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A community anchor

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A banner on the Orange Christian Church porch welcomes everyone toits 190th Anniversary Celebration June 22-23.
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Thesanctuaryof Orange Christian Church is modern with sound, projector, lowered ceiling, lights and piano but maintains much of the feeling of years past.

By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

In 1829, construction of the National Road, now U.S. 40, entered Indiana. Andrew Jackson became the seventh president of the United States. Fayette County is just 10 years old and a little village in the southwestern part of the county is known as Fayetteville.

That is also the year when local residents founded the church which stands as a beacon at the village’s west entrance. 

Orange Christian Church still stands.

Church members and community will celebrate its 190th anniversary Saturday and Sunday, June 22 and 23 with a fellowship dinner, singing and worship.

The congregation chose to celebrate the 190th anniversary because many members are getting older and may not be able to attend the church bicentennial, life-long member Linda Spencer said.

The movement for the new church started in 1828 when John P. Thompson, minister of the Little Flat Rock Baptist Church, and William McPherson, went to Kentucky for a revival service. Upon returning, his congregation did not accept Thompson’s enthusiasm for the New Testament.

That led to the first service of the newly formed church in a grove of trees on the Elias Stone farm south of present-day Orange, on what is now the Godar Place, July 4, 1829, Spencer said.

According to a printed History of Orange Christian Church, “William McPherson then rose and told the people assembled, with Bible in hand, ‘This is our rules of faith and practice. We believe all that is contained in the Bible; we want nothing more or nothing less.’” 

That phrase remains a part of the church’s life, appearing on the bulletin.

The members constructed a clapboard building on a lot in Fayetteville in 1830, northeast of the present church. By 1835, the church became known as New Hope and in 1842, it changed again to The Church of Jesus Christ at Fayetteville.

The congregation dedicated a new house of worship in 1852, constructed at a cost of $1,557.50.

That new facility had two entrance doors, one for women and one for men and they sat separately during worship, Bill Spencer, Linda’s husband, said. The doors are now windows. Two wood stoves on each side provided heat.

Ephraim Frazee stood as a pillar of the church as a fundraiser, preacher, elder and record keeper. His great-great-grandson Steve is active in today’s congregation, Spencer said.

The village later became Orange and the congregation changed its name to the present Orange Christian Church in 1890.

As the members plan the celebration, the congregation recalls that at the centennial celebration, 1,000 people attended, she said.

“My dad was here then and they parked cars, Model Ts then, in Orange, they had a special place and some people had horses,” she said. “Each family brought their own food. It wasn’t a pitch-in. They ate out on the lawn.”

The building itself is mostly as it looked originally.

But in the early 1900s, the need for more space resulted in the members jacking up the building and putting in a basement, Bill said. Several years ago, a large, hand-hewn beam that runs the width of the building cracked, so the roof structure had to be jacked up and a post placed in the worship area to support it.

The interior has been updated recently, Linda said. Pews are not original but came from other churches so they are not all alike.

The church has purchased the lot and buildings to the south to help with an Orange clean-up effort and provide more space, she said.

The church believes in immersion in water for its baptisms. The inside baptistry came in 1970, she said. The members take communion every Sunday and believe what the Bible says.

“That’s probably why it has lasted as long as it has,” Spencer said.

The congregation is now independent after having been part of the Disciples of Christ.

“We have made a lot of improvements and donate to missions, local and foreign missions,” said Emma Free.

If there is a family in need in the community, maybe as the result of a fire, the church will support them whether a member or not. Money is not the emphasis of the congregation, Linda said.

Those who attend most Sundays are not just local people. Some drive from Peppertown in Franklin County, and from Greenfield and Indianapolis, she said. On average, about 60 people attend each week.

Mike Hedrick serves as pastor and Emma Williams is children’s minister.

A tent will be raised for Saturday’s fellowship time, hog roast dinner and gospel sing. All the food and silverware will be furnished. The celebration begins at 4 p.m. and will continue until at least 8 p.m.

Worship Sunday is 10 a.m. with Greg Frazee, raised in the church and now worship leader in Brownsburg, returning home to be worship leader. Lance Ladd, pastor from 1993-99, will speak. The public may attend.