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August 26, 2023
The First United Presbyterian Church of Fairbury is celebrating 150 years of serving the community and preaching the gospel. The theme of the celebration is “150 years: Celebrating Our Past With an Eye Towards the Future.”
The celebration begins on Saturday, Aug. 26, beginning at 3 p.m. with live music, a bounce house, and volleyball and basketball at the church at 2310 H St. The Mikey Needleman Band will perform at 7 p.m. There is no admission cost for the activities. Throughout the day and evening a food truck and ice cream truck will have items available for purchase.
“Our congregation is so excited to share this celebration with the community,” said Ministry Coordinator Dave Conde. “We want to show Christ’s light to the world.”
A special worship service will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 27, with Pastor Tom Osborne taking part in the service along with Conde. During worship a time capsule which was sealed in 2003 will be opened by Don Mahlman. A lunch for the congregation is being held following worship, with reservations required in order to ensure appropriate food and space. Memories will also be shared during the lunch.
Tshirts, blankets and Christmas ornaments are available to commemorate the anniversary.
The church has a rich history in its 150 years.
The church was founded on Nov. 30, 1873, with 26 members. On that date, elders were ordained, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was observed, and several infants were baptized. A report from the day said: “God’s blessing warmed the hears of the people and to the praise of His name were sung hymns of joy and thanksgiving.”
The church first worshipped in the Baptist Church located near the corner of Sixth and B streets, with the Baptists and Presbyterians holding union services.
The first church was dedicated in November 1878 near 6th and H streets. A parsonage was also built. The church had 62 members.
The second church building was dedicated in August 1915, also located at 6th and H streets. Many improvements were done to the building over the years, including repairs, redecorating, and renovating the space to suit the needs of the congregation and its work and worship.
In 1998, Tom and Alvina Zweifel left their estate to the church, with the stipulation that the money was to be used to construct a handicap accessible church. A few years later, the Preston family donated 4.4 acres at 23rd and H streets to the church. The church voted to move forward with a new building and a building committee was formed. Additional money was raised, the building was completed and the first service was held in 1999. The former church building is now used by the Foursquare Gospel Church.
The current church at 2310 H St. features a one-level building which is fully handicap accessible. The congregation of 235 members is busy looking toward the future, and spreading the Good News of the gospel. Sunday morning worship is held each Sunday at 10:30 a.m., and is available on Facebook live. While the church does not currently have an installed pastor, Conde serves as Ministry Coordinator and is taking seminary classes with a goal of becoming an ordained pastor. He leads worship services and is active in the ministry of the church.
In addition to regular Sunday morning worship services, the church offers an Engage worship service and a Compline service. Engage worship is planned by a team of younger church members and is designed to engage the generations who are not currently as involved in the church. It is a contemporary worship service which includes an evening meal followed by worship, and has included other activities, as well, such as outdoor games.
“Our team is working with those interested in finding out what the younger generations want in worship and creating worship services to fulfill their spiritual needs,” Conde said. “We will stay true to the gospel and the traditions of our faith – but our form of worship can change to become more meaningful to younger generations.”
Engage services are open to anyone interested, and a regular schedule is being planned for fall. Engage services are also available on Facebook live.
Another special service offered regularly is an evening Compline service of prayer and scripture. The Compline is designed to be a service of quietness and reflection before rest at the end of the day. Everyone is welcome to attend these short services.
The church has a ministry of providing worship at Cedarwood assisted living on Thursdays at 12:45 p.m. Tenants, their families, and the public are welcome to attend.
Mission Possible is a project that began because of the anniversary, but is planned to be an ongoing ministry. Mission Possible was planned by the youth of the church. The goal is to purchase and provide reliable vehicles to local families in need. For nearly a year, the youth have been fund raising – with a Murder Mystery dinner, gift wrapping and a bake sale. They are nearly ready to gift their first vehicle, Conde said.
The church also offers a broad range of educational opportunities: Men’s and Women’s Bible studies, Sunday School for students in preschool through 5th grade, confirmation class for students in 6th through 8th grades, high school Sunday School class, and special Bible studies during Advent and Lent.
“Christian Education is a very important part of our church life,” Conde said.
During worship, a children’s message invites all children attending to come to the front of the church for a special message. Younger children are invited to go to the staffed nursery following the children’s message, if parents would like. All ages are always welcome to remain in the sanctuary, as well. The church also offers a cry room for parents of very small children, where they can see and hear the service while providing some privacy.
Music has been important throughout the history of the church and remains important. A Chancel Choir performs each Sunday during the school year. Sunday School children perform monthly with singing and playing bells and chimes. They also perform plays and musicals, such as the recent Daniel and the Lion’s Den which they performed for worship and again at the Jefferson County Fair. During the summer the church seeks special music performances, sometimes by members and sometimes by others in the community.
The church also does a variety of events for fellowship and fund-raising. The second chili cookoff is being planned for Nov. 5. An annual Harvest Festival is held in the fall with a soup and sandwich supper and bake and craft sale. The church hosts a Teacher Appreciation Lunch annually for teachers and staff in the Fairbury Public Schools at the beginning of the school year. The church participated in the Road to Bethlehem in 2022, with many Nativity Scenes on display for the public to view and enjoy.
First United Presbyterian is one of the churches involved in 5 Star Bible Camp, and has been involved since the beginning of the camp.
As the church celebrates its 150th anniversary, it looks to the future with a desire to actively serve God in the Fairbury community and beyond.
Anyone interested in more information is invited to check out the webpage at FairburyPresbyterian.com, our Facebook page at Fairbury Presbyterian, or call 402-729-6139. Come join us in celebrating 150 years of service – and help us look to the future!