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A Brief History of the First Christian Church of Madera
As you read through this short history you will find descriptions of the changes FCC has undergone in its close to twelve decades of ministry in Madera. This history was drawn from interviews, Newspaper excerpts and board minutes.
In 1880, E.B. Ware was able to secure from the Southern Pacific Railroad, lots for churches at Williams, Madera, Sanger and Pacific Grove. It was this site at 5th and B Streets in Madera, that the Christian Church was formed in 1891.
Excerpt from the Madera Daily News Tribune September 25, 1951
On March 15, 1890, Henry Shadle, gospel evangelist in the State of California, came to Madera and began a three week meeting. On March 22, E. B. Ware, manager of the State Board of California, and Henry Shadle met together and organized the Church of Christ in Madera. There were 14 charter members.
In a statement given by these few persons on that day were these words:
And we do hereby agree to accept the Bible and the Bible alone as our only rule of faith and practice.
With this statement in their minds, they began to set in order the things of the church. E. B. Ware held a tent meeting in the fall of 1890. During this meeting, Elders were appointed to the oversight of the church. These officers were John Brown, W.C. Harris, and John L. Flint.
Soon after, the church rented the Masonic Hall to conduct worship services. They met in the hall until May of 1891 when they moved to their new building on the corner of 5th and B Streets.
Dedication of the new church was held April 19, 1891.
Excerpt from the Madera County Review Friday April 17, (1891) Volume 1
On Sunday next the Christian denomination of Madera will dedicate their new house of worship on the corner of B and Fifth streets. The various other churches of the town will forego their usual morning services in order that their pastors and congregations may join in the exercises. Prof. W. H. Martin, pastor of the Christian Church of Fresno, will deliver the dedicatory sermon. The music for the occasion has been the subject of special effort, and promises to be of a superior nature. The program of the morning exercises is as follows:
Invocation: Rev. J.C. Pendergrast.
Song: “Joy to the World”
Reading Scripture: Rev. W.B. McElwee.
Prayer, Rev. Z.C.Rush
Sermon: W.H. Martin, of Fresno.
Song: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.”
Statement, and Offerings: E.B. Ware
Benediction: “Father we Rest in Thy Love.”
Reception of members
By 1892, the membership had grown to 61.
An election was held on October 16, 1892. Trustees and Officers were elected and voted upon. Voting on Incorporation occurred.
November 5, 1892: Church Incorporated. Filed in Fresno.
Assumed name of Christian Church of Madera. (SCANABLE PAPERS)
Elected Trustees and Members of the Corporation were:
W.C. Harris – President – Trustee
C.F. Bonner – Secretary – Trustee
E. Kindig – Treasurer – Trustee
G.J. Wren – Trustee
E. Bullock – Trustee
A.B. Thornton – Trustee
M.L. Alley – Trustee
The church’s first minister was Mr. Var Meter, who rode the Santa Fe train from Fresno, then rode his bicycle from the depot to the church for the weekly services. His salary was five dollars a month.
A Mr. Wyatt was the first regular, full time pastor.
On April 23, 1893, less than one-third of the members, led by Elder John Brown, divided from the congregation. The majority of the members remained together and secured another place to worship.
During the year 1898, the First Christian Church had its beginning on the corner of Sixth and A Streets, where the building now stands. That year the group was incorporated and bought the present property. The following year, the building was begun, and improvements have been made at intervals since.
1900 – The church building was sold by owner to satisfy a debt, Congregation moved to 6th and A Street location. The 5th and B Street location was later purchased by the Baptist Church.
Interview with Rintha Robbins, 1977
She stated that she was baptized as a member of the 6th and A Street church in 1911 or 1912. Laurent Beal from Fresno baptized her and Ralph, in a swimming pool which was filled with water from the flume. She graduated from Madera Union High School in 1913.
November 10, 1920 - Article of Corporation filed in County of Madera. This Corporation was to be known as the First Christian Church of Madera.
