights," said Rev. Tim Adams. "People would come to faith through that."
The group of worshippers grew quickly. Rev. Paul Jolly led the first revival in 1957. By April 1958 the group purchased, solely with parishioner donations, the church the congregation still uses today.
Now the church is well established in Craig. The church has a food pantry and runs a Christian primary education school.
"We're a body of believers that first of all really love their community and love their people," Adams said. "That's what I'm committed to as a pastor, is God's word and teaching it correctly."
Easter Sunday activities include a short morning service at 8 a.m. followed by an Easter breakfast, open to all community members, at 8:30 a.m. An Easter egg hunt for children will begin at 9 a.m. before Sunday school at 9:30 a.m. Worship services will start at 10:45 a.m.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1295 W. Ninth St.
Those practicing the Mormon faith first became prominent in Craig as early as the 1910s and '20s, becoming an official part of the area's stake — administrative unit — in 1941.
Craig established its first ward — congregation — in 1955, its original meetinghouse at 700 Barclay St. As time went on, attendance grew, a second ward was established in 1978, and the prospect of finding a larger place of worship was a necessity.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints first began services at its current building in 1985 and since continued to get bigger from there, adding a third ward in 1998. More than 1,000 residents currently participate in the Craig church.
Kent Nielson has been a member his entire life, becoming a bishop for the first ward about three years ago. Because of some of the tenets of the LDS denomination, he has occasionally seen some prejudice against his faith, but loving all God's children is still a top priority.
"A lot of people don't think it's Christian-based, but Jesus Christ is what our church is centered around," he said. "I think it's important to live our own beliefs the best we can and respect other people for their own beliefs."
Easter Sunday activities include Easter services for the third ward from 9 to 10:15 a.m., from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. for the first ward and from 2 to 3:15 p.m. for the second ward.
Craig Christian Church, 960 W. Victory Way
Craig's oldest religious institution predates both Craig and Moffat County.
Craig was founded as a town in 1908 and Moffat as a county in 1911, but Christian Church first came to be in 1894, following several years of assembling a congregation. After a fire consumed the original building on a cold Valentine's Day in 1901, a new structure replaced it one year later, serving as the headquarters for almost 90 years after that.
A growing membership led to the church's new building at its current location across town in 1992, selling the previous site to the city to be refitted as the Center of Craig.
Church members Dan Davidson and Doug Field are among those who remember the transition.
"It was a very positive move because of its central location in the community on the main thoroughfare," said Field, who is also the church's office administrator
In keeping with its original founding, Craig Christian functions as a nondenominational establishment, its primary purpose "reaching the world for Jesus, one person at a time, by loving God and loving others," according to its mission statement.
Easter Sunday activities include a sunrise service at 6:30 a.m., followed by an Easter breakfast at 7:15 a.m., with Easter services at 10 a.m.
Faith Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, 580 Green St.
Faith Lutheran Church is nestled in the heart of Craig. Its bold and beautiful stained glass windows in the sanctuary offer an inviting place of faith and worship to local Christians.
It was incorporated in Craig in March 1960 after the voting members of the congregation unanimously approved the church's constitution.
The church's original sanctuary now acts as a fellowship hall, and the new sanctuary was built in the early 1980s, giving a new house of worship to the church's assembly.
"Here, we proclaim God's word," said Rev. John Turner. "Here, God gives us forgiveness."
The church is extremely traditional in its Lutheran teachings and offers confession to its members.
"Our church is about Jesus," said Turner, who was ordained and installed as the pastor in 2006.
In May 2010, additional stained glass windows were installed along the church's balcony. Faith Lutheran celebrated its 50th anniversary on June 19 and 20, 2010.
Easter Sunday activities include sunrise service at 7 a.m., with Easter breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and Easter morning service is 10 a.m.
Friendship United Methodist Church, 700 Barclay St.
The history of Friendship United Methodist Church shows just how people can benefit through cooperation.
Operating out of a now-defunct building on Wesley Drive beginning Easter Sunday 1980, the church struggled to retain membership throughout the decade partly because of the shoddy surroundings, with a structure that needed too many repairs to list.
In 1992, Rev. Phillip Gibson became the pastor for the congregation, which had since begun worshipping at St. Mark's Episcopal Church. After 16 years with that setup, Friendship United Methodist moved to share space with another group of fellow Christians, observing the faith alongside the Craig Seventh-Day Adventist Church out of its current building starting in 2008.
Renting the space has allowed for a good relationship with the Adventists, and Friendship United Methodist seeks to continue to do good works alongside other religious groups.
Phillip's wife and co-pastor, Karen, said the hymn "We Are the Church" describes their situation perfectly because it emphasizes that a church consists of people with a bond of faith regardless of the bricks and mortar around them.
