By Estella R. Fullmer Brown
For Hometown News
February marks the 75th Anniversary of First Church of the Nazarene at 201 S. Orange St. in New Smyrna Beach.
On Sunday, Feb. 9, church officials will honor former pastors and the church history with a special service at 10:30 a.m. Pastor John Hay invites the community to attend the festivities.
The church plans to have a guest speaker, Nina Gunter, who was the first and only female General Superintendent of the First Church of the Nazarene and who is now Superintendent Emeritus.
"We hope to have several former pastors and their families attend," said former Pastor Chuck Acheson, who retired in 2005. Pastor Acheson is now the music director. "We know each other from way back before we ever came here," explained Pastor Hay, and Pastor Acheson agreed. They met several years ago in Indianapolis where they sang in a choir together.
"This church was founded in 1939," Pastor Acheson said. "It started as an old rag tent pitched on this very corner."
Organist Joyce Tumblin told him the story of when she was a little girl back in 1939, he said. Her mother was taking a relative to the doctor and they drove by the corner of South Orange and Downing streets.
"The lot right on the corner was vacant, but there was a house sitting here where the new part of the church stands now," Pastor Acheson said.
Ms. Tumblin's relative turned to her mother as they drove past and said, "I am praying that God will help us build a church on that corner."
"Later that year, they did a tent revival on that corner," Pastor Acheson said.
Willis Settle of Settle-Wilder Funeral Home told Pastor Acheson several years ago he remembered that tent revival. "I was here when that tent was pitched and I walked the sawdust trail and was saved," Mr. Settle told Pastor Acheson.
The first year the church met in a tent until they were finally able to construct what is now called 'the old church' in 1940. There are still two charter members of from 1939 attending the church. One of them is Ms. Tumblin, who still plays the organ during services, and the other is Wynell Smith. Both of them were children when their parents helped form the church.
In the entry hall that runs alongside the sanctuary in the new building and the old original building are photos of the early days of the church and the burning of the mortgage in 1954 when they paid off the loan to build the original church. The church's motto at that time was "Large enough to serve you, small enough to know you and spiritual enough to challenge you."
In the '70s, they built the new part of the church during Pastor Acheson's first assignment there. He later moved to Miami for a few years and then came back to the area to start a church in Edgewater. In 2003, the district superintendent asked him to come back to New Smyrna Beach. Two years later he retired as pastor, but remained in the area and eventually moved to directing the music program at the church.
Pastor Hay, a three-time retiree, was a flight instructor and led revivals. He was pastor of several churches in different states over the years, and was a district superintendent in Indianapolis for 19 years. He moved to this area in 1999 and was asked to be an interim supply pastor of an Oak Hill church, but ended up with the job for 11 years. He then resigned so he could work on his book, titled "Gone." He spent eight months writing full-time on the book, which is about a pastor who missed the Rapture and how he lived through it. He finished his book during those eight months and it can now be found on eBay or purchased at the First Church of the Nazarene.
Right after he finished the book, the job of pastor at the New Smyrna church opened up and the district superintendent at that time asked him to take it. So he came out of retirement once again and has been there for six months now.
The photos in the hallway also tell the history of the church through its former pastors. Some of those who served the church as pastors were C. K. Ferdon, Ben Marlin, D. Croswell, V.L. Vaughn, H.L. Kennedy, L.R. Rushton, Barry Baggott, Ken Copenhauer, Dan Myles and Glenn Freshburn.
"The church really began to grow under Reverend Elsey," Pastor Acheson said.
The church has a traditional service at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. Sunday School is at 9:30 and they have a Wednesday night Prayer and Bible Study at 6 p.m.
One of the church's current outreaches is the Manna Ministry where they feed the homeless and needy every Tuesday and Thursday at noon. Lee Buchner is their youth director and leads the teenagers in youth ministries, which meets at 6 p.m. every Tuesday.
"They have been averaging 25 to 30 teens," Pastor Acheson said.
The church also has a thrift store just down the street, which helps to fund various ministries.
The 75th Year Celebration Service on February 9 will be followed by a potluck dinner for the folks that attend the service. "We are expecting a good turnout and will likely have at least two district superintendents who used to be pastors here," Pastor Acheson said.