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Ford Memorial United Methodist Church to celebrate 125 years

KATHLEEN EDWARDS I FOR THE LEADER TIMES The Rev. Thomas Bonomo says his church, Ford Memorial United Methodist in Ford City, celebrates two occasions on Sunday, Back to Church Sunday and the church's 125th anniversary.

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By Kathleen Edwards
Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 12:11 a.m.

The members of Ford Memorial United Methodist Church will certainly have something special to celebrate this Sunday. September 15 marks the 125th anniversary of this church that calls Ford City home.

Established in 1888, Ford Memorial created itself as a church determined to serve the community even in the midst of difficult times.

When the depression hit in 1929, Ford Memorial suffered many financial setbacks, which followed it through the '40s. According to the Ford Memorial 125th Anniversary booklet citing the history of the church, in 1942, the church went up for sheriff's sale. The congregation was quick to act and raised $11,000 with a weekly soup kitchen, bake sales and various projects.

According to the Rev. Thomas Bonomo, current pastor of Ford Memorial, there are challenges to the present-day church that may seem just as daunting.

“(The church) is a reflection of Western Pennsylvania,” he said. “As the opportunity for employment has decreased, the number of younger people in church has declined.”

And the culture, in general, has a different take on Sundays than it did 50 years ago.

“In the lifetime of the congregation, Sundays have changed. It's not the Lord's Day anymore but part of ‘my weekend,' ” Bonomo said. “People wake up Sunday morning with no thoughts of church. In the past, we'd unlock the doors, turn the heat on and people came.”

But Bonomo acknowledges there needs to be a change in the church culture overall.

“We have to go to the people because they aren't coming to us,” he said.

This Sunday's celebration, in Bonomo's view, is much more than a celebration of the past. It will be a connection with the future.

September 15 is “Back To Church” Sunday in churches all across the nation, a time of starting up Sunday schools and other church activities. But more importantly, according to Bonomo, it's a day when members can not only celebrate the past of Ford Memorial but invite friends and family to a service — a chance to revitalize the church and the people who attend.

“We invite people to church with the belief that the best thing we can do for folks is to introduce them to Jesus Christ,” he said. “We do that because our greatest investment is in people because only people are eternal.”

Ford Memorial's celebration will include a 10:45 morning service led by District Superintendent James Pond. A luncheon will be provided for those who attend at 1 p.m. At 2 p.m., there will be musical entertainment provided by David Elliot and Taylar Wolfe, along with the Ford City Heritage Choir, followed by an informal worship service at which several former pastors will be speaking.

It will be a full day for the members of Ford Memorial, members who Bonomo believes are committed.

“There's a children's song that says the church isn't the building or the steeple — it's the people,” he said. “The people here are warm and caring.

“We have many seniors who are very involved and so committed to serve. They make it easy to love them.”

The Rev. Bonomo said this Sunday's celebration will bring more than nostalgia.

“It's not just about the history of Ford Memorial, but the future of Ford Memorial,” he said. “We are thankful for the past but looking forward to the future.”

Kathleen Edwards is a Leader Times correspondent.

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