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By Therese Pineda R.N.

“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:31-46

The 100th year of First United Methodist Church of Gilbert was marked with a joyful Centennial Celebration throughout the 2015 year.  The centennial theme, “Serving the Generations,” reflects the hearts and hands of the congregation as they are now and always have been: followers of Jesus with the heart of a servant. Over the years the congregation became a close-knit church family while coming together to serve. These acts of serving and connecting with one another and the community became the celebration.

Photo courtesy of Therese Pineda

Volunteers had a good laugh wearing their hairnets during the Feed My Starving Children project.

On August 15, 2015, the day of the 100th anniversary, the church celebrated by meeting at the “Feed My Starving Children” location in Mesa. Serving with many generations on hand, the work yielded 152 boxes of food or 32,832 meals for hungry children in Cambodia.  After the packing was completed the meals were prayed for and sent on their way.

Special worship services were held on Sunday, August 16, 2015 during all three service times. The guest Pastor was the Reverend Dr. Richard Morrison. Rev. Morrison grew up in the Gilbert Methodist Church and served as Associate Pastor in 1991.

“We know our earnest prayer will be that we continue to have the same spirit of adventuring for Christ that those who founded this church had, and that in the final summing up, we can stand before our God as workmen unashamed.”- Rev. Morrison

Photo courtesy of Therese Pineda

Senior Pastor Deborah Lerner and Associate Pastor David Harris welcomed special guest past Pastors: Matt Ashley, Dan Morley, Bob Stanley, Eve Williams, and Superintendent Bob Burns.

Hailey Palmer sang “The Call of Wisdom.” Her powerfully angelic voice infused the worship service with the vital spirit and promise of youth. The services began with families bearing banners of the present church and its history.

Photo courtesy of Therese Pineda R.N.

At the end of the service the children led the congregation out of the sanctuary and into the world while waving small fans and singing, “Jesus Light Me Up.”

A catered luncheon followed the last worship service and included various speakers:

  • John Lewis, the Town of Gilbert Mayor.
  • June Morrison, a church member since 1946. June talked to the children about what church was like in the 1940s and made sure they fully understood that “the church is the people” and not the building.
  • Ed Stressman, a very well-loved church member and Preacher’s kid (Pastor Roger Stressman’s Kid) spoke of youth stories and prayer.

Photos courtesy of Therese Pineda R.N.

Musical performances included a sing-a-long with Choir Director, Marty Province, and the beautifully sweet voice of Julia Strazz. The church youth group led a game of, “Which Came First?” One of the questions was: Which came first, Pastor Hershey or Hershey’s syrup onto the American market? The answer was Hershey’s syrup in 1926. Pastor Hershey served Gilbert in 1936.

Nancy Ball led a very competitive Jeopardy game and the happy winners took a prize basket home. The surrounding walls of the activity center were covered with brightly colored hand-made quilts by Sally Poeske. Pies of every shape and sort were served for desert. It was a great weekend for the church family serving together, worshiping together and strengthening new and old relationships with glorious fellowship and food.

Centennial Celebrations Included

  • A Centennial Celebration Prayer and Cookbook. The book holds recipes, vintage church photos, a brief church history and some favorite prayers and scriptures.
  • Healthy Historic walks through downtown Gilbert visiting some of the early church sites. What was once a great deal of farmland is now a trendy place of shops and restaurants where many people of the community gather.
  • The Welcomaires Southern Gospel concert benefiting Family Promise and Imagine No Malaria. An awesome worship experience! The group traveled from North Carolina at the request of Glen Compton, a phenomenal bass singer and the Audio/Visual chair and will return in 2016.
  • The preschool celebrated 10 years of graduating classes.
  • Graduates of all ages were recognized in a special worship service and were gifted with a special key chain with the Centennial logo and a personalized prayer card.
  • Over 100 bags of food, and 100 filled school backpacks were collected through the mission team along with many other projects through the year.
  • A time capsule of beautiful oak was built and donated by Alan Ball.  Nancy Masterson worked with the Children’s Sunday school classes to fill the capsule with gifts for the church to be opened in 25 years in the year 2040.
  • 100 Years Serving Through the Generations Pictorial History Book.
  • Packed 100 Health Relief Supply Kits for UMCOR.
  • 2013 Healing Garden of the Beatitudes and Memorial Columbarium dedication.
Photo courtesy of Therese Pineda R.N.

2013 Gilbert Pastors Lerner and Williams at Healing Garden Dedication

The columbarium was the first in Gilbert and is open to all members of the Gilbert Community. Pastor Deborah invited Pastor Dan Morley to share some reflections as part of our Centennial Celebration preparation.

“This is a place of wellness and of peace and a place of retreat. The bell tower calls you in, and the arches and the doorways they welcome you.  You can come into this garden setting and feel well and good, and God heals us. We pray for one another and we know that through the ages, from cradle to grave that’s what our church is, and that’s who we are with one another. That’s the gift we have of our community together that we share.”- Reverend Dan Morley

History and Centennial Team members include: Alan Ball, Nancy Ball, Karen Coleman, Gayle Disch, Karen Gray, Norm Haskett, Nancy Masterson, June Morrison, Therese Pineda and Gayla Sutton.

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