"It really has a lot of meaning for us," she said. "We've learned to have an identity through the things that we can do without a building, or at least without our own."
Easter Sunday activities include a 7 a.m. sunrise service, a 7:30 a.m. Easter breakfast and regular services at 9 a.m., followed by an Easter egg hunt.
The Journey at First Baptist Church, 1150 W. Ninth St.
The Journey at First Baptist has come a long way since its inception 103 years ago.
Church founders Rev. William C. Lindsay and Ernest Kline saw a need for a Baptist church in Craig, and so they started holding worship services in various places throughout the city.
"My husband's grandfather was a founding member in 1911," said church administrator LuAnn Kline, who has attended the church her whole life. She was baptized and married at the church, as were her children.
The Baptist denomination administers baptisms by complete submersion and the first baptisms the church conducted were in the frigid Yampa River, according to written church history.
The church still conducts complete submersion baptisms, said Rev. Leonard Browning, who also grew up in the church. He's been the pastor for the last nine years.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating elements resurrected from the church's history is the fact that in 1922 the American Baptist Association sent a chapel train car called Emmanuel to Craig where the congregation held its meetings.
The church's current sanctuary is under construction, and church members still celebrate Jesus' life each Sunday at the Moffat County High School auditorium at 900 Finley Lane.
Sunday is the "time we all come together — it's a celebration," Browning said.
Easter Sunday activities include a 9 a.m. Easter breakfast, followed by a 10:30 a.m. worship service, both at MCHS.
St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, 691 Green St.
The Greek Orthodox Church has been a central part the Greek community of Craig for nearly 60 years.
The Very Rev. Makarios Mannos said the church's parishioners travel from all over Moffat County and even from Baggs, Wyo. to attend services.
"The people, they built the church in 1958," he said. "The majority of the parishioners are ethnically Greek."
Greek immigrants came to Craig and many got involved with the sheep business. They were drawn to the town because it "felt like home," Mannos said.
To make it feel more like home, they built a church of their own to worship.
Greek Orthodox Christians don't necessarily celebrate the Resurrection of Christ the same Sunday that other Christians do, because unlike Western traditions, they wait until after the Jewish Passover. It's in line with the original calendar, Mannos said.
But, this year the calendars line up. So, the church will be celebrating the resurrection the same Sunday that other churches will be celebrating Easter.
Easter Sunday activities include Holy Pascha, with church services at 11:30 a.m., followed by a luncheon with roasted lamb.
St. Michael's Catholic Church, 678 School St.
In the early 1900s, without an established Catholic parish, locals turned to Rev. Joseph H. Meyers, of Steamboat Springs, who made the trek west to Craig to say mass wherever it could be hosted. Yost's Pool Hall, various ranches and the old courthouse all served as sites for mass until 1920, when St. Michael Parish was established at a building originally used for first and second grade classes.
It wouldn't stay in that first building for long. A new church was dedicated in 1925. That would be updated in the 1950s and another new building was erected in 1983.
Since St. Michael's inception, the spirit of Rev. Meyers bringing the faith to rural parts of the community has continued. In the 1930s, Rev. Paul Slattery used a free railroad pass for the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad to minister to Catholics along the rail line, while Rev. John V. Anderson brought a portable altar 60 miles northwest of Craig to say mass to oil field workers.
Even today, Rev. Geronimo Gonzalez is the latest in a line of pastors to be head of St. Michael's as well as Holy Family Parish in Meeker and St. Ignatius in Rangely.
Easter Sunday activities include mass in English at 9 a.m. and in Spanish at 11 a.m., with an egg hunt for children at 10:30 a.m.
Yampa Valley Baptist Church, 3900 E. Victory Way
Yampa Valley Baptist Church sits on nine acres just outside of Craig where the pastor raises chickens, a cow and a new calf.
The church didn't always have animals, though.
Under the leadership of Pastor Don Wasey a small group of people met on May 8, 1976 to affirm their desire to begin a new church in Craig. Harold and Helen Pankey, Joe and June Collins, Ginger Miller, and Art and Linda Amos were the people present at the first planning meeting.
Subsequent meetings were held in the Rainbow Room of the Cosgriff Hotel, and soon after at 422 Barclay, then in 1979 moved to 787 Tucker Street.
The present building at 3900 E. Victory was dedicated Aug. 4 and 5, 2001. The current Pastor Dale Potter began his ministry in April of 2002. Since the building is outside the city limits, Pastor Potter uses some of the nine acres to keep a milk cow and calf and a flock of chickens, and shares milk and eggs with the congregation.
His main ministry, however is to “feed” people the Word of God so that they may prosper spiritually.
Easter Sunday activities include a resurrection service at 11 a.m. with a potluck after.