Board of Directors
Guy Windrem – President
Lon M. Dixon – Secretary
Albert M. Russell
Nancy E. Dixon
MEETING OF CHURCH OFFICERS OCTOBER 1, 1923
The official board of the First Christian Church met in regular monthly session for the purpose of reorganizing and electing its officers for the ensuing year and transacting such other business as might come before it.
Meeting called to order by Brother N.D. Wright, prayer by Brother P.A. Wright.
Minutes of previous meeting read and approved.
Secretary – Treasurer Reports read and placed on file.
The following officers were placed into nomination and regularly and duly elected to serve for the ensuing year or until there successors are elected.
N.D. Wright – Chairman
Lon M. Dixon – Secretary/Treasurer
James Shirk – Financial Secretary
Motion was made, seconded, and carried to call the Hoffman debt paid, and to so notify him.
Motion was made, seconded, and carried to pay Brother Daves $7.50 per week to supply and to pay $15.00 for back two weeks.
Motion was made, seconded, and carried to set our goal at $125.00 per month for minister’s salary and to pay him not less than $100.00.
Motion made, seconded, and carried entrusting the secretary to send Brother Snyder a call to take up the pastorate here.
Motion was made; seconded, and carried to have entire Board work as a unit on the financial program for the church and for the Secretary order new envelopes for the year.
Fairmead people agreed to take care of their part of the county in financial campaign.
No further business meeting adjourned.
Lon M. Dixon – Secretary
1923-- Christian Endeavor was formed around this year. Miss Tobbit was the first Christian Endeavor leader.
1926-1927: R.L. McHatton was called as Pastor to the First Christian Church
January 15, 1930 – Vivian Lemmon, daughter of Pastor W.S. Lemmon, sailed for Japan to begin her missionary work.
1930 – Parsonage built at 6th and A Street
In October 1943, the church was reroofed and the garage was moved to it’s present location. In 1944 and 1945, the sanctuary was remodeled and redecorated. Also repairs on the parsonage were made.
Clifton Bell served a short while in 1946.
Charles Odell served as pastor from 1947-1949. The church and Sunday School attendance grew to the extent that plans had to be made to enlarge the building. In 1947, the basement was remodeled to make room for classrooms.
In June of 1949, Mr. And Mrs. Dale Sherwood of Eugene Oregon came to serve the church. During the next three years all departments of the church grew in number. There was a serious challenge to make definite plans for an educational building. A building fund offering was taken twice a year for this purpose and a large amount was secured for the plant which is now located on the same grounds as the church.
1950 – Christian Women’s Fellowship formed replacing the name and group formerly called Christian Endeavor.
The Educational Plant, Large kitchen and social Hall were erected in 1954, during the ministry of John Kirk.
1964- Christian Men's Fellowship Officers
President – Bob Young
Vice President – Larry Hill
Secretary – Treasurer – Donald Hill
Established a scholarship fund in the amount of $225.00 per year to be awarded to any boy or girl from our church entering into active church work. The first was awarded to Jimmy Buckley who enrolled in Northwest Christian College.
1977 Madera First Christian Church dedicated its new facility at its current location of 2300 Sunset Avenue.
Pastors Who Have Served Madera FCC
1923-1926 J. L. Snyder
1926-1927 R. L. McHatton
1927-1929 D. D. Priest
1929-1932 J. L. Snyder
1932-1934 Willis W. Whittaker
1934-1936 Henry Searle
1936-1943 W. S. Lemmon
1943-1946 J. M. Crutcher
1946-1947 Reverend Bell
1947-1949 Charles Odell
1949 Reverend Young (Interim)
1949-1953 Dale Sherwood
1953-1955 John Kirk
1955-1959 Ray Sawyer
1959-1961 James Hastings
1961-1962 Vern Gomez
1962-1966 Earle Sample
1966-1969 Ron Harris
1969-1971 Young Chang Ha
1971-1977 Joe Conklin
1977 Dale Sherwood
1977-1998 Larry Brazier
1998-1999 David Bartell (Interim)
2000 Bob John (Interim)
2000-2002 Lance Marshall
2002-2004 Cliff Mullins (Interim)
2004-2008 Vince Payne
2008-Present Michael G. Stipe